December 16, 2007

Lisa Jardine, writing in the BBC Magazine, thinks the story of Ramanujan’s life should inspire “young people to see the beauty in numbers”. Further she writes:

As a child, I found the whole story of the brilliant, self-taught Indian clerk who solved some of the most difficult problems in number theory and died so young, extremely romantic

Romance is all about where you are from and what you are thinking about (and in this case, how old you are). I personally think the hypothetical scenario of a tormented Cambridge professor renouncing everything and coming to India to seek out a mathematical genius and eventually perishing in India, would have been infinitely more romantic. Ramanujan’s death, on the other hand, will always remain deeply tragic.

Btw, this link on Ramanujan ridiculously describes him as, “one of India’s greatest mathematical geniuses”, a bit like Erdos was one of Hungary’s greatest mathematicians or Einstein was one of Germany’s greatest physicists !

Asked by Paul Erdös, what he thought was his greatest contribution to mathematics, Hardy is said to have replied, “the discovery of Ramanujan”.


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