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A mathematical wizard, a mathematician of highest caliber, a pure genius – Srinivasa Ramanujan is one of those few mathematicians in this world who stunned the entire world with his knowledge, his originality and his astounding mathematical works that mathematicians of his era couldn’t even think of.

In this article on Srinivasa Ramanujan facts, we are going to a take a look into his life, his early love with mathematics and his journey to England. We will also take a look at some of his contributions to the world of mathematics. So, let us start…

## Srinivasa Ramanujan Facts: 1-5 | Early Life (Childhood)

**1.** Srinivasa Ramanujan was born in British India. To
be more specific, he was born in Erode in Madras Presidency (today
known as Tamil Nadu). He was born on December 22, 1887.

**2.** He was born in a poor Tamil Brahmin Iyengar
family. His father worked in a Sari Shop as a clerk. His father’s name
was K. Srinivasa Iyengar. His mother (Komalatammal) was on the other
hand a housewife but also earned a few bucks by singing in a local
temple.

**3.** Ramanujan was the eldest of the 5 children of K.
Srinivasa Iyengar and Komalatammal. Unfortunately however, three
siblings of Ramanujan died before they could even reach the age of 1
year. The youngest sibling of Ramanujan was born in 1905 and his name
was Tirunarayanan. He survived till 1978.

**4.** Ramanujan himself contracted smallpox in 1889 but
was a lucky child to have recovered. That same year some 4,000 other
people in Thanjavur district (where Ramanujan was born) died because of
smallpox.

**5.** After he recovered from smallpox, he and his
mother went to his maternal grandparents’ house in Kanchipuram located
close to Madras (currently known as Chennai). Unfortunately, his
maternal grandfather lost his job soon after and he returned back to
Kumbakonam (place where he was born).

## Srinivasa Ramanujan Facts: 6-10 | Early Life (Childhood)

**6.** Back at Kumbakonam, Ramanujan was sent to
Kangayan Primary School. Later, his parental grandfather died and this
is when Ramanujan was sent back to Kanchipuram to stay with his maternal
grandparent.

**7.** There he was again sent to a primary school but
because he didn’t like the school there, he avoided attending the same.
This forced his family to enlist a local constable to ensure that he
attended the school.

**8.** Ramanujan’s persistence about not attending the
school in Kanchipuram eventually forced his family to send him back to
Kumbakonam within a span of just 6 months.

**9.** At Kumbakonam, he mostly stayed with his mother
because his father spent most of his time working. His mother was highly
religious and gave Ramanujan the same teachings. He followed a strictly
vegetarian diet, learned about traditions and puranas. He attended
pujas in temple and learned how to perform pujas.

**10.** In November
1897, right before he attained the age of 10 years, he managed to pass
the primary examinations from Kangayan Primary School scoring best
scores in whole of district in arithmetic, geography, Tamil and English.

## Srinivasa Ramanujan Facts: 11-15 | Formal Introduction to Mathematics

**11.** In the same year he took admission in the Town Higher Secondary School. That is where he was formally ‘introduced’ to mathematics. By the time he attained the age of 11, he had completely exhausted mathematical knowledge of two college-going students who lived at his home as lodgers.

**12.** When he wanted more, he was handed over an
Advanced Trigonometry book authored by S. L. Loney. Ramanujan studied
the book in details and by the time he was 13, he had completely
mastered the book and he had enough knowledge to discover sophisticated
theorems all on his own.

**13.** When he was 14 years old, he had received many
academic awards and merit certificates. In mathematics exams he he took
only half of the alloted time to complete his exams and by that time
only he was pretty much familiar with stuff like infinite series and
geometry.

**14.** In year 1902, for the first time in his life, he
was introduced to cubic equations. He learned how to solve them and
then, he came up with his very own methods for solving quartic. He even
attempted solving quintic, unaware of the fact that radicals cannot be
used to solve them.

**15.** In 1903, a friend of his handed over a copy of
‘A Synopsis of Elementary Results in Pure and Applied Mathematics’ that
was authored by G. S. Carr. The book was a collection of 5,000 theorems.
Ramanujan studied the book in details. It is said that the
extraordinary genius hidden in him was actually brought out by this
book.

## Srinivasa Ramanujan Facts: 16-20 | He Failed!

**16.** In 1904, Ramanujan not only developed but also
investigated Bernoulli numbers independently. He even ended up
calculating the Euler-Mascheroni Constant all the way up to 15 decimal
points.

**17.** The very same year, that is in 1904, Ramanujan
graduated from the Town Higher Secondary School. As usual, he excelled
in mathematics and his school headmaster – Krishnaswami Iyer awarded him
with K. Ranganatha Rao Prize for Mathematics. Iyer even said that
Ramanujan is such an outstanding student that he deserves more marks
that the maximum allotted.

**18.** Because of his extraordinary performances,
Ramanujan was given a scholarship for studying in Government Arts
College in Kumbakonam. Interestingly, Ramanujan was so deeply focused on
mathematics that he failed in almost all other subjects. As a result of
this failure, he lost his scholarship.

**19.** In 1905, he
ran away from home and escaped towards Visakhapatnam. For about a month
he stayed in a place called Rajahmundry. Later on, he took admission in
Madras’ Pachaiyappa’s College. There, he again performed poorly in
subjects like Sanskrit, physiology, English etc. but performed well in
mathematics. However, in mathematics, he answered only those questions
that he found appealing and he didn’t even touch the other questions.

**20.** In December 1906, Ramanujan simply failed in
Fellow of Arts examination. He retried in 1907 but failed again. So, he
left the college without having an FA degree. After leaving college,
Ramanujan started his own independent research in mathematics but stayed
in extreme poverty and often went hungry but still remained undeterred.

## Srinivasa Ramanujan Facts: 21-25 | Discovering Ramanujan

**21.** It was not until 1910 that Ramanujan’s talents
came to notice. In that year, Ramanujan was in Madras and he used to
tutor some students for earning a livelihood. He also used to walk
around the town offering accounting services to several business in
order to deal with his poverty.

**22.** That same year, he went looking for a job in
revenue department of the government. There he met an official called V.
Ramaswamy Iyer. At that time, Ramanujan was already 23 years old. V.
Ramaswamy Iyer was known as Professor Ramaswamy.

**23.** When Ramanujan met Ramaswamy Iyer, the only
thing that Ramanujan had to show was his collection of notebooks where
he wrote down all the mathematical works he did. Lucky for Ramanujan,
Ramaswamy was a mathematician of great caliber and was the founder of
Indian Mathematical Society.

**24.** Ramaswamy immediately recognized that Ramanujan
was no ordinary man and that he was a mathematician of unmatched genius.
After taking a look at Ramanujan’s work, Ramaswamy decided to contact
R. Ramachandra Rao – the secretary of Indian Mathematical Society.

**25.** Ramaswamy asked Ramachandra Rao to provide some
financial support to Ramanujan. However, Ramachandra, who was despite
being impressed by the work, held the notion that whatever Ramanujan
presented was not his own work but was the work stolen from previous
reputed mathematicians.

## Srinivasa Ramanujan Facts: 26-30 | Discovering Ramanujan

**26.** C. V. Rajagopalachari – a friend of Ramanujan
tried to subdue Ramachandra’s doubt about the academic integrity of
Ramanujan. On request of Rajagopalachari, Ramachandra decided to meet
with Ramanujan. It is then that Ramanujan and Ramachandra had a detailed
discussion on topics like hypergeometric series, elliptic integrals and
divergent series. After the discussion, Ramanchandra understood that
Ramanujan was an extraordinary mathematician.

**27.** This is when
Ramachandra provided financial support to Ramanujan. This allowed
Ramanujan to continue with his research while V. Ramaswamy Iyer started
publishing the works of Ramanujan in the ‘Journal of the Indian
Mathematical Society’.

**28.** When Ramanujan’s works were published, several
flaws were noted initially by M. T. Narayana – editor of the Journal.
The flaws were not in what he did with mathematics but with his writing.
These flaws were a result of the style he adopted as a child. The works
were genius but the presentation was not clear and anyone who was not a
mathematical genius but an ordinary mathematical reader could barely
understand exactly how Ramanujan achieved the results.

**29.** The financial position of Ramanujan improved in
1912. First he managed to a job in Accountant General’s office in
Madras. It was a temporary job and fetched him a salary of Rs. 20 a
month. Ramanujan stayed on the job for a few weeks and later managed to
get a job in Madras Port Trust as Class III, Grade IV accounting clerk.
This new job fetched him a salary of Rs. 30 a month. However, the new
job came to him because of a recommendation from Presidency College’s
mathematics professor E. W. Middlemast.

**30.** While working at the new office, Ramanujan was
quick with his work. He used to complete his tasks quickly and use his
spare time for mathematical research. Sir Francis Spring – boss of
Ramanujan and S. Narayana Iyer (colleague of Ramanujan and also the
treasurer of Indian Mathematical Society) were two people who used to
always encourage Ramanujan to pursue his research.

## Srinivasa Ramanujan Facts: 31-35 | Contact With British Mathematicians

**31.** Only in Spring of 1913, attempts were made by
three people to present Ramanujan’s work to British mathematicians.
Those three people were E. W. Middlemast, S. Narayana Iyer and R.
Ramachandra Rao.

**32.** University College London’s M. J. M. Hill
reverted back stating that Ramanujan did have some ability and taste for
mathematics but there holes in his paper and that Ramanujan lacked both
the foundation and educational background that were required by
mathematicians to accept Ramanujan and his work.

**33.** Ramanujan didn’t give up and decided to write to
Cambridge University’s mathematicians. E. W. Hobson and H. F. Baker
were two professors who simply returned Ramanujan’s papers without even
commenting.

**34.** On January 16, 1913, Ramanujan wrote to Godfrey Harold Hardy popularly known as G. H. Hardy. Hardy was a pure mathematician in University of Cambridge and one of the most eminent scholars of his time.

**35.** Hardy received Ramanujan’s letter with a 9-page
sample of Ramanujan’s work. Glancing at the work, Hardy had a hard time
believing what he was looking at. The outlandish originality came from
an unknown mathematician and this made Hardy think for once that either
it was fraud or someone among his colleagues was playing a trick with
him.

## Srinivasa Ramanujan Facts: 36-40 | Ramanujan Goes to England

**36.** Upon receiving Ramanujan’s sample work, Hardy called for his friend J.E. Littlewood – another eminent mathematician from University of Cambridge. Hardy and Littlewood together looked into Ramanujan’s work for around 2 hours and 30 minutes and eventually came to a conclusion that they were looking at the papers produced by unknown mathematician of highest caliber.

**37.** Hardy wrote back to Ramanujan on February 8, 1913 stating that he was really interested in Ramanujan’s work and would like to see some proofs for the assertions made by Ramanujan. Even before the letter could reach Ramanujan, Hardy already contacted Indian Office planning for a trip to Britain for Ramanujan.

**38.** Upon knowing about the arrangement made by
Hardy, Ramanujan declined because his Brahmin upbringing forbade him
from visiting any foreign land. After this, Ramanujan’s work was further
endorsed by former mathematics lecturers of Trinity College, Cambridge –
Gilbert Walker.

**39.** Walker’s endorsement led to an arrangement for scholarship for Ramanujan in University of Madras. Ramanujan received Rs. 75 per month scholarship so that he could continue with research. In the meantime, Hardy asked his friend E. H. Neville who was posted in Madras as a lecturer to mentor Ramanujan into visiting Cambridge.

**40.** In 1914 on March 17, Ramanujan set sail for
London on S.S. Nevasa apparently after his mother had a dream in which
the family deity ‘Namagiri’ asked her to step aside let her son fulfill
the purpose of his life. Ramanujan reached London on April 14, 1914.

## Srinivasa Ramanujan Facts: 41-45 | Life in Cambridge

**41.** After Ramanujan reached London, Hardy’s friend Neville received him. 4 days later Neville took Ramanujan to his own house located at Chesterton Road in Cambridge. From there, Ramanujan started working with Hardy and Littlewood. It is interesting to note that only three months after Ramanujan reached England, World War I broke out.

**42.** Ramanujan stayed at Neville’s house for 6 months
after which he moved to Whewell’s Court that was only 5 minutes walking
distance from Hardy’s room. While Hardy and Littlewood worked with
Ramanujan, they were completely amazed by his work. They did rigorous
study of the notebooks that Ramanujan brought with him.

**43.** Those notebooks that had thousands of theorems,
identities and equations were all worked between the period 1903 and
1914. Some of those works of Ramanujan had already been discovered, some
of them were wrong simply because of Ramanujan’s inexperience but the
rest were completely new and original.

**44.** Hardy and Ramanujan had some conflicts because
they belonged to different cultures and they had different upbringing.
Hardy asked for proofs while Ramanujan worked purely on intuition and
credited his knowledge to his family deity Namagiri.

**45.** Hardy tried really hard to make Ramanujan follow
the rules and provide rigorous proofs of his work and even tried to
fill in the gaps in Ramanujan’s education. However, it was not easy for
either of the two.

## Srinivasa Ramanujan Facts: 46-50 | PhD, FRS, Ill-Health

**46.** Ramanujan
spent almost 5 years in Cambridge and during this whole time, he worked
with Hardy and Littlewood. Only two years after Ramanujan went to
Cambridge, he was awarded the ‘Bachelor of Science degree by research’.
This degree was later named as PhD. He received the degree in March
1916.

**47.** He was awarded the PhD because of the work he
did on Highly Composite Numbers. Next year (1917) on December 6, he was
elected as a member of London Mathematical Society.

**48.** He was elected as Fellow of the Royal Society in
year 1918 because of his works on Theory of Numbers and Elliptic
functions. He was second Indian to be elected as FRS. He was only 31
years old when he became the Fellow of the Royal Society. The first
Indian was Ardaseer Cursetjee (FRS 1841).

**49.** The same year (1918) on October 13, he was
elected as a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. He became the first
Indian to be elected as Fellow of Trinity College.

**50.** By 1919, his health worsened when he was in
England. This happened because he had a strict vegetarian diet and on
top of that there was war-time rationing that lasted from 1914 to 1918.
These factors together led to serious health problems and he was
diagnosed with Tuberculosis as well as severe vitamin deficiency.

## Srinivasa Ramanujan Facts: 51-55 | Return to India and Death

**51.** In 1919, Ramanujan returned back to India. In 1920 he died when he was only 32 years old. He died on April 26.

**52.** In 1994, his medical records were rechecked by
Dr. D. A. B. Young. Young concluded from the records and all the history
of relapses, hepatic conditions and fevers that Ramanujan didn’t die of
tuberculosis. He died because of Hepatic Amoebiasis.

**53.** Hepatic Amoebiasis was actually a widespread
disease in Madras and was usually caused by improperly treated dysentery
lying dormant for years.

**54.** Turns out that before returning to India, Ramanujan had two dysentery episodes. During the time when Ramanujan died, Hepatic Amoebiasis was actually a treatable disease and often curable. Unfortunately, it was not easy to diagnose at that time.

**55.** Before he died, Ramanujan continued working.
After his death, his youngest brother Tirunarayanan compiled and
chronicled all his work.

We are not quite done. We will soon compile a list of random facts about Ramanujan and publish as a separate article.