Knowing Infinity


Many people know of the remarkable genius of Srinivasa Ramanujan through Robert Kanigel's very readable biography, The Man who knew Infinity, (and of course Hardy's A Mathematician's Apology, apart from other popular and semipopular books). Rupa Publishers had brought out an Indian edition, but that, sadly, is no longer available.

There is, however, a superb collection, Ramanujan: Essays and Surveys, that should be better known. This is edited by Bruce Berndt and Robert Rankin and has been brought out by the Hindustan Book Agency. This title is for distribution within India only, but it collects a number of essays on Ramanujan and his work that were written especially for this volume. It also includes important survey articles in areas influenced by Ramanujan's mathematics. Most of the articles in the book are nontechnical, but even those that are more technical contain substantial sections that will engage the general reader.The book opens with the only four existing photographs of Ramanujan, presenting historical accounts of them and information about other people in the photos. This section includes an account of a cryptic family history written by his younger brother, S. Lakshmi Narasimhan. Ramanujan's illness is describedby R. A. Rankin, the British physician D. A. B. Young, and Nobel laureate S. Chandrasekhar. They present a study of his symptoms, a convincing diagnosis of the cause of his death, and a thorough exposition of Ramanujan's life as a patient in English sanitariums and nursing homes. The book also contains brief biographies of S. Janaki (Mrs. Ramanujan) and S. Narayana Iyer, Chief Accountant of the Madras Port Trust Office, who first communicated Ramanujan's work to the Journal of the Indian Mathematical Society.

The last half of the book begins with a section on "Ramanujan's Manuscripts and Notebooks". Included is an important article by G. E. Andrews on Ramanujan's lost notebook. The final two sections feature both nontechnical articles, such as Jonathan and Peter Borwein's "Ramanujan and pi", and more technical articles by Freeman Dyson, Atle Selberg, Richard Askey, and G. N. Watson.


A book no library can afford to be without, but one that is,unfortunately, now out of print.

347 pages, in hardcover, ISBN: 9788185931357

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