What was Srinivasa Ramanujan's contribution

April 26, 2010 - 90 years ago: Anniversary of the death of mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan

Srinivasa Ramanujan does not look for mathematical solutions, he knows them. Throughout his life he loves numbers and is obsessed with mathematics. He was born in the south of India in 1887, his family is poor. Even at school he is considered a mathematical prodigy. But instead of proofs and deductions, he always writes down formulas - without explanations. For example for the calculation of the circle number Pi: ​​"One through Pi is equal: Root of eight divided by 9801 times the sum of n equals zero to infinity from: four n factorial by n factorial to the power of four. Times - parentheses to - 1103 plus 26390 times n - close brackets. By 396 to the power of 4n. " The formula is not elegant, nobody understands why the numbers 9801 or 396 appear. But at the same time it is ingenious: Pi can actually be calculated in this way. Ramanujan creates his equations intuitively, he is an artist of mathematics.

Divine inspiration

No one knows where Ramanujan got his insights from. He himself says: "My goddess appears to me in my sleep and tells me that. And I just write it down." Experts agree: he must have had an incredible instinct for numbers and their interplay. Nevertheless, he was denied an academic career. He loses scholarships, never graduates. As an accountant in the port city of Madras, he sends some formulas to British mathematicians. "I have not followed the conventional path that you follow in a lecture at the university, but rather I am going my own, new path," he writes. One of the letters also ends up at Trinity College in Cambridge, on the desk of the famous mathematician Godfrey Harold Hardy. He brought Ramanujan to England in 1913. But the two scholars couldn't be more different: Hardy works in a structured way, Ramanujan creatively.

Return as a broken man

Although the two men become friends and Hardy gradually accepts Ramanujan's methods, the Indian cannot develop. He is often sick and has no friends besides Hardy. During the First World War he was lonely in England, tried to commit suicide and finally lost his enthusiasm for mathematics. After the war, he returns to India a broken man. He dies on April 26, 1920 at the age of only 32.

Status: 04/26/10