Srinivasa Iyengar Ramanujan continues to be an inspiration for mathematicians across the world. The self-taught genius lived a short but very productive life and his work has inspired a lot of research over the years. His birth anniversary on December 22 is celebrated as National Mathematics Day to honour his achievements.
Ramanujan was born in Erode town in Tamil Nadu on December 22, 1887, and grew up in a small house at Kumbakonam that is now a museum in his honour. His father worked as a clerk and his mother was a homemaker. He showed advanced mathematical cognition as a child and at the age of 13, he had started working on his own sophisticated theorems. Reports say Ramanujan used to jot down his ideas in green ink. One of his notebooks, known as the ‘lost notebook’, was found in the Trinity College library and was later published as a book.
In January 1913, he sent the writer of Orders of Infinity, G H Hardy, some of his work. Hardy reviewed Ramanujan’s work and labelled them as “fraud” but a month later, he invited the young Indian to Cambridge University. After initially refusing to go, Ramanujan joined Cambridge and was soon hailed there as a hero of mathematics.
In 1918, the 31-year-old legendary mathematician was inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society, then the only second Indian to achieve that feat. In England, Ramanujan’s strictly Brahmin eating habits deteriorated his health and after the First World War ended, he returned to India in 1919. But his illness relapsed and he died on April 26, 1920.
Ramanujan followed his intuition in solving the complex mathematics problems and in recognition of his immense contribution to the field he has a prime number named after him – the Ramanujan Prime. Several movies have been made to showcase his life and his achievements, including the 2015 British biographical drama The Man Who Knew Infinity.