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This book explores (1) the influences of South India on Ramanujan's development, (2) the influences of the British educational system and society on GH Hardy and the other English scholars with whom Ramanujan met and worked and (3) the effects of those different influences on both Ramanujan and the English, personally and professionally.
Mathematical achievement is at the core of Ramanujan's story, and Kanigel does a good job of integrating it. A vague memory of high school math is required of the listener, and Kanigel uses that basis to explain both the directions and importance of Ramanujan's work, without trying to explain the specifics. The technical discussions are woven into the story, and do not at all get in its way.
While the book celebrates Ramanujan's improbable rise to success, overcoming tremendous obstacles, it also examines those obstacles, created by the British Raj and unfortunately persisting into the post-colonial Indian educational system.
While decrying the failings in Ramanujan's formal education, Kanigel also speculates on whether the broader South Indian culture, particularly the flexibility within Hindu religious traditions, allowed Ramanujan to approach mathematics less rigidly than could his English colleagues. No answers are attempted, but his questions are profound.
24 of 24 people found this review helpful
I don't write very many reviews but this book encouraged me to write one.
Its hard to write a book on Ramanujan without the mention of mathematics but the author does a wonderful job to not put off non mathematicians while listening. One can appreciate the profound activity without getting into the details.
The nice thing to appreciate, other than Ramanujan's work is also the leadership shown by Hardy. The English mathematician could recognize and appreciate the genius in the man without any pride especially after other senior mathematicians like Baker and Hobson failing to do so. I wish we have more of such leaders in today's world who can recognize talent and encourage it. Think about the thousands of Ramanujan's that exists in this world today but go un-noticed cause they have not found their Hardy or vice versa.
On the other hand its amazing to see that such a gifted man was driven to a point in his life so as to contemplate suicide. The man not only suffered from tuberculosis but also the usual mother-in-law daughter-in-law conflicts that has plagued the society for centuries now. May be the world just does not deserve to have the gifts of such a genius. Just unfortunate he did not live long enough.
The book is quite long for me but thoroughly enjoyable.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful