The Man Who Knew Infinity:
A life of the Genius Ramanujan
by Robert Kanigel
The book The Man who Knew Infinity, by Robert Kanigel, sheds light on the life of Indian mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan. Ramanujan’s story is exceptional due to his background and all the circumstances that surrounded his life. The book explains to the very smallest detail, who Ramanujan really was as a human, the challenges he overcame and why he was so special. In the book, Education, Religion and Society (including family influence) are the some of the things that shaped Ramanujan and his way of thinking. Coming from an impoverished family in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, during British Rule, Ramanujan knew life’s economic difficulties. He had essentially grown up a single child, since his only 2 surviving brothers had been born as he had grown up. Even though he was of a poor family Ramanujan’s family always encouraged his studies from a very early age. The genius, always had his way, and at times did not want to go to school for one reason or another. He received a lot of attention from his mother, who essentially encouraged him to educate himself, in any way possible. Coming from a Brahmin family, Ramanujan grew up with tremendous religious influence in his life. Brahmins are the highest in the caste structure in India. They are the priestly caste, and in essence, are the leaders of spiritual nourishment and education in Hinduism. His mother, being particularly religious, sang at one of the local temples and carried him with her. He was participant in the poojas (worship) at home and was well instructed, as any good Brahmin boy should, in all the Hindu writings, myths and laws. Ramanujan loved and enjoyed all this. It’s interesting to note that the author makes reference that mathematics and Hinduism have had a long relationship in India. On page 85 of the book, he makes a fleeting reference to this Mathematics-Hinduism relationship....
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