Srinivasa Ramanujan

     Srinivasa Ramanujan was born in a poor Tamil Brahmin family that resided in the town of Kumbakonam. He attended school there and did averagely well. While in school he came across a book entitled A synopsis of elementary results in Pure and Applied Mathematics by George Carr. This book is just a compendium of results on integrals, infinite series and other mathematical entities found in analysis. Yet it left a lasting impression on Ramanujan; in fact it virtually determined his mathematical style. He would later write mathematics as a string of results without proof or with the barest outline of a proof.

     After school Ramanujan was hooked on mathematics. He spent all his time with his head over a slate working with problems in number theory that interested him and neglected everything else. The result was that he could never get through another examination. An early marriage as was usual at those times led to a frantic search for a job to earn an income. He became a clerk in the Madras Port Trust with the help of some well wishers.

     In the meantime Ramanujan kept showing his results to various people who he thought would be interested or would help him get a job that would give him a lot of time to do mathematics. He wrote to a couple of well known British mathematicians giving a list of some of the results he had obtained. They ignored him - thought he was a crank! Finally he wrote to one of the most distinguished English mathematicians of the time - a person who had done a lot of work on number theory - G H Hardy. Hardy arranged for Ramanujan to come to Trinity College, Cambridge where he and Ramanujan met almost daily discussing mathematics for about three years. Ramanujan died shortly after at the age of 33.

All interested people are referred to The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan by Robert Kanigel.