27 December 2011

New Stamp from India..


Srinivasa Ramanujan – Greatest Mathematician


Date of Issue : 26 December 2011

India Post issues  second time, a postage stamp on Srinivasa Ramanujan .


Stamp Image: Courtesy Mansoor B., Mangalore



India Post issued a commemorative postage stamp on 75th Birth Anniversary of Srinivasa Ramanujan  on 22 December 1962.

Born: 22 Dec 1887 in Erode, Tamil Nadu
Died: 26 April 1920 in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu


cover rs

Special Cover on Srinivasa Ramanujan : 37th International Olympiad Mumbai, India 1996

Ramanujan's birthday will be National Mathematics Day

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday emphasised the need to carry forward the legacy of great mathematicians such as Srinivasa Ramanujan, Aryabhata and Brahmagupta so as to encourage and nurture the glorious tradition of the country in mathematics.

Inaugurating the Ramanujan Centre for Higher Mathematics at the Alagappa University here, he said mathematics had been widely used in the study of Science and other disciplines.

The country was short of competent mathematicians and it was the responsibility of mathematical community to encourage and facilitate the study of mathematics as an academic discipline in the country, the Prime Minister said.

Paying tribute to Srinivasa Ramanujan, Dr. Singh said he was a legendary mathematician after whom the centre had been named. He was a great son of India and Tamil Nadu. He ranked among giants in the world of mathematics. In recognition of his contribution to mathematics, the Central government had decided to celebrate Ramajuan's birthday as the National Mathematics Day every year and declared 2012 as the National Mathematical Year.



Srinivasa Ramanujan was one of India's greatest mathematical geniuses. He made substantial contributions to the analytical theory of numbers and worked on elliptic functions, continued fractions, and infinite series.

Ramanujan was born  in Erode, a small village about 400 km southwest of Madras.

When he was nearly five years old, Ramanujan entered the primary school in Kumbakonam although he would attend several different primary schools before entering the Town High School in Kumbakonam in January 1898. At the Town High School, Ramanujan was to do well in all his school subjects and showed himself an able all round scholar. In 1900 he began to work on his own on mathematics summing geometric and arithmetic series.

Ramanujan was shown how to solve cubic equations in 1902 and he went on to find his own method to solve the quartic. The following year, not knowing that the quintic could not be solved by radicals, he tried (and of course failed) to solve the quintic.

It was in the Town High School that Ramanujan came across a mathematics book by G S Carr called Synopsis of elementary results in pure mathematics. This book, with its very concise style, allowed Ramanujan to teach himself mathematics, but the style of the book was to have a rather unfortunate effect on the way Ramanujan was later to write down mathematics since it provided the only model that he had of written mathematical arguments. The book contained theorems, formulae and short proofs. It also contained an index to papers on pure mathematics which had been published in the European Journals of Learned Societies during the first half of the 19th century. The book, published in 1856, was of course well out of date by the time Ramanujan used it.

By 1904 Ramanujan had begun to undertake deep research. He investigated the series ∑(1/n) and calculated Euler's constant to 15 decimal places. He began to study the Bernoulli numbers, although this was entirely his own independent discovery.

He continued his mathematical work, however, and at this time he worked on hypergeometric series and investigated relations between integrals and series. He was to discover later that he had been studying elliptic functions.

In 1906 Ramanujan went to Madras where he entered Pachaiyappa's College. His aim was to pass the First Arts examination which would allow him to be admitted to the University of Madras. He attended lectures at Pachaiyappa's College but became ill after three months study. He took the First Arts examination after having left the course. He passed in mathematics but failed all his other subjects and therefore failed the examination. This meant that he could not enter the University of Madras. In the following years he worked on mathematics developing his own ideas without any help and without any real idea of the then current research topics other than that provided by Carr's book.

Continuing his mathematical work Ramanujan studied continued fractions and divergent series in 1908. At this stage he became seriously ill again and underwent an operation in April 1909 after which he took him some considerable time to recover. He married on 14 July 1909 when his mother arranged for him to marry a ten year old girl S Janaki Ammal. Ramanujan did not live with his wife, however, until she was twelve years old.

Ramanujan continued to develop his mathematical ideas and began to pose problems and solve problems in the Journal of the Indian Mathematical Society. He devoloped relations between elliptic modular equations in 1910. After publication of a brilliant research paper on Bernoulli numbers in 1911 in the Journal of the Indian Mathematical Society he gained recognition for his work. Despite his lack of a university education, he was becoming well known in the Madras area as a mathematical genius.

In 1911 Ramanujan approached the founder of the Indian Mathematical Society for advice on a job. After this he was appointed to his first job, a temporary post in the Accountant General's Office in Madras. It was then suggested that he approach Ramachandra Rao who was a Collector at Nellore. Ramachandra Rao was a founder member of the Indian Mathematical Society who had helped start the mathematics library. He writes in :-

A short uncouth figure, stout, unshaven, not over clean, with one conspicuous feature - shining eyes - walked in with a frayed notebook under his arm. He was miserably poor. ... He opened his book and began to explain some of his discoveries. I saw quite at once that there was something out of the way; but my knowledge did not permit me to judge whether he talked sense or nonsense. ... I asked him what he wanted. He said he wanted a pittance to live on so that he might pursue his researches.

Ramachandra Rao told him to return to Madras and he tried, unsuccessfully, to arrange a scholarship for Ramanujan. In 1912 Ramanujan applied for the post of clerk in the accounts section of the Madras Port Trust. In his letter of application he wrote :-

I have passed the Matriculation Examination and studied up to the First Arts but was prevented from pursuing my studies further owing to several untoward circumstances. I have, however, been devoting all my time to Mathematics and developing the subject.

Despite the fact that he had no university education, Ramanujan was clearly well known to the university mathematicians in Madras for, with his letter of application, Ramanujan included a reference from E W Middlemast who was the Professor of Mathematics at The Presidency College in Madras. Middlemast, a graduate of St John's College, Cambridge, wrote :-

I can strongly recommend the applicant. He is a young man of quite exceptional capacity in mathematics and especially in work relating to numbers. He has a natural aptitude for computation and is very quick at figure work.

On the strength of the recommendation Ramanujan was appointed to the post of clerk and began his duties on 1 March 1912. Ramanujan was quite lucky to have a number of people working round him with a training in mathematics. In fact the Chief Accountant for the Madras Port Trust, S N Aiyar, was trained as a mathematician and published a paper On the distribution of primes in 1913 on Ramanujan's work. The professor of civil engineering at the Madras Engineering College C L T Griffith was also interested in Ramanujan's abilities and, having been educated at University College London, knew the professor of mathematics there, namely M J M Hill. He wrote to Hill on 12 November 1912 sending some of Ramanujan's work and a copy of his 1911 paper on Bernoulli numbers.

Hill replied in a fairly encouraging way but showed that he had failed to understand Ramanujan's results on divergent series. The recommendation to Ramanujan that he read Bromwich's Theory of infinite series did not please Ramanujan much. Ramanujan wrote to E W Hobson and H F Baker trying to interest them in his results but neither replied. In January 1913 Ramanujan wrote to G H Hardy having seen a copy of his 1910 book Orders of infinity. In Ramanujan's letter to Hardy he introduced himself and his work :-

I have had no university education but I have undergone the ordinary school course. After leaving school I have been employing the spare time at my disposal to work at mathematics. I have not trodden through the conventional regular course which is followed in a university course, but I am striking out a new path for myself. I have made a special investigation of divergent series in general and the results I get are termed by the local mathematicians as 'startling'.

Ramanujan left a number of unpublished notebooks filled with theorems that mathematicians have continued to study. G N Watson, Mason Professor of Pure Mathematics at Birmingham from 1918 to 1951 published 14 papers under the general title Theorems stated by Ramanujan and in all he published nearly 30 papers which were inspired by Ramanujan's work. Hardy passed on to Watson the large number of manuscripts of Ramanujan that he had, both written before 1914 and some written in Ramanujan's last year in India before his death.

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The Ramanujan Prize


The Ramanujan Prize for young mathematicians from developing countries has been created in 2005 at ICTP in the name of the great Indian mathematician, Srinivasa Ramanujan. The Prize is funded by the Niels Henrik Abel Memorial Fund. Marcelo Viana, professor at the Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics in Brazil and one of Latin America's most eminent mathematicians, has won the first-ever Ramanujan Prize.

The Ramanujan Prize, named for the world-renowned Indian scientist Srinivasa Ramanujan who died in 1920 at the age of 33, is designed to recognize the achievements of scientists less than 45 years old who have lived and worked in the developing world. The prize, which carries a US$10,000 cash award, is sponsored by the Niels Henrik Abel Memorial Fund in Norway, the same organization that sponsors the Abel Prize for Mathematics, an internationally renowned award for lifetime achievement. In its three brief years of existence, the Abel Prize, named after the Norwegian-born Niels Henrik Abel, a world-renowned 19th century mathematician, has emerged as one of the world?s most prestigious prizes in mathematics.

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