Posted by: thumpasery | October 20, 2008

Srinivasa Ramanujan

For those of you who have seen Good Will Hunting, you might remember the comparison of Will Hunting, a mathematical prodigy from South Side who works as a janitor, to the great Indian (“dots, not feathers”) mathematician Ramanujan.

What is striking about Ramanujan is that he received little in the way of formal mathematical training, yet is arguably the greatest mathematician to come from India. As an elementary school student, he already inquired far more deeply into the subject matter than the level at which he was taught (after learning about cubic functions, he devoted himself to the impossible task of finding rational solutions to quintic functions). He came across a book during high school called a Synposis of Elementary Results in Pure Mathematics. From this outdated book, he derived theorems that still are used today, taking particular interest in the theory of numbers and computation.

Eventually, his work was discovered, he gained renown within and around the city of Madras, India until the point where professors at Cambridge took interest. The rest of the story is less interesting, but it is to be noted that he retained his religion, humility, and simplicity to the end of his life.

An interesting biography to read for us Harvard students! It’s a lesson that innate curiosity and drive are probably more important to success in mathematics than our expensive, formal education.


  1. […] unknown: […]

  2. A very nice description of the great man. His notebooks are still the subject of research today. He had an incredible intuition, and he often ‘saw’ formulas without proof, and today we are still busy proving all these ‘conjectures’ of his.

    In class, we are busy learning about rigour and contrapositives and axioms and all the rest, but we shouldn’t forget that the spirit of mathematics is also in the joy of finding patterns. This is why it’s good to sit and calculate examples when you’re learning. Hmm, I think I’ll go write you some more homework…

    And yes, innate curiosity is the most important thing of all. Math is like a foreign language: anyone can learn, if they are curious, motivated, have some time, and enjoy the process.

  3. I always enjoy telling my middle school students the story of how G H Hardy went to visit Ramanujan in the hospital, and the taxi he took there had a dull number. When Hardy told Ramanujan the taxi number was 1729, he said Oh, that’s an interesting number.

  4. Ah yes, the smallest number that can be written as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.

  5. Mathematicians actually call it the taxicab number, informally.

  6. he is a great scientist in our world he is the genius of India a would like him so much he is mu role model in my life

  7. @kevin

    Interesting of your post kevin, especially when Mr.Ramanujan said to Mr.Hardy that number 1729 is an interesting number. Why? I know the answer, because 1+7+2+9=19. I believe Mr.Ramanujan was Pythagorean’s follower that was very respect to the number 19. How about you and all here?

  8. @rohedi

    Are you playing with the magic number 19?

  9. No no no…miss.Denaya. The number 19 becomes my base in developing smart solver for several problems of mathematics. Let’s consider the number 19 again. If you do addition operation for 1+9, you find 10, and again let’s perform 1+0=1. For me the number 1 is special number, that not only as monotheism symbol, but “apologise” according to me it gives several basic math operation, such as addition, substraction, multiplication, and divison.

    Let consider the following definition of the number 1.

    1/2 + 1/2^2 + 1/2^3 + 1/2^4 + … = 1

    Next, let’s multiply both sides with 2

    1+ 1/2 + 1/2^2 + 1/2^3 + 1/2^4 + … = 2

    Hence, we can prove that

    1 + 1 = 2.

    Okay, see you later Denaya Lesa and All.

    My best regards,

    Physics Department,
    Sepuluh Nopember Institute of Technology (ITS)
    Surabaya, Indonesia.

  10. oough..too hard for me

  11. Maybe @chory weets,

    But, let’s visit to this link:

    You will look the latest of Rohedi’s Formula.

    Best Regards.

  12. I messed up the final question. ,

  13. Suppose in advanced democracies we see a trend toward imprudent, delinquent, and subpar behavior among male adolescents compared to women adolescents. ,

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