Rediscovering a master…

srinivasa ramanujan     An overlooked, brilliant, and versatile mathematician from the East who overcame incredible obstacles finds a place of recognition in the West, but only briefly before his life is cut short at 32. 

The “real tragedy” according to close collaborator and Cambridge colleague GH Hunt “was that his genius was misdirected, sidetracked, and to some extent distorted by an inelastic and inefficient educational system.”  Since Ramanujan had to not only get beyond his personal finacial limitations, but also passing his other academic studies, and procuring steady employment within the department that could sustain his unfolding imagination.

He claimed the goddess of Namakkal inspired him with formulae in his dreams.  And he cranked out over a half a dozen new theorems per day with great conviction, yet could just a easily sit and have chai, discuss life and politics as broadly as anyone else connected to the daily pulse of life.  Hunt reminds us “he was not an unintelligent manisfestation of  the mystic East”. 

I suspect, had he been given optimal support and resources- he had lost scholoarship opportunities for not passing certain unrelated subjects- and serious attention and backing sooner, less dust would have settled, and many of us would have been in awe earlier on in our own mathematical foibles and indoctrinations.

Complicite Theatre Co  is currently showcasing the performance of “A Disappearing Number” which highlights the life and work of Ramaujan. The director has attempted to “take us to the present day and back with a series of parallel narratives riffling on our renlentless need to understand”.

“An equation means nothing to me unless
it expresses a thought of God.”

~ by shantam on October 7, 2007.

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