National Mathematics Day is observed on December 22 every year. This date marks the birth anniversary of legendary mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. In 2012, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared December 22 as National Mathematics Day to honor the life and achievements of Ramanujan.
Hee are 10 points on life and work of the great mathematician:
- Srinivasa Ramanujan was born on December 22, 1887, in Tamil Nadu’s Erode to a Brahmin Iyengar family. He had developed a liking for mathematics at a very young age, mastering trigonometry at 12 and was eligible for a scholarship at the Government Arts College in Kumbakonam.
- He studied at the Government College in Kumbakonam in 1903. Due to his dislike for non-mathematical subjects, he failed exams there. He had enrolled in Madras’ Pachaiyappa College at the age of 14.
- In 1912, Ramanujan started working as a clerk in the Madras Port Trust. There, his mathematical genius was recognised by some of his colleagues and one og them referred him to Professor GH Hardy of Trinity College, Cambridge University. He met Hardy in 1913, after which he went to Trinity College.
- In 1916, Ramanujan received his Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree. He went on to publish several papers on his subject with Hardy’s help. The two even collaborated on several joint projects.
- Ramanujan was elected to the London Mathematical Society in 1917. Next year, he was elected to the prestigious Royal Society for his research on Elliptic Functions and theory of numbers next year. He was also the first Indian to be elected a Fellow of the Trinity College.
- Despite not receiving any formal training in pure maths, Ramanujan made impactful contribution to the discipline in his short life. His areas of work include infinite series, continued fractions, number theory and mathematical analysis.
- He also made notable contributions like the hypergeometric series, the Riemann series, the elliptic integrals, the theory of divergent series, and the functional equations of the zeta function. He is said to have discovered his own theorems and independently compiled 3,900 results.
- In 1919, Ramanujan returned to India. A year later, on April 26, he breathed his last owing to deteriorating health. He was just 32 years old. His biography ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’ by Robert Kanigel depicts his life and journey to fame.
- A film of the same name was released in 2015 in which British-Indian actor Dev Patel played Ramanujan. The film shed light on Ramanujan’s childhood in India, his time in Britain, and his journey to becoming the great mathematician.
- An anecdote from his biography shows Ramanujan’s brilliance. In this, GH Hardy said: I remember once going to see him when he was ill at Putney. I had ridden in taxi cab number 1729 and remarked that the number seemed to me rather a dull one, and that I hoped it was not an unfavourable omen. “No,” he replied, “it is a very interesting number; it is the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.” Thus, 1729 became the Hardy-Ramanujan number – definitely not the greatest contribution of Ramanujan, but perhaps the easiest one to remember.