Saturday, February 09, 2008
Born in India in 1887, Ramanujan was a mathematical genius whose work continues to surprise mathematicians into the 21st century. His work is filled with surprises. At the Ramanujan centenary conference at the University of Illinois, it was physicist Freeman Dyson who proclaimed, "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.Born into poverty, Ramanujan grew up in southern India, and although he had little formal training in mathematics, he became hooked on mathematics. He spent the years between 1903 and 1913 cramming notebooks with page after page of mathematical formulas and relationships that he had uncovered.Ramanujan's life as a professional mathematician began in 1914 when he accepted an invitation from the prominent British mathematician G.H. Hardy to come to Cambridge University. He spent 5 years in England, publishing many papers and achieving international recognition for his mathematical research.Though his work was cut short by a mysterious illness that brought him back to India for the final year of his life, Ramanujan's work has remained a subject of considerable interest.In 1957, with monetary assistance from Sir Dadabai Naoroji Trust, at the instance of Professors Homi J Bhabha and K. Chandrasekaran, the Tata institute of Fundamental Research published a facsimile edition of the Notebooks of Ramanujan in two volumes, with just an introductory para about them.The formidable task of truly editing the Notebooks was taken up in right earnest by Berndt in May 1977 and his dedicated efforts for nearly two decades has resulted in the Ramanujan's Notebooks published by Springer-Verlag in five Parts, the first of which appeared in 1985.Between 1903 and 1914, before Ramanujan went to Cambridge, he compiled 3,542 theorems in the notebooks. Most of the time Ramanujan provided only the results and not the proof.The 600 formulae that Ramanujan jotted down on loose sheets of paper during the one year he was in India, after he returned from Cambridge, are the contents of the `Lost' Note Book found by Andrews in 1976. He was ailing throughout that one year after his return from England (March 1919 - April 26, 1920.The three original Ramanujan Notebooks are with the Library of the University of Madras, some of the correspondence, papers/letters on or about Ramanujan are with the National Archives at New Delhi and the Tamil Nadu Archives, and a large number of his letters and connected papers/correspondence and notes are with the Wren Library of Trinity College, Cambridge. The Ramanujan Institute for Advanced Study in Mathematics of the University of Madras is situated at a short distance from the famed Marina Beach and is close to the Administrative Buildings of the University and its Library. Mrs. Janakiammal Ramanujan, the widow of Ramanujan, lived close to the University's Marina Campus and died on April 13, 1994.Shanmugha Arts, Science, Technology and Research Academy (SASTRA), a private university whose main campus is located in the town of Tanjore, purchased the home of Ramanujan in 2003, and has since maintained it as a museum. Research chairs established at the SASTRA centre at Kumbakonam — two by the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India and one by City Union Bank Ltd. — encourage research in the field of mathematics in honor of Ramanujan.