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The Frail Man Who Defined Infinity

# The Frail Man Who Defined Infinity

“1729” – The taxi sped away. “Boring, isn’t it, that number 1729?” remarked Hardy to Ramanujan. “Aha, ” replied Ramanujan, “1729 is the smallest number which can be expressed as the sum of two cubes, in 2 dissimilar ways. ” taxi in woking

1729 = the cube of number 1 + the cube of number 12 = the cube of number 9 +the cube of number 10, is now famous as the Hardy-Ramanujan number or the Taxi-Cab number.

Ramanujan, the man who defined infinity, hardly had any formal education in mathematics. The main source of information and inspiration he acquired, was from the” Synopsis of Elementary Results in Pure Mathematics” by George S. Carr. This book contained theorems with only the results, and hardly any information regarding the methodology, waiting for Ramanujan to devise their working, on his own.

Born in a poor Brahmin family on December 22, 1887, at Erode, Tamil Nadu, India, the young Ramanujan showed potential for genius right from the outset. By age 12, at Kumbakonam Town High School, Ramanujan would devour the information contained in the mathematical books in the library. He worked through the arithmetic series, geometric series, cubic equations and discovered his own method of solving quartic equations.

He credits all his discoveries to the Goddess Namagiri. He used to get visions while taking rest in the temple courtyard. One such vision, he described as follows:

“As I was dosing off, I experienced an unusual incident. I imagined a red background formed by flowing blood. I was observing it. Suddenly, a hand began writing on the screen. I became all attentive. That hand wrote a number of elliptical integrals. They got imprinted in my mind. As soon as I woke up, I wrote them down. “

In 1904, obsessed with mathematics, he failed his non- mathematical exams and was denied his scholarship, which gave him avenues to study at the Government Arts College at Kumbakonam. Despite a series of failures, and on a hungry stomach, he continued on his path of devotion to mathematics producing highly original and advanced work, despite very little formal education.

Lady Luck finally favoured him. He got a job as an accountancy clerk with the Madras Port Trust, where his works astounded Ramaswamy Aiyar, who worked there, and also happened to be the founder of the Indian Mathematical Society. Sir Francis Spring, Chairman of the Madras Port Trust, pressed for him to be appointed to a research job, at one of the great British Universities.