The Man Who Knew Infinity Life Of The Genius Ramanujan 15.pdf
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So yes, one of the reasons that Ramanujan is often referred to as "the man who knew infinity" is that he demonstrated incredible skill in understanding these limiting behaviors. For example, he developed a theory for efficiently constructing very large networks on which it is easy to communicate; today these are known as "Ramanujan graphs" (see below). Modern mathematicians continue to be amazed that Ramanujan was able to develop his incredible insights while working in isolation, without access to even a major library, let alone modern computers!
Among the exciting and unusual figures among thegreat creators of mathematics is SrinivasaRamanujan, whose short life (1887 - 1920) had thestamp of genius and greatness though perhapsmingled with sadness and tragedy.
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Back to his early days. Thanks to his fineacademic school record, he won a scholarship touniversity. But there he spent his time doingmathematics at the expense of his other subjects,which he consequently failed. His scholarship wasnot renewed. Further attempts to complete hisdegree failed. He married at 22 but could not finda university post, despite the fervent attempts ofsome influential Indians he had impressed with hisresults, Ramaswami Aiyar and his two biographers.Finally (at 25) in 1912 he found his first realjob, a mundane clerical one in the Port Trust ofMadras. But the damage had been done --- the yearsbetween 18 and 25 are the critical ones in amathematician's life and his genius never again hadthe chance of full development. This, and not hisearly death, was the real tragedy, that his geniuswas misdirected, sidetracked and to some extentdistorted by an inelastic and inefficienteducational system.
"I have mentioned that Ramanujan and I often used to go out for long walks on Sunday mornings.During these walks our discussions ranged over awide variety of subjects. He had some progressiveideas about life and society but no reformistviews. Left to himself, he would often speak ofcertain philosophical questions. He was eager towork out a theory of reality which would be basedon the fundamental concepts of "zero", "infinity"and the set of finite numbers. I used to follow ina general way but I never clearly understood whathe had in mind. He sometimes spoke of "zero" as thesymbol of the absolute (Nirguna-Brahmam) of theextreme monistic school of Hindu philosophy, thatis, the reality to which no qualities can beattributed, which cannot be defined or described bywords, and which is completely beyond the reach ofthe human mind. According to Ramanujan, theappropriate symbol was the number "zero", which isthe absolute negation of all attributes. He lookedon the number "infinity" as the totality of allpossibilities, which was capable of becomingmanifest in reality and which was inexhaustible.According to Ramanujan, the product of infinity andzero would supply the whole set of finite numbers.Each act of creation, as far as I could understand,could be symbolized as a particular product ofinfinity and zero, and from each such product wouldemerge a particular individual of which theappropriate symbol was a particular finite number.I have put down what I remember of his views. I donot know the exact implication. He seemed to havebeen perhaps emotionally more interested in hisphilosophical ideas than in his mathematical work.He spoke with such enthusiasm about thephilosophical questions that sometimes I felt hewould have been better pleased to have succeeded inestablishing his philosophical theories than insupplying rigorous proofs of his mathematicalconjectures.""Ramanujan had a somewhat shy and quietdisposition, a dignified bearing, and pleasantmanners. He would listen carefully to that otherpeople were saying but would usually remain silent.If he was asked any question, or on rare occasions,if he joined in any general conversation, he wouldspeak frankly, but briefly. Whilst speaking to afriend or in very small groups, he would, however,expound his own ideas with great enthusiasm, notonly on philosophical questions but occasionallyalso on other subjects in which he was seriouslyinterested. Although I could not follow hismathematics, he left a lasting impression on mymind. His bright eyes and gentle face with afriendly smile are still vivid in my mind."
"Ramanujan is a role model for the possible," says Ken Ono, the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Emory University and also an advisor and associate producer on the recent film about Ramanujan, The man who knew infinity. "[His story shows] that you can come from impossibly difficult conditions or circumstances and become important. But he needed help, he needed Hardy. And Hardy wasn't the perfect mentor, he was a curmudgeon, he didn't like people. But through his help all of this happened."
I hail from a town closer to Ramanujan and my father's hometown is 30 miles away from Ramanujan hometown. I will give you a perspective of Ramanujan's life growing up you figure out the type of person he is. Imagine a household where father is chasing debtors and mostly non existent in Ramanujan's life. Mother is singing in a temple for a living. Ramanujan could eat only one meal a day from his mother's earnings. He was often at the edge of death due to starvation. He could not afford papers, he often practiced math on a small 2by3 plaid chalkboard and temple walls. Later in life he was accused as a fraud for not providing proofs for his work, what people did not realize is that he did not have money to buy paper to provide elaborate proof. No running water or no electricity. If you dont believe me take a look at this picture, ~rao/ramanujan/newnow/museumhouse.htm 2b1af7f3a8