Mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan: The Man Who Knew Infinity


Short Bytes: Srinivasa Ramanujan was an Indian mathematician during the colonial era. His priceless contribution to mathematics has been appraised all over the world. He was born on December 22, 1887, in Erode, Madras Presidency (present Tamil Nadu). Today, the nation pays tributes to Srinivasa Ramanujan on his 129th birth anniversary.

The calendar says March 17, 1914, a bright sunny day and there is a decent man present at the ship dock in Madras. He is all set to get aboard the SS Nevasa and he would be living the next several years of his life in London at Trinity College. Mathematician S. Ramanujan – The Man Who Knew Infinity – was a childhood prodigy who had command on all the complex maths equations and theorems just like a knife in the butter.

About a year before, Ramanujan had written a letter to G. H. Hardy after seeing his book Orders of Infinity. The letter was a collection of Ramanujan’s self-derived equations and unproven theorems. Initially, Hardy was adamant about his work and to him, it possibly seemed to be a fraud. But it was later when he analyzed them and got fascinated by the work of Mathematician Ramanujan. “They [theorems] defeated me completely; I had never seen anything in the least like them before,” Hardy commented.

Hardy, along with John Littlewood, made sincere efforts to bring Ramanujan to Trinity. At first, the mathematician was reluctant to leave his motherland but he was later convinced by E. H. Neville who was Hardy’s colleague lecturing in Madras. Ramanujan spent around 5 years in London after which he returned to his home in the year 1919. This was due to his deteriorating health and homesickness that he had been experiencing as he was far away from his home.

Mathematician Ramanujan was born on December 22, 1887, in Erode, Madras Presidency (present Tamil Nadu). He began to sprout right in his childhood, breezing through complex mathematics formulae and equations. He first tasted mathematics when got enrolled in Town Higher Secondary School around the age of 10. He had re-derived many popular theorems by himself and exhausted the knowledge of the mathematics students living as lodgers at his home. Ramanujan continued to impress people and mathematics geniuses throughout his life.

An interesting story is about the number 1729, it’s a simple four digit number for most of us and we may haven’t noticed if it was written somewhere. But for mathematician Ramanujan, it was way more than a number. The number is known as taxicab number. Hardy recalled his talk with ill Ramanujan, he told him that he saw 1729 on a taxi number plate and he found it boring. “No,” said Ramanujan, “it is a very interesting number; it is the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.”

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His work includes many research papers and four notebooks that are a compilation of equations and theorems he worked out in isolation. He invested efforts in the field of infinite series, continued fractions, number theory, and mathematical analysis. He mostly used to write only the results of his findings due the fact that paper was not cheap at that time. That may be the reason of conflicts between him and other mathematicians who misunderstood as his writings didn’t contain the proof of results he mentioned.

As a person, he was delineated as an introvert person and orthodox when religious beliefs were concerned unlike the great physicist Albert Einstein who didn’t believe in the existence of god but a superpower that governs the universe. He credited and believed that his family goddess’s blessings were the source of all of his knowledge and that she enlightened him about all the equations and theorems he came up with.

Ramanujan went to rest in peace in the year 1920 at his house in Kumbakonam, Madras Presidency. He had a medical history since an early age. While in London, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and had to live in a sanatorium. The cause of his death was analyzed by Dr. D. A. B. Young in 1994, he concluded that Ramanujan had died because of hepatic amoebiasis – an infection in the liver.

A mathematics pioneer left the world at the age of 32. His contribution to mathematics will never be forgotten. Srinivasa Ramanujan has been portrayed in writings and movies numerous times. A movie based on his life released earlier this year on April 29, titled as The Man Who Knew Infinity.

Also Read: The Next Einstein, Sabrina Pasterski, Built Her Plane And Flew It Solo At 14

Aditya Tiwari

Aditya Tiwari

Aditya likes to cover topics related to Microsoft, Windows 10, Apple Watch, and interesting gadgets. But when he is not working, you can find him binge-watching random videos on YouTube (after he has wasted an hour on Netflix trying to find a good show). Reach out at [email protected]
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