Srinivasa Ramanujan is the brilliant mathematician behind the inspiration for Mathematics Day in India, whose works influenced many across the country and the world. Ramanujan was born in 1887, in Erode Tamil Nadu to an Iyengar Brahmin family. At age 12, despite lacking a formal education, he excelled at trigonometry and developed many theorems for himself.
After finishing secondary school in 1904, Ramanujan became eligible for a scholarship to study at the Government Arts College, Kumbakonam, but could not secure it since he did not excel in other subjects. At the age of 14, Ramanujan ran away from home and enrolled at Pachaiyappa’s College in Madras, where he too only excelled in mathematics without managing the same in other subjects and was unable to finish with a Fellow of Arts degree. Living in dire poverty, Ramanujan instead pursued independent research in mathematics.
Soon, the budding mathematician was noticed in Chennai’s mathematics circles. In 1912, Ramaswamy Iyer — founder of the Indian Mathematical Society — helped him get a clerk position at the Madras Port Trust. Ramanujan then began sending his work to British mathematicians, receiving a breakthrough in 1913 when Cambridge-based GH Hardy called him to London after being impressed by Ramanujan’s theorems.
Ramanujan made his way to Britain in 1914, where Hardy got him into Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1917, Ramanujan was well on his way to success, after being elected to be a member of the London Mathematical Society, and he also became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1918 — one of the youngest to achieve the esteemed position.
Ramanujan returned to India in 1919 because he couldn’t get accustomed to the diet in Britain. His health continued to deteriorate and died in 1920 at the age of 32. However, his achievements in the field of mathematics are still highly regarded across the globe. Ramanujan left behind three notebooks with pages containing unpublished results, which mathematicians continued to work on for years to come. So much so that in 2012, former Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh declared December 22 — the day of Ramanujan’s birth — as National Mathematics Day to be celebrated across the country.