15. SRINIVASA RAMANUJAN
A Traditional, Cultural & Meaningful Biography
COLLEGE YEARS

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PRONUNCIATION KEY


F. A. - First Examination in Arts
In 1904, when he was 17, Ramanujan joined F. A. Class. This is the pre-degree course (like the later day Intermediate Course of 2 years) in Government Arts College in Kumbakonam. This college had a very high reputation; many who passed out of this college were settled in very high positions. It was also known as the South Indian Cambridge. The students and professors of this college had a very special respect in Public Life.

Ramanujan Fails Scholarship Exam
Financial help was offered to ecourage students of this colege, in the form of Junior Subramaniam Scholarship. A special exam was conducted to qualify for this scholarship. Ramanujan scored centum in maths but fell short of 3 marks to pass in English. So he did not qualify for the scholarship.

Prof. P. V. Seshu Iyer
P. V. Seshu Iyer who was the Professor of Maths in the same college had already known and admired Ramanujan's exceptional maths skills. He encouraged Ramanujan to appear for the scholarship exam a second time and this time Ramanujan passed the exam and got the scholarship.

Ramanujan Fails F. A. First Year
As usual, Ramanujan scored very high marks in maths and did not make the mark in other subjects. So he was not promoted to Senior F. A. His scholarship also was withdrawn. He suffered a great mental agony.

To Vishakappattinam Looking for A Benefactor
In the meantime he heard that someone in Vishakappattinam was giving financial help to persons with maths abilities. So he went to Vishakappattinam on the 4 th of August, 1905. But he was so upset and was suffering so much mental agony, he did not inform anyone regarding the trip. Komalaththammal thought she had lost her eldest son and was in uncontrollable grief. All kinds of and all possible searches were intiated. But Ramanujan himself returned totally disappointed in 4 days saying that he could not find any such benefactor and no one there even bothered about him and his skills.

Pachaiappa's College, George-Town, Chennai
Ramanujan's parents insisted that Ramanujan should continue his studies (F. A.). Prof. P. V. Seshu Iyer also encouraged Ramanujan. So in the following year (1906) Ramanujan joined the F. A. Class in Pachaiappa's College (in George-Town in those days), Chennai. Ramanujan stayed in Triplicane and commuted to the college by Tram.

Stuns Maths Professor
N. Ramanujachariar was the maths professor at Pachaiappa's. One day he accidently happened to see Ramanujan's Maths note-book; he was greatly surprised to see the high level and qulity of maths and methods in it. Desiring to test the originality of Ramanujan's work he gave a fairly difficult problem to Ramanujan to solve, expecting him to take around 15 minutes. But Ramanujan solved it in 2 minutes, in just a couple of steps using an unknown method.

Principal Appreciates, Encourages and Supports
Prof. Ramanujachariar took this matter to the Principal, Mr. J. A. Yadess. The following day Ramanujan went and met the Pricipal, who was extremely, but pleasantly, surprised to see this rural student of about 18 years with a dhoti and an open coat on a shirt standing with his maths notebooks in his hand. He cheerfully invited Ramanujan into his room, congradulated him for his exceptional math's skills and wished him to continue his excellent maths work successfully. Ramanujan told him of his financial problem; Mr. Yadess readily offered to arrange a half-scholarship for his studies in the college and that he himself would pay the other half. He also offered that Ramanujan could meet him for any other help he might require.

At Pachaiappa's
Once in Prof. Ramanujachariar's maths class, our Ramanujan was working his own maths sitting on the top bench of the gallery. When the Professor did half the problem on the board he called on Ramanujan to go complete the other half. But Ramanujan commented, "All the steps on the black-board are meaningless and unnecessary. This problem can be done very short." He climbed down from the gallery in one jump and went to the board and did the problem in just four steps. Prof. Ramanujachariar was extremely happy and blessed Ramanujan that he would become a great mathematician in years to come. Ramanujan also got a thunering applause from his class-mates.

F. A. Eludes Ramanujan - End of Formal Education
But the fact is that it was not the Divine plan that Ramanujan studies maths and builds on it. He fell ill frequently while he was at Pachaiappa's and so in 4 or 5 months his Pachaiappa's stay was cut short and he returned to Kumbakonam as per his parents advice. So his aim of F. A. through Pachaiappa crashed. The following year Ramanujan wrote F. A. privately and failed as before scoring centum in maths and not doing sufficiently well in other subjects. That was the end of Ramanujan's formal studies.