The Man Who Knew Infinity

  • by Robert Kanigel
  • Narrated by Humphrey Bower
  • 17 hrs and 26 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

In 1913, a young, unschooled Indian clerk wrote a letter to G. H. Hardy, begging that preeminent English mathematician's opinion on several ideas he had about numbers. Hardy, realizing the letter was the work of a genius, arranged for Srinivasa Ramanujan to come to England. Thus began one of the most remarkable collaborations ever chronicled. With a passion for rich and evocative detail, Robert Kanigel takes us from the temples and teeming slums of Madras to the courts and chapels of Cambridge University, where the devout Hindu Ramanujan, "the Prince of Intuition", tested his brilliant theories alongside the sophisticated and eccentric Hardy, "the Apostle of Proof". In time, Ramanujan's creative intensity took its toll: he died at the age of 32, but left behind a magical and inspired legacy that today is still being plumbed for its secrets.

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What the Critics Say

"Moving and astonishing." (Publishers Weekly)
"Extremely well-researched and well-written biography." (Library Journal)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Thorough and Enjoyable

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.
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- Roger

Great book, Awful narrator

The Good: This is a terrific book. Kanigel's biography of both Ramanujan and his friend and patron GH Hardy is filled with wonderful detail. He does an admirable job of conveying a sense of the complex mathematics Ramanujan worked on. He seems to do a pretty good job in conveying the complex life and death of this amazing mathematician.

The bad: The narration is awful. Humphrey Bower is Australian(!!!!!) This means he mispronounces all the Indian names and words *and* the British names as well. This was a staggeringly poor choice and it makes this great book difficult to listen to. An Indian reader would have been way better- or even a British one.
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- G

Book Details

  • Release Date: 11-19-2007
  • Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.