Ramanujan, divine equations and suicide attempt

Posted by: Dovan Rai

ramanujan.gif
Whenever I happen to peep in my sister’s math and physics books, or read any article or news on mathematics and physics geniuses and their work, I miss my old fascination with the subjects, the thrill and beauty of the numbers, figures, theorems and theories.
I feel nostalgia over my forsaken dream to plunge in those marvelous fields.

Yesterday, I was reading about Ramannujan, Srinivas Ramanujan, a self-taught phenomenal mathematics genius, a pure emblem of natural brilliance.

He was born in 1887 to a poor family in India and has been a source of inspiration and self confidence to many aspired Indian Mathematicians. He lived a legendary life and died young in 1920 leaving behind beautiful works in number theory, interesting unproven equations and poignant romantic stories proving that genius can surface and flourish in the most unpromising circumstances.

His interest in mathematics became evident very early. As a child, he was curious about the distance and shape of stars and calculated the length of equator all by himself.

At the age of 15, he borrowed a book of Advanced Mathematics, which was not a very good book but just a catalogue of results without comprehensive proofs but that fully captivated and stimulated him to start his own creative works.

To meet his financial needs, he worked as a clerk in Madras Port Trust. But his salary of Rs. 25 was unable to buy him all the paper needed and therefore he did his equations on discarded port Trust wrapping paper.

Eventually, Ramanujan moved on to the University of Madras with a research studentship. It was here that he began a correspondence with G.H. Hardy at the University of Cambridge that would change his life forever and lead to an extra-ordinary intellectual partnership.
Ramanujan left India and arrived at Trinity college, Cambridge in 1914.
The four years that Ramanujan spent in England were to be his most fruitful.
But he never really liked living in England. He hated the cold damp whether, so different from sunny Madras. Ramanujan’s shivering nights on top of the blankets not knowing that English beds are made with blankets tucked in bed sheet made me think of our timid and undemanding eastern culture.

Despite his discomfort with new place and culture, a mathematician inside him was blossoming and he was producing half a dozen new theorems a day amazing his mentor with his insights.

Unlike the rigorous methodologies of cultivated intellectuals, this self taught genius had intuitive approach to mathematics and his works were original and unconventional.

One favorite story about Ramanujan revolves around a visit that Hardy paid to him in hospital. Hardy and Ramanujan had a habit of discussing the properties of different numbers. On the visit, Hardy commented to Ramanujan that the number of the taxi that he had just arrived in was 1729 — a very uninteresting number. Ramanujan quickly replied that it was in fact a very interesting number as it was the smallest number that could be represented as the sum of two cubes in two ways:
1729 = 10^3 + 9^3
and
1729 = 12^3 + 1^3

Much of his works were so advance in time that only in recent years is it beginning to be properly understood. His results are helping solve today’s problems in computer science and physics problems that he’d no inking of.

In 1917, he fell ill. Apart from his illness, another matter was tormenting Ramanujan at that time. It had become clear to him that a good deal of work he’d done in India was a rediscovery of what European mathematicians had already established. So many precious years wasted! Very depressed, Ramanujan threw himself in front of a train but luckily the train stopped.

As I read this , I felt my heart aching for the silent sufferings of this genius over his unprivileged fate.

This made me ponder:

How many Ramanujans are still left undiscovered and how many are still doodling on the disposed wrapping paper. And how many are still fumbling on the established basics while their privileged friends are climbing over the ladder.

How many geniuses have to give up their dreams and have to die unknown.
How many heroes have to compromise with their circumstances and have to disappear unsung.

As Yunus said, how many great seeds have to grow as small bonsai inside the small pots.

The things now again revolved around the realms of social science.

I don’t know which is more beautiful – to solve divine puzzles ? or to cure real problems ??

*reference: readers’ digest

Ramanujan, divine equations and suicide attempt was last modified: May 20th, 2011 by Dovan Rai
 

Blog Comments

  1. theresaFan

    Theresa, I remember your extremely difficult book in engineering. Ramamnujan died but gave a lot. Dovan’s masterpiece article: better than any other wiki encyclopedia.

  2. theresa

    very interesting article. but what is a so-called “genius” except a soul which has downloaded into this dimension his/or particular interest pursued time after time on the other side and throughout lifetimes; and/or a soul’s particular ability to translate into this dimension that which was picked up from the astral (as with the mozart’s, beethoven’s, gandhi’s, etc.).
    in that case, we are all geniuses… or fools for giving in to the behest of our oversouls to keep coming back.
    nothing is new in the universes and dimensions. it’s all been said or done before and just brought through in different colors, genders, synapses, and timeframes.

  3. Amar

    lpk, Although there is a great theory for getting novel prize in the movie, which might take a lot of time to understand for us “mortal”. However, here is the transcript of his speech, which is the essence of the movie in my view. It is the “love” and sharing the credit with his wife, which make him even majestic than finding the equations.

    Here goes the transcript.

    Nash: Thank you. I’ve always believed in numbers and the equations and logics that lead to reason.
    But after a lifetime of such pursuits, I ask,
    “What truly is logic?”
    “Who decides reason?”
    My quest has taken me through the physical, the metaphysical, the delusional — and back.
    And I have made the most important discovery of my career, the most important discovery of my life: It is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logic or reasons can be found.
    I’m only here tonight because of you [his wife, Alicia].
    You are the reason I am.
    You are all my reasons.

  4. lpk

    I never thought Dovan could write an article on a genius apart from her celebrity articles. Anyway, thanks for compiling from different sources like wikipedia in this form.Had you some relationship with Ramanujan University? Pawan, I also viewed the Beautiful Mind. Only -100000000000000000000000% entered my head. Can you please explain if you got something?

  5. dovan

    Amar, thank u for the inf.

    I think there has been misunderstanding about the cause of Ramanujan’s depression. I am not his psychoanalyst. But I think he was depressed not because he could not inscribe his name along with the theories, but he was depressed for the lost time in which he could have explored deeper .

    I guess genuine geniuses are more concerned about their exploration than their names.

  6. Amar

    Dovan,

    It was not Einstien. A few years back, I was watching BBC, where many novel laurets were discussing on several interesting issues. This thing which he mentioned somehow stuck into my head, although personally I can hardly distinguish between Mozart’s work and Bach’s work.

    Pawan,

    Comparision was done by a novel prize winner so I thought it is worth mentioning. So that it may prevent someone from committing suicide or getting depressed. Similar incident but to a lesser degree can happen to anyone in the life. For example you have written an article, but you didn’t publish. On the other hand same type of article gets published somewhere. In a meeting you have prepared something new, however somone takes the floor and gets the credit(as opposed to stealing, it is possible the guy geniunely came up with the idea).

    And, it was interesting to hear such kind of comparision from a novel prize winner.

  7. Sanjib

    Haa! Gr8 indeed… I had read about Ramanujan and his solving of SL Loney’s Trigonometry at an early age and even about the TAXI no. incident. So, when I happened to get to Tanjore with few of my friends, I wanted to visit his ancestral home which is now a museum. But nobody was interested, so I had to go to Brihadeeswaram temple instead!

    This is how we respect the GENIUS!

  8. dovan

    Amar- the physicist u r talking about can be Einstein.
    He was an amateur musician himself and great fan of Mozart. But Einstein is a demigod in his own rights. I don’t know if humanity would have been able to discover those miraculous theories without him.

  9. pawan

    Ramanujans always prevail. If you feel sorry for Ramanujan that he could not see his works being used in modern science and computer, then you don’t know about most of them. Evariste Galois and Niels Abel are few to name. Riemann who lived his full life, never saw his formulas being used in such an extend in relativity theory (Einstein was envious of this man’s work). There are many such stories. It is because the subject itself is such an exceptional, you know what they say, mathematicians live two hundred years ahead of their time.

    I think it is really unwise(and unwanted) to compare the greatness of subject called mathematics to anything else.

  10. Amar

    It reminds me of one of the novel prize winner in physics, who said that between Mozart and his work he considers Mozart work to be great. His reasoning stems from the fact that physical law even if he has not discovered someone would discover eventually. On the other hand, Mozart’s composition only Mozart could compose.

    Therefore, mathematical proof and physical law as time goes someone will discover- there is no point in comitting suicide if your name is not tagged against that discovery. Although it would be traumatic and loss of national pride, one has to rise above the national boundary and think about the contribution to the humanity as a whole.

    There is no doubt that provided the facility and encouragement our land is not barren, however the lesson is if you find out something write and publish immediately, and in case someone would win the race do not attempt to commit suicide, just be happy that your proof is confirmed by one more fellow in this earth.

  11. pawan

    This writing is so unreal and unclear because the poster was dovan. How come dovan is writing this article. Just look she missed to write the twist of turn, his famous suicide attempt and at a flash how he found the solution to a problem that almost killed himself.

    Btw do you know why they call it ‘Beautiful Mind’?

  12. Yestai Ho

    It reminds me of many genious kids form villgaes of Nepal who never saw school and never learned to read. Very good article – you have been able to pass the messgae through this article that all of us in Nepal must pay attention to.

    Good job Dovan.

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