14. SRINIVASA RAMANUJAN
A Traditional, Cultural & Meaningful Biography
SECONDARY SCHOOL YEARS
Kumbakonam Town High Scool
In 1898 Ramanujan joined the I (First) Form (Class 6) in Kumbakonam Town High
School. There he studied the next six years, until 1903, when he passed VI
Form. In 1904, Ramanujan passed the Matriculation Examination of the Universiy
Numbers Are My Friends
Ramanujan is supposed to have claimed, "Numbers are my friends." At a
very young age he could rattle prime numbers, upto one crore. He was capable
of working out sums with twenty steps in just two two steps. In case of mental
sums, Ramanujan would blurt out the correct answer even before the teacher
could finish the question. He came first in II Form and also won a special prize.
Bursting Out of His Class
While in III Form (Class 8), Ramanujan got very interested in mathematics and
spent all his time to learn maths independent of the class. He was interested
in Theory of Numbers, Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry.
Birthday Magic Square
Ramanujan split his complete date of birth (22 12 1887) into four two-digit
numbers as 22, 12, 18, 87. He constructed a
4 x 4 magic-sqare with top row filled by the above four numbers. He filled
the twelve boxes in the other rows with distinct numbers in such a way that
the four column totals, the four row totals and the two diagonal totals were
all the same.
0-Person Gets 1 Mangoe From 0 Mangoes!
One day the teacher, teaching division, said, "Divide (share) 3 mangoes among
3 persons; each gets one mangoe. Likewise, if you divide 1000 mangoes among
1000 persons also, each gets one mangoe. So if you divide any number by the
same number, the answer will always be 1." Immediately Ramanujan sprang up on
his feet and asked the teacher whether the answer will be 1 if zero divides
zero also. "If we share 0 mangoes among 0 persons will each 0-person
get 1 mangoe?", he asked the teacher. Typically the teacher got
extremely angry first. But Ramanujan argued with the teacher effectively.
Later the teacher very much appreciated Ramanujan's intelligence.
Zero Divided by Zero
Ramanujan used to ask the value of zero divided by zero and then
explain, "2 times 4 is 8, so if 8 is divided by 2, it is 4; likewise, 0 times
anything is 0, so if 0 is divided by 0 is anything.
Loney's Trigonometry in Class 9
While in Form IV, he managed to get many higher maths books with the help of
the school librarian. While reading these, he felt pleasantly transported to
a totally different world. So he was more and more interested only in maths,
of course at the cost of all other subjects. He mastered Loney's Trigonometry.
He was always found to be calculating and writing something in his large slate
Once, when Ramanujan was in IV Form, a senior student posed the above pair of
equations (VI Form work!) and asked for the values of x and y. Ramanujan
instantly answered that x is 9 and y is 4. By this time he had mastered
Who is this Scholarly Professor?
While Ramanujan was in Vth Form (10th Standard in 1903), two college students
were staying with him in his house paying for their boarding and lodging.
One day Ramanujan heard them in a heated argument about how to solve a problem.
Ramanujan attempted to point out the mistake in their method. But the two tried
to brush him aside saying that how a Xth class boy would understand anything of
the college maths. Ramanujan insisted and worked out the problem in their
note-book in just 4 lines while they had done more than 15 lines and still
could not complete the problem.
Their Professor saw the short and crisp method in the note-book in disbelief
and wondered who the learned Professor with such a great skill was, when even
the regular Professors could not give such a short solution. The pair laughed
at this and replied that he was no Professor but a, 16 year old X Standard
student, in the adjoining Town High School, named Ramanujan. From that day
the two college students treated Ramanujan, not as a X Standard boy but only
as a learned maths Professor. Through their recommendation, Ramanujan started
a few college students for maths to make some extra income for
Formulae Without Proof in Class 11
Ramanujan moved on to Form VI (Class 11) in 1903. That year he managed to get
to read G.S. Carr's A Synopsis of Elementary Results, a book on Pure
. Carr had given about 4865 formulae (propositions, methods
) in algebra, analytical geometry, calculus and trigonometry, without
proofs. As Ramanujan did not have access to any other book in Higher Maths he
set to establish the formulae in the book. It is said that each time he
proved one formula, he discovered many others!
26% to 85%
Ramanujan had a class-mate, Aravamudan, in VIth Form who was terribly afraid
of mathemtics. His mother, Vedavalli (alias 'Echamu') was a friend of Komalam.
She believed that her son will pass maths if Ramanujan tutored him. Even
before his mother could intercede, Ramanujan assured the mami of help and
started teaching Aravamudan from the very next day. The lad who scored
26% in maths, in the half-yearly exam, scored 85% in the final exam with just
two months of coaching by Ramanujan.
Ramanujan's Exhortation: No One
Should Fear Maths
When he took Aravaudhan, Ramanujan told him, "No one should fear maths.
Compared to other subjects, one can score full 100% marks only in maths.
This is an very easy subject. If we find out short methods to solve problems and
keep them deep in our mind, maths itself will become our good friend."
First Student in Matriculation - 1904
In the Matriculation Examination of the University of Madras in 1904, he came
first in Kumbakonam Town High School. He also scored the highest marks in
maths. He got many prizes and certificates. Now Ramanujan joins the Government
Arts College at Kumbakonam.