The Man Who Knew Infinity

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A British film about Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) last autumn.

The Man Who Knew InfinityIt was also selected as the opening gala of the 2015 Zurich Film Festival and shown among others at the Singapore International Film Festival and Dubai International Film Festival.

Starring Dev Patel as Ramanujan and Jeremy Irons as Professor G.H. Hardy, it is based on the biography of Ramanujan, written by Robert Kanigel.

The film is scheduled for theatrical release on April 29, 2016.

Srinivasa Ramanujan was born on December 22, 1887 in Erode, Tamil Nadu, to an orthodox Hindu family and was known to be a mathematics genius from a very young age. Although he never had any formal training, when he was 12 years old he had mastered trigonometry and developed theorems on his own. However, he did not do well in his other subjects and lost the scholarship he had been given.

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At age 16, he read the book ‘A Synopsis of Elementary Results in Pure and Applied Mathematics’ by George S. Carr. He then began researching on Bernoulli numbers and the Euler-Mascheroni constant and contacted many mathematicians with his findings. They in turn saw either loopholes in his theorems or deemed him unqualified for his lack of proper education.

But in January 1913, at age 26, Ramanujan contacted English mathematician G. H. Hardy who immediately realized Ramanujan’s genius. The letter Ramanujan sent had 120 statements on theorems related to the infinite series, improper integrals, continued fractions and the number theory. Hardy got Ramanujan to come to Trinity College, Cambridge.

In 1917, Ramanujan was elected to be a member of the London Mathematical Society and a year later he became a Fellow of the Royal Society, becoming the youngest person to be so. In the same year he also became the first Indian to be elected as Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.

Ramanujan, however, had difficulty in settling down in London. Having had health problems all his life, his health worsened in England, perhaps exacerbated by stress and the scarcity of vegetarian food during the First World War. He was diagnosed with tuberculosis and a severe vitamin deficiency and was confined to a sanatorium. He returned to India in 1919 but his health deteriorated. He passed away on April 6, 1920, at age 33.

Thanks to Deva Shakti for the alert.

BhagawatiBhagawati is a regular contributor

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