Srinivasa Ramanujan

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Srinivasa Ramanujan was an Indian mathematician and autodidact. He was born on 22nd December, 1887  into a Tamil Brahmin family in Erode, Madras Presidency (now Tamil Nadu), at the residence of his maternal grandparents.Since Ramanujan’s father was at work most of the day, his mother took care of the boy as a child. He had a close relationship with her. From her, he learned about tradition and puranas. He learned to sing religious songs, to attend pujas at the temple, and to maintain particular eating habits – all of which are part of Brahmin culture. In 1897 Ramanujan entered Town Higher Secondary School, where he encountered formal mathematics for the first time.

Ramanujan was later lent a book by S. L. Loney on advanced trigonometry. He mastered this by the age of 13 while discovering sophisticated theorems of his own.Ramanujan was shown how to solve cubic equations in 1902; he developed his own method to solve the quadratic.

Ramanujan met deputy collector V. Ramaswamy Aiyer, who had recently founded the Indian Mathematical Society. Wishing for a job at the revenue department where Aiyer worked, Ramanujan showed him his mathematics notebooks. As Aiyer later recalled:

“I was struck by the extraordinary mathematical results contained in it [the notebooks]. I had no mind to smother his genius by an appointment in the lowest rungs of the revenue department.”

On 16th January, 1913, Ramanujan wrote to G.H Hardy. Coming from an unknown mathematician, the nine pages of Ramanujan were thought to be fraud by him. But when he started reading them, he found some theorems were already discovered while others were new to him. Ramanujan’s work on hyper geometric series fascinated Hardy. He thought that these theorems might be true because if they were not, no one would have such an imagination about them.Hardy sent a letter to Ramanujan to come and work in England.But Ramanujan refused because being a Brahmin, he was not allowed to go to foreign lands. Hardy and his colleagues agreed to give Rs 75 every month to Ramanujan for two years as a scholarship. Later his mother had a dream in which she saw their deity commanding her not to come in between Ramanujan and his life’s purpose. Ramanujan was then allowed to go to England.

In England, Ramanujan, Hardy and Littlewood worked together.In 1918 Hardy and Ramanujan studied the partition function P(n) extensively. They gave a non-convergent asymptotic series that permits exact computation of the number of partitions of an integer.He also founded the Ramanujan Theta Function which finds its application in the bosonic theory. In the last year of his life, Ramanujan discovered mock theta functions. For many years these functions were a mystery, but they are now known to be the holomorphic parts of harmonic weak Mass forms.

Ramanujan was plagued by health problems throughout his life. His health worsened in England. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis and a severe vitamin deficiency, and was confined to a sanatorium. He returned to Kumbakonam, Madras Presidency in 1919 and died soon thereafter at the age of 32 in 1920.

G.H Hardy once said, ” The most remarkable discovery made by me in mathematics is the discovery of Ramanujan himself.” Ramanujan was compared to Euler and Jacobi by the mathematicians of his era. Ramanujan’s death was a big loss to the world. But as it is said    ” Those whom God loves, die young.”

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