Srinivasa Ramanujan was born in 1872 in India to a high caste, but very poor family. As a pre-teen, he became a prodigy in mathematics with very little guidance. But he was so focused on math that he neglected other aspects of his studies. He failed most of the rest of his courses.

By his early teens, he was doing advanced math. He made discoveries that verified the works of the greatest mathematicians of the time. There were few mathematicians who could even evaluate his work.

Poverty and hunger were constant challenges. Srinivasa had to seek a job. As fate would have it, a job opportunity with the government revenue agency led him to meet a fellow mathematician. Srinivasa had no resume, but he did have a notebook of his mathematics explorations. The notebook led to financial support. Srinivasa was able to publish his work in the leading journal for mathematics in India.

Srinivasa encountered another problem. Only those who were at the genius level in mathematics could understand his work. Srinivasa’s work was sent to England for review. All but one British mathematician expressed no interest in Srinivasa’s work. The one who took interest thought that his work was incredible, but couldn’t believe a 25-year-old could have generated such work.

Srinivasa refused to travel due to his religious beliefs. His mother intervened and Srinivasa left for England. Within two years, he was awarded a Ph.D. He was thought to be the greatest mathematician of all time.

Sadly Srinivasa’s health was never good. He died at the age of 32, probably from a disease that he had from his childhood in poverty. During his life, he developed 3,900 mathematical works. Virtually all of his work was proven valid after his death, almost a century later. Srinivasa was deeply religious and believed his mathematical abilities were divinely given. Unfortunately, few of his family attended his funeral because he had traveled overseas.

What Srinivasa accomplished during his short life was to end future mathematicians to explore new areas of inquiry. His genius has become the catalyst for new explorations.

Hidden heroes can often be ahead of their time. Their work may be so advanced that few can judge the genius of what they have accomplished until years later. It takes a special person to continue to pursue their craft with little acceptance

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“I had never seen anything in the least like them before. A single look at them is enough to show that they could only be written by a mathematician of the highest class.” – G.H. Hardy (Mathematician upon seeing Srinivasa’s notebook.)