‘The Man Who Knew Infinity’, based off of a book by Robert Kanigel with the same title, depicts the life of Srinivasa Ramanujan, a revolutionary mathematician who made extraordinary contributions to pure mathematics, specifically in mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series, and continued fractions. The movie describes the story of how his work was recognised by G. H. Hardy, at the time fellow at Trinity College in Cambridge, resulting in Ramanujan moving to the UK to work and collaborate with Hardy and Littlewood, a colleague of Hardy. It then tells the story of his life and his difficulty to integrate in England due to the vast cultural divide between the British and the Indians. For example Ramanujan’s vegetarianism, due to religious reasons, was not understood resulting in him not being able to eat in the college cafeteria with all the other residents. His devout religiousness is displayed by the following statement made by Ramanujan, which is depicted in the movie:
“An equation for me has no meaning unless it represents a thought of God.”
The main mathematical discovery covered in the book was the partition formula. I found that the idea of partitions was explained simply, and therefore made the subject approachable to the general audience. However, the importance of this formula should have been highlighted more clearly; it was swallowed up by the dramatic ending of his illness resulting in his return to India after being appointed Fellow of Trinity College.
Overall, I really enjoyed the movie. Yes, it concentrated heavily on his personal life, rather than his mathematics (which as a mathematician isn’t exactly ideal) but we must remember that this is a movie, intended to entertain the general public, rather than a documentary. In terms of entertainment, I found it a highly enjoyable film to watch, and serves the purpose to popularise important figures in mathematics, which I think is really important in order to captivate younger minds and perhaps lead them to studying STEM subjects.
Have you watched the movie? If so, let me know what you thought! M x