Ramanujan is considered one of the best mathematicians of all times, in the same league as a Jacobi or Euler. Even though his work is well known within the mathematical community, outside of it, he is virtually an unknown quantity. Robert Kanigel has put in a lot of effort researching material to write such a comprehensive biography of a genius from a century ago.
Ramanujan was born in a poor Tamil brahmin family and had little access to formal education. He had an unnatural flair for mathematics and nothing else! After a life a penury and struggle, with no one in India capable of even understanding if his work was brilliant or a just pure drivel, Ramanujam got the recognition he deserved when his papers reached the British mathematician Hardy. After a brief period of collaboration with Hardy in England and some brilliant individual effort back in India, Ramanujam passed away, at the age of 32.
In his short life, Ramanujan achieved a lot. A meteoric rise to fame, FRS and fellowship to Trinity and a body of mathematical work that is still being studied and analyzed more than a 100 years later. One can only wonder what he could have achieved had he lived a few more years.
This book is very comprehensive, being not just the story of Ramanujan, but also a social biography of colonial India and war time Europe during the early 1900s. Does digress from Ramanujan’s life quite a few times, with details on life in Britain, or the social customs of Brahmanical India etc.
There is no mathematics in this book and so, can be read by anyone interested in the romantically tragic, but brilliant life of Ramanujan.
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