Ramanujan was born in 1887 to an impoverished family in the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. At the age of 2 he survived a bout smallpox but two of his siblings succumbed to the disease. He was enrolled in a very ordinary local school and found inspiration from a book he stumbled upon in a library – A Synopsis of Elementary Results in Pure Mathematics by G.S. Carr. He investigated the theorems and proofs in the book on chalk and slate, being unable to afford paper.
This interest in Mathematics made him perform poorly in his school examinations and didn’t receive any scholarship from Indian colleges. He had to resort to taking a job as a clerk and mathematical tutor. He still pursued his interest and wrote to many universities abroad. It was then that he was noticed by Professor G.H. Hardy in 1913, who was incredibly impressed with Ramanujan’s finesse.
Ramanujan, with the help of G.H. Hardy, went to Cambridge in April, 1914. By 1918, he had been elected as one of the youngest fellows in the Royal Society. But unfortunately, he fell quite seriously ill then and moved into a private nursing home. When he was here, Hardy once came to visit Ramanujan in a taxicab bearing the number 1729 and told him of this. Hardy said that it seemed like a rather dull number. Ramanujan replied – it’s a very interesting number; it is the smallest number that can be expressed as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.
1729 = 1x1x1 + 12x12x12
1729 = 9x9x9 + 10x10x10
In mathematical circles, these numbers are known as Taxicab Numbers.
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