15. SRINIVASA RAMANUJAN

A Traditional, Cultural & Meaningful Biography

COLLEGE YEARS

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was withdrawn.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.