Mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan Honoured at MIT

Indiaspora and Agastya International Foundation celebrated esteemed mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on Thursday, April 20, 2023. The day began with a ribbon-cutting ceremony to unveil a bronze bust of Ramanujan that was donated to MIT by the Agastya International Foundation.

“Indian mathematicians have left an indelible legacy over the centuries, having developed some of the earliest mathematical concepts such as the decimal system, zero, and algebra,” said Indiaspora founder MR Rangaswami.

Indiaspora’s Executive Director, Sanjeev Joshipura, Indiaspora founder MR Rangaswami, renowned philanthropist Dr. Desh Deshpande, Padma Vibushan Dr. Vasudev Aatre,  Head of the MIT Math Department Professor Michel Goemans, Indiaspora Board Member Professor Priya Natarajan, and Indiapsora friend Professor Ranu Boppana spoke briefly in the morning session acknowledging Ramanujan’s unparalleled stature, the importance of education, vital educational experiences and supportive institutions.  There was a tour of the “South Asia and the Institute: Transformative Connections” exhibit. The campus events wrapped up with a screening of the movie The Man Who Knew Infinity, a biopic about Ramanujan’s life.

There was a reception in the evening at The Royal Sonesta Hotel for Boston area Indiaspora community leaders. The inspiring session included a fireside chat with leading CEOs Reshma Kewalramani, MD FASN, and Niren Chaudhary  and a panel with academics Priya Natarajan,  Sunil Kumar (Tufts), Tarun Khanna  and Sunand Bhattacharya.

The Tamil Nadu-born Ramanujan — who was only 32 when he died in 1920 — grew up in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu, in a one-room house he shared with five other family members. He had no formal education, and developed his theorems from his own discoveries. No one in his village or his state could understand his work; thus, the young mathematician started writing to professors at various colleges in England.

Sir Francis Spring, a civil engineer who worked in Madras, is credited with discovering Ramanujan, a clerk in his office. Spring sent the young mathematician’s work to GH Hardy at Cambridge University.

“He proved more theorems in one day than many of us do in one year,” the luminary Princeton mathematician Manjul Bhargava said, during a preview of a film based on Ramanujan’s life “The Man Who Knew Infinity.”

In 2010, the Agastya Foundation donated a bust to Cambridge University to memorialize Ramanujan at his alma mater. The Agastya Foundation has also gifted a bust of Ramanujan to TIFR’s Centre for Applicable Mathematics in Bangalore, and the Indian Institute of Technology – Madras, with the aim of inspiring and sparking creativity amongst young Indians.

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