Ramanujan lost and found: a 1905 letter from <i>The Hindu</i>

Updated - November 17, 2021 11:15 am IST

Published - December 25, 2011 01:30 am IST - CHENNAI:

December 22, 2011 marked the 125th birth anniversary of the mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920).

The Ramanujan@125 celebrations are being inaugurated in Chennai on Monday, December 26 by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who will declare 2012 to be the National Mathematics Year.

More than any other newspaper, The Hindu has followed over the decades the mathematical achievements of Ramanujan in detail and highlighted his genius, especially from early 1914.

The first reference to Ramanujan occurs in a letter to the Editor titled ‘A Missing Boy', published on September 6, 1905 in the newspaper, which was a triweekly at the time. The letter, from J. Seenivasa Raghava Ayangar, appeals for the public's help in tracing “a Brahmin boy of the Vaishnava (Thengalai) sect, named Ramanujam, of fair complexion and aged about 18 years” who had “left his [Kumbakonam] home on some misunderstanding.”

The letter, discovered recently by The Hindu 's Archives department, is being reproduced for the first time.

The missing boy was “safely back” home within days, as Ramanujan's biographer Robert Kanigel relates in The Man Who Knew Infinity .

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