Srinivasa Ramanujan’s Inventions, Early Life, Education and History
Srinivasa Ramanujan, an extraordinary mathematician, was born on December 22, 1887, in Erode, Tamil Nadu, India. His father, K. Srinivasa Iyengar, worked as an accounting clerk, while his mother, Komalatammal, earned a modest income as a temple singer. Belonging to the Brahmin caste, Ramanujan’s family upheld Hindu traditions and culture despite facing financial challenges.
Early Education and Mathematics:
Growing up, Ramanujan attended various elementary schools due to his family’s frequent relocations. His profound aptitude for mathematics emerged early, and by the age of 10, he was already excelling in his district. He continued his studies at Kumbakonam Town High School, where his passion for mathematics flourished. He embarked on self-study, tackling complex topics such as cubic equations and arithmetic series.
Mathematical Prowess and Originality:
Despite limited resources, Ramanujan’s self-study revealed his innate mathematical talent. He independently developed methods for solving quartic equations and explored diverse mathematical areas. His main source of inspiration was George S. Carr’s “Synopsis of Elementary Results in Pure Mathematics,” a book with over 4000 theorems. However, Ramanujan’s approach, influenced by the book’s style, resulted in minimal working and a distinctive, self-taught methodology.
Challenges and Hardships:
Ramanujan’s educational journey was marked by financial difficulties and health issues. Despite winning a scholarship to study at the Government Arts College, he faced failure due to his singular focus on mathematics, leading to the loss of his scholarship. A similar pattern repeated at Pachaiyappa’s College in Madras. Undeterred, Ramanujan’s determination and passion for mathematics remained unwavering.
Recognition and Support:
Ramanujan’s fortunes began to change when he encountered Ramaswamy Aiyer, a government official and mathematician. Aiyer recognized Ramanujan’s mathematical brilliance and helped publish his work in the Journal of the Indian Mathematical Society. This exposure caught the attention of G. H. Hardy, a renowned mathematician at the University of Cambridge, who recognized Ramanujan’s genius.
Arrival at Cambridge:
In 1914, Ramanujan arrived at Cambridge to work with Hardy and Littlewood. Despite his limited formal education, he astounded his mentors with an outpouring of mathematical insights. His notebooks contained a treasure trove of original theorems, equations, and identities that fascinated and challenged the mathematical community.
Exceptional Mathematical Intuition:
Ramanujan’s extraordinary mathematical output, particularly in areas he was familiar with, baffled many. His unique way of thinking allowed him to achieve results with remarkable clarity and ease, even in complex number theory. He seemed to possess a deep intuition for mathematics, making connections that eluded others.
Legacy and Contributions:
Ramanujan’s contributions to number theory and mathematics as a whole are immeasurable. He became the first Indian mathematician to be elected a Fellow of the British Royal Society in 1918, receiving recognition for his work in elliptic functions and number theory. His groundbreaking theta function later found application in string theory in physics.
Personal Life and Passing:
In 1909, Ramanujan married S. Janaki Ammal, though he faced health challenges throughout his life. Tuberculosis and other health issues forced him to return to India in 1919. Tragically, he passed away on April 26, 1920, at the age of 32, succumbing to hepatic amoebiasis. His untimely death marked the end of a life dedicated to pushing the boundaries of mathematics.