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Srinivasa Ramanujan – A Legend


-Dr. Komal Asrani

India’s contribution in the field of mathematics has been tremendous. Amongst the mathematicians who had contributed, Ramanujan Srinivasa was one of the gems whose contribution has been remarkable and whose birthday is celebrated on 22nd December. He did not have any formal training in pure mathematics but he provided solutions for such mathematical problems, which were considered unsolvable. In spite of being born in a poor family (his father worked as a clerk in a saree shop and his mother, a homemaker used to sing at a local temple), his achievement is noteworthy. Because of the initial impact of his mother, he learnt about the tradition and Puranas from childhood.

He was sharp in studies from childhood and passed his primary examination before turning 10 years. His journey for formal mathematics started in Town Higher Secondary School. Without any able guidance but with mere dedication, he independently compiled about 3900 results. He was awarded a Graduation degree in 1904. During the felicitation ceremony, the school headmaster introduced him as an outstanding student who deserved scores higher than the maximum. He was so inclined to mathematics that he excelled in it but failed in the remaining subjects and hence could not receive the scholarship. However, he carried on his individual exploration with the subject.

In spite of living in extreme poverty conditions, it was in 1910 when he interacted with V. Ramaswamy Aiyer, the founder of Indian Mathematical Society and got the recognition in Madras, which in turn led to his inclusion as a researcher at the University of Madras. His innovative works included the formation of infinite series for calculation of the series of Pi which converged rapidly and is considered as one of the fastest algorithms used for the calculation of Pi correct up to 6 decimal places. His mathematical contributions include continued fractions, hypergeometric series, the Riemann series, the elliptic integrals, partition of numbers, the theory of divergent series, and the functional equations of the zeta functions. Further, he also proposed Ramanujan summation and Ramanujan number.

Besides, he worked with some of the best mathematicians like G.H. Hardy, Littlewood and many others. According to Hardy, he placed Ramanujan at a score of 100 of 100. He was an intellect, who had a vision of mathematics and was bestowed with many honours including the Royal Society of London. Ramanujan always led a simple life and was worshipped Namagiri Thayar (Goddess Mahalakshmi). He drew inspiration from Her for his work. He often said, “An equation for me has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God”. But because of his health complications and poor medical treatment, he died at the young age of 32 on 26 April, 1920. To mark his elaborate contributions, on the 125th anniversary of his birth in 2011, 22nd December is celebrated as National Mathematics Day.

Ramanujan had left behind a legacy of mathematical problems, which leaves behind a roadmap for the coming generations. His work has been applied for areas like signal processing, where the prime objective is to extract and identify periodic information. His work on Ramanujan sum has been developed to represent Ramanujan subspaces. Ramanujan was an intellect and self-taught mathematician, who served as a guiding light for numerous learners and provide a directional thought process. We are always indebted for his amazing contribution to mathematics.

Writer is Professor, Department of Computer Science and Engineering, Lucknow

Courtesy : VSK BHARATH