The Man Who Saw Numbers In Dreams: Srinivasa Ramanujan

Who could ever believe that there was a man who saw numbers in his dreams? And god put formulas on his tongue. Unbelievable right? A person who didn't live long but did wonders in the field of mathematics.
“An equation has no meaning to me unless it expresses a thought of God.”; Image Source: Times Now.

“An equation has no meaning to me unless it expresses a thought of God.”; Image Source: Times Now.

Under British rule, a genius was born with the gift of god and rose from dust to write his name in golden letters, not only in the history of India but in the world.

Srinivasa Ramanujan was born on 22 December 1887. Belonging to a typical Hindu Brahmin family, where crossing the sea was once considered a sin, he managed to cross the oceans to prove all those affirmations that came to him as a form of prayer. Having no formal training in mathematics, he did wonders in the field.

The love for mathematics brought two people living in two different lands and having opposite beliefs, together.

Ramanujan was a child prodigy. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get a graduation degree as he failed in all subjects except mathematics, a subject in which nowadays many kids fail. Having no degree in his hands, he was unable to get a job under the British officials who at that time wanted their graduated employees for official work. He kept getting referrals and one day ended up with a clerical job at the port under Mr.R Ramachandra Rao whose interest piqued in Ramanujan's notebook. While sharing all these affirmations, Rao suggested Ramanujan to reach out to British mathematicians and made a statement- “Ramanujan your formulas and affirmations are beyond the knowledge of people of India”.

With the help of Rao, he sent letters to 3 British mathematicians and got one positive reply from a British mathematician G.H Hardy. The man who contradicted Ramanujan in one or numerous ways and yet they made such a good team.

At the mere age of 25, Ramanujan crossed the ocean against his mother’s wishes to go to England, but things were never easy for him. The other British mathematicians didn't accept Ramanujan and strongly detested his presence. G.H Hardy was a man who stuck to rules when it came to mathematics and that's what Ramanujan lacked. He didn't have any proof of his affirmations and there were numerous loopholes in some. For which Hardy compelled Ramanujan to take a few mathematics classes to go forward with the theorems.

The survival of a Hindu Brahmin in a country of the west is unquestionably harder than one could imagine at that time. He was managing just fine by himself but during his stay in England, the first world war broke out. With the shortage of food, he could hardly fill his stomach. He was challenged by Hardy time and again in the initial years and was way too strict with him, but only for the benefit of Ramanujan.

Having an early medical history, he also contracted tuberculosis, the medicines for which were not made by then.Climate change there just made it worse for him. The most shocking thing about all this is, Ramanujan tried to commit suicide by jumping before a train in an underground tube. At the same time, G.H Hardy had recommended his name for FRS (Fellow of Royal Society). It would have become impossible for Ramanujan to become a member if he had been involved in any police case. In order to save Ramanujan, G.H Hardy lied to the policemen that he is a member of FRS and that he couldn’t be arrested without the Crown’s permission, though the crown had no such power.

The reason for this drastic step of Ramanujan was depression but the genius mind was unstoppable, and his mathematical discoveries never stopped. All he wanted was to complete all the theorems here as soon as possible and go back to India. He was lonely, and he desperately needed some affectionate words to let him reminisce memories of his homeland. He remained in the hope of getting letters from his wife, which came in the early years of his stay, but they never came later on.

In his lifetime, Ramanujan discovered 3900 formulas, which he gave credence to his god Namagiri and goddess Lakshmi. It was rightly said by Littlewood that “every positive integer is one of Ramanujan's personal friends”. Just a few weeks after his suicide attempt, in May 1918, Ramanujan was elected as a fellow of the Royal Society. He was the second Indian and the youngest fellow in the history of the Royal Society. In the very same year, in October, he became the first Indian to be a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. He decided to return to India the following year and promised Hardy to keep writing him letters

After his return to India, he confronted his wife, Janaki, who had then returned to her parent's place, and asked for justification for not replying to his letters. There he got to know that his mother hid all the letters. The ones given by Janaki to post and the ones that Ramanujan posted; In the fear that he would leave his mother alone in India and move with his wife to a foreign land. All the misunderstandings were cleared and they were united.

Though Ramanujan's health was improved, he died a year later because of the severe spread of infection through out his body. After his death, another lost notebook was discovered. All the three notebooks of Ramanujan are stored at the Wren Library at Trinity College, Cambridge. It was this one-time that G.H Hardy asked Ramanujan to accompany him to the Wren Library and showed him the textbooks of other great people and told him to “do something so groundbreaking that your work will be stored at this place too.”

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Ramanujan was “A man who knew infinity”; discovering all these at such a young age and in a very less amount of time. The cryptic theory, which he wrote to his mentor G.H. Hardy in the form of letters, was proven true. A century later, it is used to study the behavior of black holes.

Even after his death, this great mathematician left some unfinished business on which mathematicians are always working. It's hard to imagine, but it's true. What if this man had lived for a long time? Maybe then, mathematics would have been more advanced than it is today.

“There are patterns in everything.”; “Image Source: Storypick.”

“There are patterns in everything.”; “Image Source: Storypick.”


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