Srinivasa Ramanujan, the genius mathematician was born on 22nd December 1887. In December 2011, Ramanujan’s birthday was declared as ‘National Mathematics Day’, in recognition of his contributions to the field of mathematics.
A person who lived for a little over 32 years, Ramanujan was born in Kumbhakonam, the famous temple town in the Cauvery River delta.
Kumbakonam, the rice bowl of Tamil Nadu has been famous for many things, from temples to rice and now for the aromatic Kumbakonam Degree Coffee.
Kumbakonam Rice Fields
Kumbakonam Degree Coffee
But, the greatest son of Kumbakonam is the mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan.
Srinivasa Ramanujan’s house
In his Dreams
Ramanujan attributed the mathematical formulae that he came up with, to Namagiri Thayar, the Goddess of Namakkal temple.
Namakkal Temple Goddess Namagiri
He often mentioned that it was Goddess Namagiri who came to him in his dreams and gave answers to his mathematical problems.
The wife of Ramanujan, Janakiammal has an interesting input about her husband.
Ramanujan used to feverishly do all his basic calculations on a black slate. This was the norm of every student in India then.
She says, “Ramanujan did his calculations on a hand held slate, then transferred the final results to his note books, erasing the slate.”
Ramanujan did his calculations on a slate
Thus we have few clues as to how he arrived at these equations, and there is no doubt that they are true.
This is expressed by the mathematics historian George Gheverghese Joseph in his book ‘The Crest of the Peacock’, Page 11.
The Crest of Peacock Book
His work notes and formulae that he arrived at are available in his now famous notebooks.
Mathematicians till to date are trying to understand and use them.
To Cambridge University
When Ramanujan was working as a Clerk in Madras Port Trust, he sent some of his mathematical workings to Prof. G H Hardy of Cambridge University.
Prof. G H Hardy
Ongoing through the notes, Prof G H Hardy felt that here was an absolute genius at work.
Prof Hardy invited Ramanujan to the Cambridge University.
Ramanujan spent 6 to 7 years in Cambridge. The work that Ramanujan did then along with Hardy has now become a part of the legend of Mathematics.
The mathematical formula that Ramanujan came up has been used as algorithms in modern computer systems.
Unfortunately, due to severe cold weather of England, Ramanujan who was more used to the tropical climate of Kumbhakonam, could not acclimatize and picked up an illness. The illness grew from bad to worse and he sailed back to India.
A sick and sad Ramanujan returned to Madras on April 2nd 1919. He passed away on 26th April, 1920 at Chetpet in Madras.
Srinivasa Ramanujan belonged to an illustrious lineage of mathematicians that India has offered to the world starting from Boudhayana, Apastambha, Aryabhatta, Varahamihira, Brahma Gupta, Bhaskaracharya, Madhava and a galaxy of others.
All these illustrious people through the ages specialized in this field of Ganitham, the Indian term for mathematics.
The word Ganitham has in it the phrase Gana, meaning weighty, heavy. The field of mathematics has always been weighty and heavy.
The Lord of Mathematics in Indian tradition is Ganesha, Ganapathy. The term Gana also means numbers.
Lord Ganesha, the lord of Mathematics
An illustrious lineage
India has had an illustrious lineage of people who excelled in Ganitham.
Srinivasa Ramanujan is one among this illustrious lineage.
Today in our midst, we have another illustrious mathematician of Indian origin settled in USA, Prof Srinivasa Vardhan who is an Abel Laureate.
Prof Srinivasa Vardhan
It is to be noted that in mathematics there is no Nobel Prize as Alfred Nobel did not like Maths.
The same Norwegian Academy which confers the Nobel Prize year after year has instituted an award for mathematics, equal to novel prize in the name of their Norweigian mathematician, Niels Henrik Abel.
Niels Henrik Abel
It would be nice if the Indian government could institute an international award in the name of Srinivasa Ramanujan for the lineage that India has given to world in the field of Ganitham, mathematics.
Mathematics – Crest of Peacock
Mathematics among the sciences is given a high place, like the crest of a peacock among its colored plum, in its ancient treatises. Vedanta Jyothisa, an ancient treatise on mathematics and astronomy mentions this.
The Man who saw Infinity
In the last decade or so, there has been a spurt of interest on Srinivasa Ramanujan. Books are being written and films are being made on this great man who saw infinity.
The Man who knew Infinity, Book
We need to sustain this interest to encourage more Indians to take up pure mathematics.