National Mathematics Day or Math Day is observed every year on December 22, honouring the legendary mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan Aiyangar on his birthday. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh had inaugurated on this date in 2012, after which it is observed as Math Day every year.
Srinivasa Ramanujan was born on December 22, 1887, in Tamil Nadu’s Erode. He had developed a talent for mathematics from a very young age, mastering trigonometry at the age of 12 and was eligible for a scholarship at the Government Arts College in Kumbakonam. He had enrolled in Madras’ Pachaiyappa College at the age of 14.
Ramanujan worked at the Madras Port Trust in 1912 where his mathematical prowess was recognised by some of his co-workers, one of whom referred him to professor GH Hardy of Trinity College, Cambridge University. He met Hardy in 1913, a year after which he went to Trinity College where he honed his craft under the Englishman’s tutelage.
He received his degree from Cambridge in 1916 and went on to publish several brilliant papers on his subject with Hardy’s help, and the two even collaborated on several joint projects and publications. Ramanujan was elected to the London Mathematical Society in 1917 and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society for his excellent work on Elliptic Functions and the theory of numbers. He was also the first Indian to be elected a Fellow of the Trinity College.
Despite not having any formal training in pure mathematics, Ramanujan made priceless contributions to several mathematical concepts like infinite series, continued fractions, number theory and mathematical analysis. He also made notable contributions like the hypergeometric series, the Riemann series, the elliptic integrals, the theory of divergent series, and the functional equations of the zeta function.
Ramanujan died at the young age of 32 owing to deteriorating health on April 26, 1920. Robert Kanigel wrote a book about him called ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’ in 2015. His life was also portrayed in a movie with the same name where he was played by British-Indian actor Dev Patel. The film shed light on Ramanujan’s childhood in India, his time in Britain during World War I, and his journey to becoming one of India’s most renowned mathematicians.