Shishu Sansaar | Stories-Great Indians
|Story No 14-Ramanujan|
Srinivasa Ramanujan, FRS, was an Indian mathematician and autodidact who, with almost no formal training in pure mathematics, made extraordinary contributions to mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series, and continued fractions. As he had no access to large community of mathematicians, he developed his own mathematical research in isolation. As a result, he sometimes rediscovered known theorems in addition to producing new work. Ramanujan was said to be a natural genius by the English mathematician GH Hardy.
Ramanujan was born in a poor Braahman family. His father's name was K Srinivasa Iyengar and his mother's name was Kamalatammal. His father was a clerk at a Saree shop and his mother used to sing at a temple. They lived on Sarangpani Street in Kumbakonam, Tamil Naadu. He was divinely inspired. When his grand-mother Rangammal, an ardent devotee of Goddess Namagiri (the Goddess of their family deity Lord Narasinh Temple in Namakkal, Tamil Naadu) went to the Temple, she went into a trance and supposedly the Goddess spoke to her and said that - "The Goddess herself will speak to the world through her daughter's son".
He was formally introduced to Mathematics at the age of 10. He mastered the books on advanced trigonometry written by SL Loney by the age of 12. He even discovered theorems of his own, and re-discovered Euler's identity independently. He demonstrated unusual mathematical skills at school, winning accolades and awards. By 17, Ramanujan had conducted his own mathematical research on Bernoulli numbers and the Euler–Mascheroni constant.
Ramanujan received a scholarship to study at Government College in Kumbakonam, but lost it when he failed his non-mathematical coursework. He joined another college to pursue independent mathematical research, working as a clerk in the Accountant-General's office at the Madras Port Trust Office to support himself. In 1909, he was married to a 9-year old girl - Janaki Ammal, at the age of 21 years.
Ramanujan in England
He got a BA degree, which was later converted in a PhD degree, in 1916. He became a FRS (Fellow of the Royal Society) in 1918 becoming the second and the youngest Indian, following Ardaseer Cursetjee in 1841. He became the first Indian to be elected as a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge in 1918. He could not tolerate the living conditions outside India being a vegetarian he fell ill and suffered with Tuberculosis and severe vitamin deficiency. He came back from there in 1919 and soon after he died of illness, malnutrition, and possibly liver infection in 1920 at the age of 32.
He credited all his knowledge to his family Goddess, Namagiri of Namakkal. There are two interesting incidents in Ramanujan's life that I wish to share here --
(1) Meeting with Mahalanobis
Through trial and error, Mahalanobis had figured out the answer. Ramanujan figured out too but he gave a general solution to the problem using continued fraction. A continued fraction whose denominator consists of a number plus a fraction, ad infinitum. As stated, the problem had one solution - house number 204 in a street of 288 houses - i.e., 1 + 2 + 3 ---- + 203 = 205 + 206 + ---- + 288. But without the 50 to 500 house constraint, there were other solutions - for example, house number 6 in a street containing 8 houses - i.e., 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 + 5 = 7 + 8. Ramanujan's continued fraction comprised within a single expression - all the correct answers. Mahalanobis was astounded. How interesting!
"The limitations of his knowledge were as startling as its profundity," Hardy would write. Mahalanobis was also a great Mathematician. In fact, Pandit Nehru liked him a lot. And when Nehru asked him - "How to solve India's poverty?", Mahalanobis immediately wrote a very long equation with Partial Differentials that filled the whole black board. Then he explained, each and every variable in the equation again completely zapping Nehru.
(2) Meeting with Hardy
He has produced a square with numbers - it is really superb. Would you like to see it - Click here to see that square. Ramanujam has given the method as how to draw a magic square involving any important date, not only birth day, except a few. In Kharuraho Paarashwanaath Jain temple (10th century ) one can find a magic square engraved.
This is referred to as the Chaunteesaa Yantra, since each row, each column, each diagonal, 2 x 2 sub-squares the corners of each 3 x 3 and 4 x 4 square, the two sets of four symmetrical numbers (1 + 11 + 16 + 6 and 2 + 12 + 15 + 5), and the sum of the middle two entries of the two outer columns and rows (12 + 1 + 6 + 15 and 2 + 16 + 11 + 5), sums to 34.
Created by Sushma Gupta on January 15, 2002
Modified on 06/13/13