Ramanjua The Man Who Knew Infinity!

Augustine Pamplany CST

Srinivasa Ramanuja is a renowned Indian mathematician born in Madras. His father was a low level clerk. He hailed from a Brahmin family. Brought up traditionally, he attended Pujas in the Temple and was a strict vegetarian.

Ramannuja began to show his genius by the age of 12 as he began inventing new theorems. He excelled in mathematics. His teachers were unsure whether he is a genius or a fraud. At the instruction of one of his teachers, Ramanuja sent off a letter to Cambridge based renowned mathematician G.W. Hardy presenting to him some of the theorems he had invented. Hardy was deeply impressed with the genius of Ramanuja and invited him to work under him in Cambridge. He became a member of the London Mathematical Society in 1917 and a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1918. He died in 1920 at the age of 32.

Ramanjua considered math as an art form. He had no hesitation in clubbing mathematics and spirituality together. He thought of zero to be a representation of the Absolute Reality. Ramanuja considered mathematical equations to be capable of leading us closer to the understanding of a spiritual universe.

The Man Who Knew Infinity, is a film about the Cambridge days of Sirinivasa Ramanujan. This film pictures an interesting discussion between Ramanujan and Hardy as to how does Ramanuja get his mathematical intuition. Hardy is a hard-core atheist. To him Ramanuja says: “I don’t know; it just happens; it’s like a revelation; it just comes floating in… It must be God; it has to be the mind of God engaging with me, otherwise how to explain these revelations that I see in a flash?” Of course, Hardy did not subscribe to his views. Ramanujan held that there is a mystic connection between his mathematics and his religious vision. Hence the famous saying by Ramanuja: “An equation for me has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God.”

Ramanuja had a filial devotion to the family goddess in Namakkal, Goddess Mahalakshmi. He has stated occasionally that the Goddess is probably dictating the mathematical wisdom directly into his mind. Sitaraman Shankar writes in Hindustan Times, “Perhaps Ramanujan tapped into a spiritual well from which numbers flowed forth – what else could explain the fact that a man with no formal training in high mathematics produced such complex and significant work?…Decades after his death, his mathematical results have been put to application in fields as diverse as crystallography and black holes; is it fanciful to extend his statement on equations and the thought of God to other disciplines?”

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