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Srinivasa Ramanujan : The Man Who Knew Infinity

A mathematical genius

Srinivasa Ramanujan. Wikimedia Commons

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.

Related: Aryabhata: The man from Bihar who gave world the concept of modern day Mathematics

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


Aryabhata: The man from Bihar who gave world the concept of modern day Mathematics

Aryabhata: The man from Bihar who gave world the concept of modern day Mathematics

Aryabhata: The man from Bihar who gave world the concept of modern day Mathematics

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Maryam Mirzakhani : The First Woman to Win Fields Medal in Mathematics Equivalent of Nobel Prize Dies

Maryam Mirzakhani died of breast cancer at the age of 40

Stanford University professor Maryam Mirzakhani received the Fields Medal, the top honor in mathematics, in 2014. Source: (VOA)
  • Maryam Mirzakhani was the only woman to win mathematics equivalent of Nobel Prize
  • She died on Saturday as she was battling breast cancer
  • She was born in Iran and joined Stanford University in 2008 as a mathematics professor

Maryam Mirzakhani, a Stanford University professor who was the first and only woman to win the prestigious Fields Medal in mathematics, has died. She was 40.

Mirzakhani, who battled breast cancer, died Saturday, the university announced. It did not indicate where she died.

In 2014, Mirzakhani was one of four winners of the Fields Medal, which is presented every four years and is considered the mathematics equivalent of the Nobel Prize. She was named for her work on complex geometry and dynamic systems.

Also read: A Look Back In History: Contribution of Indian Mathematicians in the field of Mathematics

“Mirzakhani specialized in theoretical mathematics that read like a foreign language by those outside of mathematics: moduli spaces, Teichmüller theory, hyperbolic geometry, Ergodic theory and symplectic geometry,” according to the Stanford press announcement. “Mastering these approaches allowed Mirzakhani to pursue her fascination for describing the geometric and dynamic complexities of curved surfaces — spheres, doughnut shapes and even amoebas — in as great detail as possible.”

The work had implications in fields ranging from cryptography to “the theoretical physics of how the universe came to exist,” the university said.

Mirzakhani was born in Tehran, Iran, and studied there and at Harvard University. She joined Stanford as a mathematics professor in 2008.

‘Heart-rending’ loss

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani issued a statement Saturday praising Mirzakhani. “The grievous passing of Maryam Mirzakhani, the eminent Iranian and world-renowned mathematician, is very much heart-rending,” Rouhani said in a message that was reported by the Tehran Times.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said her death pained all Iranians, the Tehran Times reported.

“The news of young Iranian genius and math professor Maryam Mirzakhani’s passing has brought a deep pang of sorrow to me and all Iranians who are proud of their eminent and distinguished scientists,” Zarif posted in Farsi on his Instagram account. “I do offer my heartfelt condolences upon the passing of this lady scientist to all Iranians worldwide, her grieving family and the scientific community.”

Mirzakhani originally dreamed of becoming a writer but then shifted to mathematics.

When she was working, Mirzakhani would doodle on sheets of paper and scribble formulas on the edges of her drawings, leading her daughter to describe the work as painting, according to the Stanford statement.

Mirzakhani once described her work as “like being lost in a jungle and trying to use all the knowledge that you can gather to come up with some new tricks, and with some luck, you might find a way out.”

Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne called Mirzakhani a brilliant theorist who made enduring contributions and inspired thousands of women to pursue math and science.

Mirzakhani is survived by her husband, Jan Vondrák, and daughter, Anahita. (VOA)

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Stanford University Student Attempts to Reconstruct History of Geometry Diagrams

Lee traced the changes in diagrams over the course of human history

Geometry Diagrams
Various Geometry Solids. Pixabay
  • New approach to this study made by Eunsoo Lee who is a PhD student in Classics at Stanford University
  • Lee was confused by the blind spot in the study of Elements which changed drastically over time after multiple copies and translations
  • His professor considered his project as unique and groundbreaking in the field of classics

June 26, 2017: Geometry diagrams and patterns have been with us for a very long time. Whether we liked it or not, we all had to make diagrams and read geometry books when we were in school. Now, researchers are trying to understand the geometric patterns through examinations of texts and writing which is also known as philology.

There is a new approach to this study made by Eunsoo Lee who is a PhD student in Classics at Stanford University by tracing the changes and variations in diagrams over the course of human history.

Lee examined the changes in diagrams used in a collection of 13 books on mathematical and geometry concepts called Elements, written by Euclid, an ancient Greek mathematician.

Lee first got to know about Elements during his mathematics undergraduate degree at Seoul National University. He said, “I was fascinated by its simple logic and structure.”

Reviel Netz, professor of classics said, “Until recently, no one has really examined the visual side of ancient science, you would try to recover the words that people said but you didn’t try to recover the visual impact, the images.”

Lee was confused by the blind spot in the study of Elements which changed drastically over time after multiple copies and translations. This became the basis of Lee’s project, which his professor considered as unique and groundbreaking in the field of classics.

Netz Said, “We’ve come to realise just how central images are to scientific thinking. You do one kind of science when you assume that diagrams are precise pictures, and you do a different kind of science when diagrams are assumed to be just rough sketches.”

Prepared by Sumit Balodi of NewsGram. Twitter: @sumit_balodi

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Teachers underrating Girls’ ability to solve problems in Maths likely to create Gender Gap in the Subject, says Study

Two potential contributors to gender gaps are students' learning behaviours and teacher expectations

Representational image. Flickr

New York, October 28, 2016: Teachers underrating girls’ ability to solve problems in Mathematics will likely contribute to the widening of gender gap in the subject, finds a study.

According to the study, published in the journal AERA Open, beginning in early elementary school boys outperform girls in math — especially among the highest math achievers.

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This leads to teachers giving lower ratings to girls’ math skills while both the genders have similar achievement and behaviour towards the subject.

“Despite changes in the educational landscape, our findings suggest that the gender gaps observed among children who entered kindergarten in 2010 are strikingly similar to what we saw in children who entered kindergarten in 1998,” said Joseph Robinson Cimpian, Associate Professor at the New York University.

Data showed that boys and girls began kindergarten with similar math proficiency, but disparities developed by Grade 3 with girls lagging behind. The gap was particularly large among the highest math achievers.

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Research also revealed disparities in teacher perceptions of students, with teachers rating the math skill of girls lower than those of similarly behaving and performing boys.

Finally, the researchers examined gendered patterns of learning behaviours to try and explain why boys are more likely to score as high math achievers.

They found that girls’ more studious approaches to learning pay off by boosting them at the bottom of the achievement distribution, but do not help the persistent gap at the top as much.

The researchers explored the early development of gender gaps in math, including when disparities first appear, where in the distribution such gaps develop, and whether the gaps have changed over the years.

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In addition to math achievement, they examined two potential contributors to gender gaps: students’ learning behaviours and teacher expectations.

Overall, the researchers found remarkable consistency across both cohorts. They observed that the gender gap at the top of the distribution (among the highest achievers in math) develops before students enter kindergarten, worsens through elementary school, and has not improved over the last decade. (IANS)