By Pashchiema Bhatia
Srinivasa Ramanujan died when he was just 32 but he left behind is astonishing and remarkable. During his short life, he held a record of assimilation of around 3,500 mathematical results. Not belonging to a well-to-do family, his life is an inspiring story.
Ramanujan was an Indian mathematician who was brought up in Erode, Madras Presidency (now Tamil Nadu). He spent his childhood in Kumbakonam and the house where he lived is now known as Srinivasa Ramanujan International Monument which is maintained by a private deemed university. At the age of 13, he mastered a book on advanced trigonometry by S.L. Loney and later he studied a book called ‘A Synopsis of Elementary Results in Pure and Applied Mathematics’ by G.S. Carr with a collection of 5000 theorems. He used to complete his mathematical exams in half the allotted time. He was a promising student who won several academic awards throughout his school life but he was so immersed in maths that he failed in other subjects of his college exams. As a college dropout and with a responsibility to support his family he had to struggle for years. Eventually, he secured a job as a clerk in Madras Port Trust and published his work on Bernoulli numbers.
His life took a turn when his array of letters to GH Hardy, a Fellow of the Royal Society and Cayley Lecturer in Mathematics at Cambridge, got a response. He had written a letter packed with 120 theorems and after getting his letter and confirming that he is not a crank, Hardy enthusiastically wrote back to Ramanujan inviting him to Cambridge and in March 1914, he moved to England.
The journey of the collaboration of Hardy-Ramanujan began. Ramanujan was a man of mysterious intuitions and Hardy was intrigued by his uncanny ways of handling infinite series. In England, Ramanujan got the recognition as a mathematician that he was hoping for. In 1916, he was granted a Bachelor of Science degree “by research” and he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1918. But their partnership did not last for long as Ramanujan fell ill and returned to India in 1918. He died in 1919. After his death, his brother discovered his scribbled papers and several notebooks with loads of theorems which were later studied and used by many mathematicians.
Matthew Brown’s movie “The Man Who Knew Infinity” (released on Friday, April 29, 2016) is a movie based on the biography written by Robert Kanigel in 1991. The movie features the life of Ramanujan in Cambridge and the productive collaboration and friendship of Hardy and Ramanujan.
Pashchiema is an intern at NewsGram and a student of journalism and mass communication in New Delhi. Twitter: @pashchiema5