Remembering Srinivasa Ramanujan

Remembering Srinivasa Ramanujan

Every year 22nd December, the birth anniversary ofthe famous mathematics genius SrinivasaRamanujan, is celebrated as the National Mathematics Day....

Every year 22nd December, the birth anniversary ofthe famous mathematics genius SrinivasaRamanujan, is celebrated as the National Mathematics Day. Born in 1887 at Erode in Tamil Nadu, S. Ramanujan, one of the great geniuses of mathematics came from a very modest family with father a clerk in cloth shop and mother a housewife.

Only a few people can believe that he started his primary education from his village school and yet he reached out to the climax of the mathematical research and knowledge the sheer credit of which goes to his personal caliber of understanding mathematics the way others could never.

Thoughhe never got a formal education in pure mathematics yet his contribution to the field of the subject remains a milestone even today. However, he did not get university education yet this lacuna did not become what we may call the Achilles’ heel of the historical recognition he commands today. His commitment and contribution to the arena of mathematics was centred around the theory of numbers.

His love and dedication for mathematics was so intense that he lost the scholarship which he had secured from the University of Madras in 1903 only because of his negligence of other subjects at the cost of mathematics. Ramanujan lived in a very economically critical circumstances and had to sustain a life with no employment and means of livelihood.

He got married at an early age of 9 in 1909 and desperately sought for an employment and finally succeeded to get a job of a clerk at Madras Port Trust. Ramanujan’s maiden publication of papers was in the Journal of the Indian Mathematical Society in 1911.But he would not succumb to the bad economic condition of his family and wrote a letter to the British mathematician Godfrey H. Hardy in 1913.With association of the British mathematician Godfrey H. Hardy he was awarded with a special scholarship from the University of Madras and a grant from Trinity College Cambridge.

Despite strict familial religious constraints Ramanujan travelled to England for Trinity College, Cambridge in 1914 where he was tutored by Hardy. In 1916, Ramanujan graduated from Cambridge with a Bachelor of Science by Research which was equivalent to that of PhD. He was the second Indian to be inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society. He joined the fellowship in 1918 at the age of 31.The same year he was also elected as a Fellow of Trinity College Cambridge.

Ramanujan returned India on March 13 in 1919.He was not keeping good health and died on April 26, 1920 at a very early age of 32 in his hometown of Kumbakonam.

Ramanujan’s contribution in the fields of Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Calculus, number theory has been a saga of unprecedented achievements thatmade him immortal. Prime numbers, Bernoulli’s numbers, Divergent Series, Continued fractions, Highly Composite numbers, Mock-theta functions and Ramanujan Number are his some of the extraordinary contributions to the world of mathematics.The most significant contributions of Ramanujan include Ramanujan Prime, Ramanujan Theta function, Ramanujan-Soldner constant, Ramanujan's sum etc.

It is said that the numbers were actually the intimate friends of S. Ramanujan. Themodern mathematicians use S. Ramanujan's method to calculate the value of 'pi' up to 17 million places using a computer. Ramanujan is also known for an interesting number 1729 which is actually called as Hardy-Ramanujan number. This is the smallest number which can be expressed as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.

Ramanujan belonged deeply to a religious Hindu Brahmin family and gave credit of his mathematical knowledge and all the laurels of his life to the Almighty God. Once he had said, “An equation for me has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God.”

Ramanujan is no more now but his dedication to the advancement of mathematics would never be forgotten by the generations to come.

-Shreeprakash Sharma

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