No one has doubt that Srinivasa Ramanujan is indeed a top ranking mathematician of not only India yesterday but India today and India tomorrow.
In a prologue to the best selling, award winning biographical book on Ramanujan, titled “The Man who knew Infinity”, the famous American author, Robert Kannigal writes, Srinivasa Ramanujan, “was a mathematician so great that his name transcends jealousies…His leaps of intuition confound mathematicians even today, many decades after his death. His papers are still plumbed for their secrets. His theorems are being applied in areas – polymer chemistry, computers, even (it has recently been suggested) cancer- scarcely imaginable during his lifetime.”
Srinivasa Ramanujan (22 December 1887 – 26 April 1920), was a mathematical genius not only of the twentieth century but for all time. He was an enigma to his teachers even at school because of his prodigious memory and unusual mathematical talent which began to show even before he was ten years old. 22 Dec 2012 happens to be the 125th Birth anniversary of this great mathematician and is being celebrated as National Mathematics Day with year 2012 itself ending as National Mathematics Year.
Sangam University Bhilwara which has embarked on a rich tradition of celebrating various days of national and international significance had a talk on the significance of the day by Prof BR Natarajan President – Vice Chancellor. Giving an overview of the biography of Srinvasa Ramanujan, Prof Natarajan explained the significance of numbers 125 which can be written as sum of two squares in two different ways (2 and 11 as well as 5 and 10) and pointed out that 65 is the smallest number which can written similarly (1 and 8 as well as 4 and 7). The students were fascinated to hear that Ramanujan in a flash of a second had told his mentor Prof G H Hardy that number 1729 is the smallest number which can be written as sum of two cubes in two different ways (1 and 12 as well as 9 and 10). In honour of same, 1729 is known as Ramanujan Hardy number. Students were also surprised to know that Srinvasa Ramanujan had a unique and prominent presence at the white marble Saraswati temple at Vidya Vihar Pilani Rajasthan.
As a student Ramanujan had excelled in school but at college while he came with flying colours in Mathematics he failed in other subjects and became a clerk in Madras (now called Chennai) port trust office and with struggle became a Research Scholar at Madras University and thanks to Prof Hardy reached Cambridge UK where thrilling discoveries, exciting contacts with famous mathematicians, and epoch-making publications happened.
Prof Natarajan also conveyed to the students a special message from well known Techie Mr Suresh Narasimhan (grand nephew of Srinivasa Ramanujan) presently at Dublin, Ireland and an alumnus of Birla Institute of Technology and Science – BITS Pilani and George Washington University, USA.
The life of the mathematical genius Ramanujan is one of simplicity. He grew up in very arduous circumstance, in a small town in South India. The school he attended was not a very well equipped educational facility. In fact his mathematical genius grew up not so much because of the education he received but despite it. His intellect was one of intuition. Oftentimes he would explain with definite confidence that his innate mathematical ability came from an Indian goddess who appeared in his dreams. His intellectual temperament was at odds with the rigor, structure and the mechanics of an educational system. Like many, there is wonder, what might have been, had he lived a few years longer? There is a Ramanujan, lurking everywhere, in India, in Africa, and even in the developed West, waiting for a Hardy, undiscovered, unfathomed and lost to history.
The story of Ramanujan is one of the clash of cultures between India and the west – between the world of Sarangapani Sannadhi Street in Kumbakonam in South India, where Ramanujan grew up, and the glittering world of Cambridge; between “the pristine proofs of the Western mathematical tradition and the mysterious powers of intuition with which Ramanujan dazzled East and West alike”.
Young students will soon realize that Ramanujan’s story is also about their own school and their college, about how they matter, and how they can sometimes nurture talent and sometimes crush it. How many Ramanujans, his life begs us to ask, dwell in India today, unknown and unrecognized?
The man who knew infinity had explored magic squares, continued fractions, hypergeometric series, properties of prime numbers and composite numbers, partitions of numbers, elliptic integrals and many other such regions of mathematics.
On behalf of Sangam University, Prof Natarajan conveyed his special thanks to Mr Suresh Narasimhan for making the National Mathematics Day celebrations truly unforgettable.