Srinivasa Ramanujan: All you need to know about ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’

Srinivasa Ramanujan, an Indian mathematician, has numerous contributions to mathematics in terms of analysis, theory and continued fractions. Though he did not receive any formal education in mathematics he made important contributions to the subject with his own research. Born on December 22, 1887 in Madras he was a bright student and a quick learner of mathematics. At the age of 13, he discovered a book on advanced trigonometry by SL Loney and soon mastered it. At the age of 16, he mastered ‘A Synopsis of Elementary Result in Pure and Applied Mathematics’ by GS Carr, a collection of 5,000 theorems. This book awaken the mathematician in him and at the age of 17, he started his research on the Bernoulli numbers and calculated the Euler-Mascheroni constant.

Taking into consideration his mathematical acuity he was awarded a scholarship at the Government Arts College in Kumbakonam. Unfortunately, he did not performed well in others subjects and lost the scholarship. Later, he enrolled himself at Madras’ Pachaiyappa’s College but that didn’t worked out well.

Deputy collector and founder of the Indian Mathematical Society, Ramaswamy Aiyer helped him to get a clerk job at the Madras Port Trust. Aiyer introduced him to R Ramachandra Rao, Nellore’s district collector and Indian Mathematical Society’s secretary. In 1911, his first papers were published in the ‘Journal of the Indian Mathematical Society’. Three years later, he got in touch with English mathematician Godfrey H Hardy and travelled to Europe. His research papers were published in English journals and soon he was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree.

Most of his contributions remain in the form of analysis and theories. He discovered his own theorems and came up with infinite series for π. He submitted an in-depth report on the mock theta function which is a concept of mock modular form in mathematics. His research papers later helped mathematicians such as GN Watson, Bruce Berndt and BM Wilson to refine his work. His significant contributions to Hardy-Ramanujan Littlewood circle method in number theory. In addition, he worked on partial sums, infinite series, products of hypergeometric series, continues fractions and elliptic functions. His birthday ‘December 22’ is celebrated as ‘Mathematics Day’ in India.

Srinivasa’s health deteriorated as the climatic conditions in England did not suit him. In the late 90s he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and vitamin deficiency and he returned to India. On April 1920, he breathed his last.

The British biological drama ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’ (2015) based on the life of Srinivasa Ramanujan is adapted from novel with the same name penned by Robert Kanigel. The film features Dev Patel as Srinivas Ramanujan and was recently premiered in the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

Image source: Biography Hindi

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