A Preview of Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar’s Life-story: Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar was born on 22 December 1887 to Komalatammal and Srinivasa at Erode in Tamilnadu. He died on 26 April 1920 at Chetpat, a suburb of Chennai, in Tamilnadu. In the short span of 32 years, 4 months and 4 days, Ramanujan dazzled the mathematical world with his seemingly inexplicable hold on numbers, equations and certain parts of mathematics. Even now mathematicians are discovering new ideas and mathematical connections in the treasure trove he left behind in the form of his notebooks. He did all this without having the benefit of any formal training in higher mathematics. The education system in India did not recognize the genius of Ramanujan. It was left to a distinguished English mathematician G H Hardy to give the benefit of the doubt to Ramanujan on the basis of a letter that Ramanujan wrote him in 1913. It was only after Hardy’s intervention that Ramanujan was given support by the University in Madras (now Chennai). The near penury that Ramanujan faced, the influence on his mathematics by his family, caste and religion, the fact that the world almost did not recognize the genius of the man, the period of formal encounter with mathematics in England, his life in an alien country that was England, his last few months in India after his return, and demise soon after, all make for a fascinating mix of romance, mystery and mathematics. Let us begin our quest for learning more about the genius that was
Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar. Early life: Tamilnadu is a state in the Southern (peninsular) part of India. Much of Ramanujan’s 32 years of life were spent in this state. Map of Tamilnadu Inset: map of India with the state of Tamilnadu highlighted Ramanujan was born in Erode (Erode district, number 6 in the above picture) on 22 December 1887. The home of his maternal grandfather was in Erode. His mother Komalatammal had gone to her parental home, as was done traditionally, for the delivery of her child. Ramanujan’s father Kuppuswamy Srinivasa Iyengar worked as a clerk/assistant to a cloth merchant in the town of Kumbakonam in Thanjavur district (number 19 in the above picture). He was said to be good at appraising fabrics but never succeeded in using that skill to move to a better job. His work as a clerk paid him about 20 rupees a month. Komalatammal used to supplement the family income by earning 5 to 10 rupees a month by singing devotional songs in a group at the local temple. In Kumbakonam, the family lived in 17 Sarangapani Sannidhi Street. The house they lived in has now been acquired by SASTRA University, Thanjavur. Below is a picture of the house in which Ramanujan lived from birth until his departure to Chennai in 1905.
17 Sarangapani Sannidhi Street It is said that for the first three years of his life, Ramanujan barely uttered any words and that was a cause of worry for his mother and family. After the traditional aksharabhyasam (formal initiation to the alphabet) was performed by his maternal
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- Fall '09
- Math, Srinivasa Ramanujan, Ramanujan, Kuppuswamy Srinivasa Iyengar