22 December is observed as the National Mathematics Day in India. It was India’s former Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, who declared, on 22 December 2012, that it is to be distinguished as a national celebration of one of the foremost and renowned mathematician, Ramanujan’s work.
Srinivasa Ramanujan Aiyangar, born on 22 December 1887, was an Indian mathematician who, without having any proper training in mathematics, made substantial contributions to the field. His work included mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series, and continued fractions. Ramanujan also worked on problems that were perceived ‘unsolvable’ at the time.
He lived during the British rule in India in Madras. Since he had no formal education in mathematics, he was not taken seriously by mathematicians of the time. He then wrote to G.H Hardy, a mathematician in Cambridge, and his work intrigued Hardy to the level that he immediately arranged for Ramanujan to come to Cambridge. Ramanujan was only the second Indian member and became one of the youngest ‘Fellows of the Royal Society.’ He also went on to be elected as a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, the first Indian to receive the fellowship.
Ramanujan contracted a disease in England, undiagnosable at that time and had to return home where he died on 26 April 1920. He kept theorising until his last days and his work was globally recognised which advanced mathematics to new directions.
To commemorate his contributions, on 22 Dec 2017, The Ramanujan Math Park in Chittoor Andhra Pradesh was inaugurated. It is a museum and activity centre that is dedicated to mathematics and is located inside the Agastya Campus Creativity Lab. Agastya is passionate about hands-on teaching and the same is maintained in the Mathematics park as well.
A beautiful film by Matthew Brown ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’ was made in 2015 on Ramanujan, his life, work, struggle and beliefs. Actor Dev Patel’s performance as Ramanujan was critically appreciated.
Here are some other well-known Indian mathematicians who made a major contribution to the field:
- Shakuntala Devi
- Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis
- Harish Chandra
- Mahan Mj
- Narendra Krishna Karmarkar
- C. R Rao
- Radha Kessar
- Chandrashekhar Khare
- Sujatha Ramdorai
- S. R. Srinivasa Varadhan