Srinivasa Ramanujan is one of the geniuses in this world that through the bad luck of being poor and living in a poor country like India and dying at a young age, never got the recognition he deserved for being one of the greatest and most brilliant mathematicians of all time. Ramanujan was mentioned in the movie Good Will Hunting and perhaps was the inspiration for that movie, because the main character was also not formerly educated and obtained great mathematical ability through talents that were born through sheer brain power and genius given by his own DNA or perhaps some fluke of nature. This is also true of brilliant giants of the past like Einstein and Issac Newton who were far ahead of other scientists and greatly advanced human knowledge during their time.

The movie The Main Who knew Infinity is about the short life os Srinivasa Ramanujan and his plight to find work in a poor Indian village through the use of his mathematical notebooks which contained hundreds of pages of original ideas that had never before been solved. From these notebooks Ramanujan was invited to Trinity College in Cambridge and collaborated for years with professor G.H Hardy , portrayed very well by Jeremy Irons . Another professor who also helped mentor Ramanujan was John Littlewood who was almost as brilliant as Ramanujam. This story also includes a love story with Ramanujan and his girlfriend at home whom he had to leave to travel to England and hopefully being published and once published their plan was to reunite. Numerous letters were exchanged by the couple until Ramanujan got sick with Tuberculosis but his girlfriend was never notified of this until right before he returned to her in India.

There is much talk of God in this movie and Ramanujan believed that God gave him all of these formulas to create but his mentor Professor Hardy did not believe in God and as he put it, “could never believe anything that he could not prove”. Proving the existence of God and “proofing” all of his formulas which were a prerequisite before getting published were a source of great conflict throughout this movie between Ramanujan and professor Hardy. Eventually, Ramanujan got the knack of writing proofs to prove every formula he created but despite this, the barriers he had to overcome because of the egos and prejudice of many of the professors at Cambridge were at times overwhelming.

One of the most interesting part of this movie was the attempt to prove the mathematical partition theory which counted the number of ways that a combination of numbers could be used to add up to another number. This theory was considered impossible for many years until Ramanujan devised a formula that solved this puzzle to .04% accuracy. What is not explained very well, is why solving complex problems like this one was considered so important.

If there is one flaw in this movie it was the constant chain smoking of Professor Hardy and you would think after so many years and so many lung cancer deaths we can find some kind of a middle ground towards not showing smoking at this level in any movie ever again. It seems that we are still a very long way from eliminating smoking in all movies.

This film is a very good one and I do recommend it for its cinematic​ quality and for its ability to teach unknown and important history.

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The Man Who Knew Infinity – IMDB

Ramanujan’s Notebooks