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I recommend going to see ‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’, about the famous Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan, whose originality astonished the greatest mathematicians of his day, G H Hardy and Littlewood.

It’s a historical romance rather than a documentary, so there are parts that are completely made up — like German Zeppelins bombing Cambridge University during World War 1, and off-duty British soldiers beating up Ramanujan for being a foreign draft dodger. A weird aspect is that the actors and directors don’t seem to be on the same page about the correct pronunciation of Ramanujan’s name. They mostly put the accent on the third syllable, where as far as I can tell it should be more like ruh – MAHN – uh – jahn.

However, there was such a bombing near-by during the war, and the British army did have temporary hospitals for wounded soldiers during that war, and Ramanujan did contract tuberculosis and die at the sadly early age of 32, after he had gone back home. And apparently his mother had indeed been intercepting letters to and from his wife, so they were completely cut off from each other, as the movie states.

And of course, they can’t really explain much of the mathematics – heck, I can’t understand much of anything that Ramanujan did! Even his simplest formulas are way, way over my head! Dramatizing partitions of a number was probably a wise move, since it’s one of the few things that an ordinary person might understand.

 

 

 

 

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