10 Things to Know about the Man who knew Infinity

Srinivasa Iyengar Ramanujan (22 December 1887 – 26 April 1920) was an Indian mathematician and autodidact who lived during the British Raj. Though he had almost no formal training in pure mathematics, he made substantial contributions to mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series, and continued fractions. Ramanujan initially developed his own mathematical research in isolation; it was quickly recognized by Indian mathematicians. When his skills became obvious and known to the wider mathematical community, centred in Europe at the time, he began a partnership with the English mathematician G. H. Hardy. The Cambridge professor realized that Srinivasa Ramanujan had produced new theorems in addition to rediscovering previously known ones. Here are 10 things to know about him:

1. He was born in 1887 in Erode, located in Tamil Nadu.

His father worked as a clerk with a cloth merchant and his mother was a homemaker who also used to sing at a local temple.



2. His house in Kumbakonam, where the family had moved after his birth, is now maintained as the Srinivasa Ramanujan International Monument.



3. He was married to Janaki Ammal in 1909, who was 9-year-old at that time.

4. He is recognised as one of the greatest mathematicians of his time, but Srinivasa Ramanujan had almost no formal training in math.

Many of his mathematical discoveries were based on pure intuition – but most of them were later proved to be true.

Srinivasa Ramanujan (centre) with other scientists at Trinity College at the University of Cambridge


5. He was the second Indian to be inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society, which is a Fellowship of some of the world’s most eminent scientists.

He joined the fellowship in 1918 at the age of 31, as one of youngest fellows in the history of the society.

6. A follower of his family goddess Mahalakshmi, Ramanujan credited her for his abilities.

He once said, “An equation for me has no meaning, unless it represents a thought of God.”

7. He compiled 3,900 results (mostly identities and equations), before he lost his life at the age of 32. His infinite series for pi was one of his most celebrated findings.

8. There is also a museum dedicated to telling Ramanujan’s life story. It is located in Chennai and has many photographs of his home and family, along with letters to and from friends, relatives, etc.

The collection is the result of decades of effort by Late P.K. Srinivasan, a renowned math teacher. He worked hard for years looking for his pictures, letters, etc. that could be used in the museum. In 1993, he found a lot of material in a chest in Ramanujan’s old attic.


9. His birth anniversary, December 22, is celebrated as the National Mathematics Day every year.

10. According to reports, Ramanujan used to jot down his ideas in notebooks, in green ink.

One of the notebooks, known as the ‘lost notebook’, was discovered in the Trinity College library by mathematician George Andrews in 1976, and was later published as a book.

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