Photo: Srinivasa Ramanujan. Wikiedia
Cosmos: Ramanujan – a humble maths genius
Ramanujan’s extraordinary mathematical ability has become the stuff of legend. Paul Davies tells his story.
The number 1,729 is not one to make the average person’s pulse race, but it is the subject of one of the most remarkable stories in the history of mathematics.
Most of us learnt basic arithmetic at school, and we all remember that some students were better at it than others – the bright girl who could do sums twice as fast as the rest of us, or the boy who could prove theorems in a trice. Of course all subjects attract a range of skills, but almost unique to mathematics are a handful of extreme outliers who are so good it seems they are deploying some form of magic. The best-known genius of this type was Srinivasa Ramanujan.
Born in 1887, Ramanujan was an eccentric young Indian student who lived in obscurity in the town of Kumbakonam in the state of Tamil Nadu. Bestowed with remarkable analytical skills, by the age of 13 he had devised his own scheme for computing the digits of pi that is still in use today. He spent much of his spare time scribbling formulae in notebooks or on a small blackboard.
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CSN Editor: Wikipedia has an excellent list of links on the work that this mathematical genius did. The Wikipedia entry is here.