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If anyone ever compiled one of those top twenty lists but of mathematicians – then many would expect Srinivasa Ramanujan to be included in it. This year is the 125th anniversary of the birth of one of the subjects most talented mathematicians.
He was born to a peasant family in South India, and it was in this poor background that Ramanujan began to teach himself maths. Some say this was actually a very good start for him as being cut off from most of the modern mathematical work of the time, he developed in a different way.
There is no doubt that much of his work ranks up with the greatest contributors of all time. Unfortunately his talent was cut short and he died aged just 32. His talent has been recognized internationally though and many talented world class mathematicians have devoted their lives to just studying his notebooks.
He was granted a Bachelor of Science degree by Cambridge University and was elected as a fellow to Royal Society in 1918. He was the first Indian to be granted this great honour.
There are many prizes and even a journal named after him. This year the American Mathematical Society is publishing a series of articles discussing his legacy and his impact on current maths thinking. He has even been included in many programmes on the development of maths including a wonderful series on the BBC and one on ITV (check here). You can I think still watch it on BBC Iplayer but you may need to use a proxy server to watch it – like these. These servers allow you to hide your real IP address and present a British one instead which is vital if you want to use the Iplayer in USA for example.