Rohit's nukkad

Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Man who knew Infinity

"The Man who Knew Infinity", this is the title of the current book which I just finished. It is the biography of Srinvasa Ramanujan, a great indian mathematician of the 20th century. As a biography the book makes the reader walk through Ramanujan's early life, his struggles, his fruitful collabration with G H Hardy at Cambridge University in England which brought him a lot of fame and world recognition and his unfortunate early death.
The author Robert Kanigel does a great job in keeping the right mix of mathematical work and the life story. Thus keeping the reader interested and not confusing him/her with higher level mathematics. However the best part of the book is last forty pages. Here Robert Kanigel discusses about Ramanujan's work after his death. How mathematicians are still taking inspiration from his work, how they solving many of the unsolved problems and trying to answer questions left unanswered by his death. He talks about the bureaucratic system in India which almost got Ramanujan a failure.
Many noted Indian and international intellects give their views about Ramanujan. Many think Ramnujan brought out the Indianess to the rest of the world even when India was under British rule. Even after staying in the UK for five years he remained very much an Indian and never changed till his death. He brought the Indian intellectuality to the world. Ramanujum's work is now widely used in areas like particle physics, statistical mechanics, computer science, cryptography, space travel, understanding plastics, telephone cable, cancer and many others. However what makes Ramanujan's work so great is not "the prospect of its use in the solution of real-world problems, but its richness, beauty and mystery - its sheer mathematical loveliness".
The most important point highlighted in the book is Ramanujan was a self made man " a svayambhu " (self manifested). He was self-willed, self-directed and self-made. He did what he wished to do, and went on his own way. He knocked at the doors of greatest mathematicians in India and then in the UK. It was Hardy who discovered Ramanujan. But as Hardy puts it in his own words "ALL GREAT MEN INVENT HIMSELF" so did Ramanujan.
An interesting fact : three Indian films have been made on the life of Ramanujan however being an Indian I didn't see the general public talking about the great achievement of Ramanujan (though the book mentions he still being very popular and talked about in South India).However two international movies(one in UK and the other in Hollywood) have been planned I hope these will help spreading the great work done by Ramanujan not only in India but to the worldwide masses.


  • Also read the chapter from "Great Physicists of Life and Time Of..." Oxford University Press. It is:

    Chapter 28. Ideal Scholar: Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar

    When someone read carefully one gets the feel about the life and times of his!

    By Anonymous Aditya Ayre, at 7:52 AM, June 24, 2006  

  • a very well read book and also written in an amazing manner . it was good to know abt the most famous Indian mathematician, whom i guess we inidans know least about .

    By Anonymous yashu, at 11:57 PM, June 27, 2006  

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