Srinivasa Ramanujan

Ramanujan was born in a small village in India, in 1887, and went to a Government college.

Although he could not pass the final exams, even after 2 attempts, he was invited to join the staff at Cambridge University by the head of the mathematics Department, Professor G.H.Hardy. Professor Hardy was a world leader in his field of work.

How could that happen, a world authority inviting a young man with no formal educational qualifications, from India to become a student of an internationally recognized English university?

Ramanujan showed exceptional mathematical abilities at an early age, and became totally obsessed with mathematics to the exclusion of all else. At the college, he was not interested in devoting time to subjects other than mathematics.

In about 1903 he acquired a math book by Mr George Carr, titled A Synopsis of Elementary Results in Pure and Applied Mathematics.
It consisted of approximately 5000 theorems, formulas, geometric diagrams, differential equations, and many other topics, forming a long list of mathematical topics as were known at the time. There were almost no explanations or proofs, just a long list spread over 2 volumes.

Ramanujan was totally captivated. He could not bring himself to get involved with anything else going on around him. Here was the reason he failed his exams, he had no interest in anything other than math. But he did become proficient in mathematics as was known in the 19th century, and his creativity flourished.

He wrote a mathematical article that arose from Carr's compendium and wanted to have it published. He sent letters to 3 Professors of mathematics at Cambridge University.

The first 2 got no response and the letter to Professor G.H.Hardy was received with incredulity, that it was just another fraudulent letter, but after going over some of the theorems for 3 or 4 hours with another mathematician, he decided he must make contact with Ramanujan.

He felt bewildered, Hardy said the theorems "defeated me completely; I had never seen anything in the least like this before", and further that the work was "profound with invincible originality", Having accepted that the author had talent, Hardy felt strongly the need to invite him the Cambridge.

After many letters, it was decided Ramanujan should go to Cambridge. He would have all travel and accommodation expenses paid. He would also have a set of English clothes, a haircut, and learn how to wear a tie.

He arrived in England in 1914 and began working with Hardy and others at the university, including those from Europe. The collaboration between Ramanujan and Hardy proved to be fruitful, and they worked together on several mathematical problems, including number theory, infinite series, and continued fractions.

He was regarded as "A gift from heaven" with "supernatural insights". A Polish mathematician felt Ramanujan was a "magician, rather than an ordinary genius".

In 1916, Ramanujan was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, becoming the youngest Indian to receive this honor. However, despite his success in England, Ramanujan faced several challenges due to his poor health and lack of formal education. He suffered from tuberculosis and other health problems and was often unable to work for long periods.

Despite his health problems, Ramanujan continued to work on mathematical problems and published several important papers during his time in England. His most significant contribution was his work on the partition function, which led to the development of the Hardy-Ramanujan-Rademacher formula.

Ramanujan's work on number theory, infinite series, and continued fractions has had a significant impact on the development of modern mathematics. His ideas and theories have been used to solve many important mathematical problems, and his work continues to inspire mathematicians around the world.

Sadly, Ramanujan's health continued to deteriorate, and he returned to India in 1919. He died on April 26, 1920, at the young age of 32.




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