The wizard of numbers – Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar

The world has seen a lot of Child prodigies. Not everyone is lucky to have such ingenious mind that exhibits intellectual sublimity way ahead of an average human understanding. Child prodigies have unimaginable intellectual bent of mind in several subjects ranging from mathematics, music, drawing, medicine etc. One such Child prodigy*prodigy*
➤ (n) an unusually gifted or intelligent (young) person; someone whose talents excite wonder and admiration
➤ (n) a sign of something about to happen
➤ (n) an impressive or wonderful example of a particular quality
from India grew up to be a mathematical wizard who shocked the world with his contributions to the number theory. The name that brought laurels to the Indian subcontinent is of Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar.

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Srinivasa Ramanujan was born in a Brahmin family to K Srinivas Iyengar and Komalat Ammal on 22nd December 1887 in Erode, a part of the then Madras presidency. His father worked as a clerk in a sari shop while his mother was a housewife who occasionally sang at the local temple. He was a bright student who won several prizes for academics during his schooling years. By 11 he could outdo two college students in mathematics who lodged at his home. He grasped trigonometry from a book written by S.L. Loney by the age of 13 and found out several theorems on his own. Little did he know that his life was going to change forever; when he read a book titled, “A Synopsis of Elementary results in Pure and Applied Mathematics.” He was merely 16 when he read this book and it turned out to be a source of inspiration that drove his passion for mathematics. He engrossed himself completely in the book and worked out unbelievable solutions and results. His immersion in this book was a cruel blow to his academic journey as he failed to do justice to the other subjects and did not clear his exams in the college. He was then married to a 10 year old bride Janaki Ammal in the year 1909.

A boy with a scholastic bent of mind from a poor family was now a college dropout and unemployed too. He immersed himself into discovering new mathematical concepts and also strived hard to find out a good sponsor who could value his work. Finally Ramachandra Rao, another Indian mathematician motivated Ramanujan by providing a subsidy and clerkship at Madras Port Trust. It was during 1911, when Ramanujan published his work in Journal of the Indian Mathematical Society. Furthermore, he attempted the validation of his work on Bernoulli’s Numbers from Cambridge University thrice and succeeded in the third attempt and received appreciation from G.H.Hardy, a professor at the Cambridge University. Hardy’s recommendation provided a scholarship to Ramanujan from the University of Madras. Hardy also insisted that Ramanujan should travel to England and agreed to tutor him. It was in 1914 when Ramanujan travelled to England.

Ramanujan has begun his five year successful journey at Cambridge University. His intuition towards continued fractions, infinite series, could never be equaled by any other living mathematician. He was a master of functional equations of zeta function, hypergeometric series, elliptic integrals, Reiman’s series and his own divergent*divergent*
➤ (s) diverging from another or from a standard
➤ (a) tending to move apart in different directions
series. Ramanujan and Hardy’s collaboration produced several commendable results.

Ramanujan gained exceptional recognition during his stay at Cambridge University. He advanced in the studies of partition of numbers too. In 1916, he was granted the degree of Bachelor of Science by research (later named PhD) by the Cambridge University. The year 1918 also marked a milestone in Ramanujan’s career as he was elected as a Fellow to the Royal Society of London. This was the second time in the history of India, that someone was honored with such a prestigious title after Ardaseer Cursetjee. He was later elected as the Fellow of the Trinity College Cambridge in 1918 and the first one to be honored so.

His obsession towards mathematics caused him a lot of health issues too. Perhaps the dearth*dearth*
➤ (n) an acute insufficiency
➤ (n) an insufficient quantity or number
of vegetarian food during the World War I and the constant stress of proving his theorems took a toll on his health. Detection of tuberculosis and deficiency of vitamins deteriorated his health completely. In 1919, after recovering from his illness he returned to Kumbakonam where he breathe his last a year later in 1920. The world of mathematics mourned the death of this genius.

His widow S. Janaki Ammal breathe her last in the year 1994 at the age of 95. The State of Tamil Nadu observes 22nd December as “State IT Day”. 22nd December is also commemorated as “National Mathematics Day” in India as a tribute to this Mathematical genius named Srinivasa Ramanujan.