In our last article on Srinivasa Ramanujan facts, we learned about his early life and we learned how he went to Cambridge and eventually became a Fellow of Royal Society and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. We also learned about the extraordinary works he did (though not in details because it remains beyond the scope of any article we create here on this website) and learned about his early and unfortunate demise. We didn’t talk about some random facts of his life. In this article titled Srinivasa Ramanujan random facts, we are going to learn those facts and complete our discussion on one of the greatest mathematicians who ever walked the face of this Earth. We are proud that he was an Indian! Let’s begin…
Srinivasa Ramanujan Random Facts: 1-5
1. Ramanujan got married at the age of 22. The exact date of his marriage was July 14, 1909.
2. The girl he married was known as Janakiammal. She was only 10 years old when she got married to Ramanujan.
3. Ramanujan and Janaki didn’t meet up just as it happens today. Janaki was selected by his mother.
4. Ramanujan’s marriage was not attended by his own father.
5. After marriage, Janakiammal didn’t start staying with Ramanujan immediately. She stayed with her own parents for 3 years after marriage until she achieved puberty. She joined Ramanujan in 1912 in Madras.
Srinivasa Ramanujan Random Facts: 6-10
6. During his short lifespan, Ramanujan was plagued by some disease or the other. Right after getting married, he developed a condition known as Hydrocele Testis. It is a condition in which fluid accumulates in the scrotal sac.
7. At that time, Ramanujan’s and his family’s financial condition was really bad and hence, they couldn’t afford to go for a surgery that could easily get rid of the condition.
8. Lucky for Ramanujan, one doctor came forward and volunteered to operate him free of cost. The operation took place in January, 1910.
9. Late in 1910, Ramanujan was sick once again and this time, he sensed that it was serious. So, he met his friend R. Radakrishna Iyer and handed over his notebooks to Iyer saying that he should hand them over to Pachaiyappa’s College’s mathematics professor Singaravelu Mudaliar or to Madras Christian College’s professor Edward B. Ross.
10. Nothing really happened to Ramanujan. He recovered and took back the notebooks from his friend Iyer.
Srinivasa Ramanujan Random Facts: 11-15
11. When Ramanujan’s work was first published in the Journal of the Indian Mathematical Society, the first problem that he asked to the readers or the journal was to find the solution to the following problem:
12. No one could answer this and eventually, after waiting for 6 months (three issues), Ramanujan himself gave the solution to the problem.
13. Ramanujan was a staunchly religious person with very pleasant manners. In Cambridge, he once said to Hardy, “An equation for me has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God”.
14. Ramanujan actually credited all his mathematical genius to divinity and said that his family Goddess – Namagiri – revealed everything to him.
15. Ramanujan once said that when he was asleep, he saw a dream in which he saw a red screen that was formed by flowing blood (symbolizing his family Goddess’ consort – Narasimha) and then suddenly a hand appeared from nowhere and started writing on the red screen. The hand wrote several elliptical integrals that stuck to his mind and as soon as he woke up, he wrote them down in a paper.
Srinivasa Ramanujan Random Facts: 16-20
16. After Ramanujan died, his body was cremated. Unfortunately, his Brahmin relatives did not attend his funeral simply because he had traveled overseas.
17. In England, Ramanujan contemplated suicide by jumping in front of the London Underground Train. A policeman arrested him and was about to throw him in jail when Hardy interfered and said to the policeman that he cannot arrest a Fellow of Royal Society for committing such a crime. This happened two months before Ramanujan was actually awarded the Fellow of Royal Society. Hardy simply lied back then.
18. In England when Ramanujan was ill, Hardy went to see him at Putney. Hardy took a taxicab with the number 1729. On arriving Hardy said to Ramanujan that the number was rather a dull one. To this, Ramanujan said that it was an interesting number and that it was the smallest number that can be expressed as a sum of two cubes in two different ways.
- 1729 = 13 + 123
- 1729 = 93 + 103
19. The number 1729 is today known as Hardy-Ramanujan Number and the generalization of Ramanujan’s idea has actually given birth to the notion of ‘taxicab numbers’. After the 1729 number incident, J.E. Littlewood commented: “Every positive integer was one of Ramanujan’s personal friends.”
20. When Ramanujan was in Class III, his mathematics teacher was teaching and said that any number when divided by itself gives one. The teacher gave an example and said that if three fruits are divided among three people, each person will get 1 fruit. To this Ramanujan asked, ‘so if no fruits are divided among no one, each one will still get 1 fruit each?’. He was a genius right from the beginning!
Srinivasa Ramanujan Random Facts: 21-25
21. During his last days in India, Ramanujan introduced the mock theta functions that are popularly used in String Theory. Theoretical Physicist Michio Kaku (born 1947) explains that every single one of the 24 nodes present in Ramanujan’s function corresponds to a string’s physical vibration.
22. Michio further explained that whenever complex motions are executed in space-time by strings through splitting and recombination, a number of highly sophisticated and complex mathematical identities need to be satisfied and all those identities were discovered by Ramanujan.
23. Birthday of Ramanujan (December 22) is celebrated as “State IT Day” in Tamil Nadu. In 2011, the Indian Government declared his birthday as National Mathematics Day. In 2012, his birthday was declared as National Mathematics Year in India by former Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh.
24. In his last year of life, Ramanujan compiled some 600 mathematical formulae and listed them without any proof. They were put in loose, unordered sheets. After his death, the manuscript was sent to University of Madras by his wife. From there it was sent to Hardy. Hardy sent the manuscript to B. M. Wilson and G. N. Watson somewhere in 1934.
25. Wilson and Watson started editing the notebook but Wilson died in 1935 and later Watson lost interest somewhere in late 1930s. After Watson died in 1965, Watson’s papers were sent to Trinity College Wren Library along with Ramanujan’s notebook by R. A. Rankin and J. M. Whittaker in 1968.
Srinivasa Ramanujan Random Facts: 26-30
26. In Spring of 1976, George Andrews visited the library and found Ramanujan’s notebook in G. N. Watson’s box of effects. This discovery sent ripples through the world of mathematics.
27. The discovery of the Lost Notebook was considered as important an event in mathematical world as the discovery of tenth symphony of Beethoven would be to the world of music.
28. The Lost Notebook was eventually published by Narosa publishing house in year 1987 on December 22 (birthday of Ramanujan).
29. The mock theta functions that Ramanujan introduced in his last year were present in this Lost Notebook.
30. The house located in Kumbakonam where Ramanujan’s family moved after his birth has now been converted into Srinivasa Ramanujan International Monument.
Some Quotes by Famous Mathematicians on Ramanujan:
G. H. HARDY:
I had never seen anything in the least like them before. A single look at them is enough to show that they could only be written by a mathematician of the highest class. They must be true because, if they were not true, no one would have the imagination to invent them.
It was his insight into algebraical formulae, transformations of infinite series, and so forth that was most amazing. On this side most certainly I have never met his equal, and I can compare him only with Euler or Jacobi.
“He combined a power of generalization, a feeling for form, and a capacity for rapid modification of his hypotheses, that were often really startling, and made him, in his own peculiar field, without a rival in his day. The limitations of his knowledge were as startling as its profundity. Here was a man who could work out modular equations and theorems… to orders unheard of, whose mastery of continued fractions was… beyond that of any mathematician in the world, who had found for himself the functional equation of the zeta function and the dominant terms of many of the most famous problems in the analytic theory of numbers; and yet he had never heard of a doubly periodic function or of Cauchy’s theorem, and had indeed but the vaguest idea of what a function of a complex variable was…”
Commenting on how Ramanujan arrived at the solutions, Hardy said:
They were arrived at by a process of mingled argument, intuition, and induction, of which he was entirely unable to give any coherent account.
Commenting on Ramanujan’s death, Hardy said:
For my part, it is difficult for me to say what I owe to Ramanujan – his originality has been a constant source of suggestion to me ever since I knew him, and his death is one of the worst blows I have ever had.
Suppose that we rate mathematicians on the basis of pure talent on a scale from 0 to 100. Hardy gave himself a score of 25, Littlewood 30, Hilbert 80 and Ramanujan 100.
That was the wonderful thing about Ramanujan. He discovered so much, and yet he left so much more in his garden for other people to discover.
V. RAMASWAMY AIYER:
I was struck by the extraordinary mathematical results contained in it. I had no mind to smother his genius by an appointment in the lowest rungs of the revenue department.
J. E. LITTLEWOOD:
Every positive integer was one of Ramanujan’s personal friends.