S Ramanujan : His Life beyond mathematics and Infinity

April 26, 2016

A lot has been focused on the works of S Ramanujan. His theories of infinity,  mathematical analysis and continued fraction. But some fractions still remain untouched.The fractions of his life, life beyond mathematics. On his 96th death anniversary, Creative Lichens brings to you 5 intriguing accounts of his personal life, which you probably do not know. 

 1. Connection with his wife (Janaki Ammal)

Wife of S.  Ramanujan was less familiar to the  world of mathematics but closely related to the most important man in the World of Mathematics. She spent very less time with him during her 11 years of marriage for two reasons. Firstly, because she was younger to him so she had to stay with her family till she attained puberty. Secondly, S S. Ramanujan went to England for 5 years  and when he came back he was suffering from health issues, which later led to his death in 1920 at the age of 32. Still the short duration of her relation with him had a huge impact on her. She was heard quoting that “I considered it my good fortune to give him rice, lemon juice, buttermilk, etc., at regular intervals and to give fomentation to his legs and chest when he reported pain. The two vessels used then for preparing hot water are alone still with me; these remind me often of those days. That nostalgia, you know!

2. Narayana Ayyar as Godfather in his life

A person whose persistent efforts led S. Ramanujan’s finding to be known to the world. Narayana Ayyar first came across Ramanujan’s work while he was the Assistant Secretary of the Indian Mathematical Club (later Indian Mathematical Society) of which he was a founder-member. He later forwarded Ramanujan’s work to the Collector of Nellore District. He also discussed, solved and helped Ramanujan publish his journals during their 14 months of association.

3. G.H.Hardy and his association with Ramanujan

A name famous for number theory and mathematical analysis but also well known for his mentoring and close association with S Ramanujan. Hardy helped, self–taught and maths-obsessed Ramanujan understand the mathematical problems. He also brought  him to Cambridge University and mentored him during his stay. They collaborated on a lot of work at their time of association.

4. The Taxicab number story

Great discoveries are sometimes made in casual interactions. One such anecdote can be found in Hardy’s quote, “I remember once going to see him when he was lying ill at Putney. I had ridden in taxi cab number 1729 and remarked that the number seemed to me rather a dull one and that I hoped it was not an unfavorable omen.” ‘No,’ he replied, ‘it is a very interesting number; it is the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.’ Only a genius like Ramanujan could come up with such conclusions despite being ill.

5. In the words of Suresh Narasimhan

Grand Nephew of S Ramanujan and a former alumnus of BITS Pilani is presently based in Ireland. On his latest interview to The Hindu. He was asked if he felt pressure belonging to the Ramanujan clan. He stated that it was more of a pleasure than anything else. He often thought that S Ramanujan deserved more adulation for his contribution towards mathematics but still he was deeply overwhelmed by people coming up to him to talk about Ramanujan. He was  also deeply elated to see the film adaptation of “The Man Who Knew Infinity”, a book of the same name by Robert Kanigel based on Ramanujan’s Life which starred Dev Patel as S. Ramanujan and Devika Bhise as Janaki Ammal in leading roles.

Isn’t that interesting? Thank you, Ramanujan, for your contribution to Mathematics. We are much humbled!

-By Upasana Singh