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The Man Who Knew Infinity
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The Man Who Knew Infinity [Format Kindle]

Robert Kanigel

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  • Longueur : 464 pages
  • Langue : Anglais
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Descriptions du produit

Présentation de l'éditeur

In 1913, a young unschooled Indian clerk wrote a letter to G H Hardy, begging the preeminent English mathematician's opinion on several ideas he had about numbers. Realizing the letter was the work of a genius, Hardy arranged for Srinivasa Ramanujan to come to England. Thus began one of the most improbable and productive collaborations ever chronicled. With a passion for rich and evocative detail, Robert Kanigel takes us from the temples and slums of Madras to the courts and chapels of Cambridge University, where the devout Hindu Ramanujan, 'the Prince of Intuition,' tested his brilliant theories alongside the sophisticated and eccentric Hardy, 'the Apostle of Proof.' In time, Ramanujan's creative intensity took its toll: he died at the age of thirty-two and left behind a magical and inspired legacy that is still being plumbed for its secrets today.

Biographie de l'auteur

Robert Kanigel is the author of six previous books. He has been the recipient of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Grady-Stack Award for science writing. His book The Man Who Knew Infinity was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times Magazine, The New York Times Book Review, Harvard Magazine, and Psychology Today. He has just retired as Professor of Science Writing at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts and now lives in Baltimore.

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.6 étoiles sur 5  98 commentaires
101 internautes sur 106 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 An accurate account account of an amazing man 28 mars 2000
Par Charles Ashbacher - Publié sur
The life of Srinivasa Ramanujan Iyengar is truly the most amazing in all of science. A transcendent mathematical genius, he was both amazingly lucky and the victim of incredible misfortune. Quite possibly the greatest mathematical talent the world has ever known, his discoveries still astound and baffle those who read them.
Born to a poor, upper caste Brahmin family in the area near Madras in southern India, he was self-taught in mathematics and failed all other subjects. Only the kind patronage of those who recognized, but did not understand his talents kept him afloat in his early years.
After a few years of work as a clerk, he was the recipient of an amazing stroke of luck. An unsolicited letter with a few of his results was sent to some of the highest ranking mathematicians in England. G. H. Hardy chose to read it and after serious thought decided to respond. As Kanigel accurately relates, this was astonishing.
The idea that an upper class Englishman would read and take seriously a letter from an uneducated "native" in one of the far reaches of the empire wa almost unthinkable. The author spends a great deal of time explaining Hardy's unorthodox nature. While lengthy, it is necessary to explain why Hardy took the trouble to read the letter and respond.
Kanigel also does an excellent job in describing the culture shock that Ramanujan encountered, although one suspects that he faced a bit more racism than is mentioned. While experiencing some difficulty, the British empire wa still near the height of its power, and certainly many of those in the British Isles looked down upon their "subject peoples."
All of the human interest aspects of the Hardy-Ramanujan collaboration are told in great detail. Hardy had the greatest respect for Ramanujan the matematician, once creating a rising scale of their mathematical ability that assigned the scores

G. H. Hardy    25
H. E. Littlewood   30
David Hilbert    80
S. Ramanujan    100

certainly placing Ramanujan among the best of all time. However, Hardy was totally uninterested in Ramanujan the man and recent immigrant. At no time did Hardy ever express interest in Ramanujan's life and family in southern India.
The final chapters deal with the fate of Ramanujan's work after he died. Some of it was stored away and only recently "rediscovered" and presented to the world, another amazing chapter in the life of an amazing man.
This book is a superb account of the life and times of a man whose work and insights were so incredible that no one person really understands them all. This is one of the best mathematical biographies that I have ever read.

Published in Mathematics and Computer Education, reprinted with permission.
50 internautes sur 54 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 A touching biography 29 juillet 2002
Par Amazon Customer - Publié sur
Im not too fond of biographies, but I would give this book an exception.
The life of Ramanujan is amazing and one is pushed to only awe the limits of mind. Being an Indian, I can see Robert Kanigel has given a comprehensive treatment to all facets of the life of Ramanujan - his boyhood days in small town of Kumbakonam, his obsession with Maths, his seperation from Mother and his wife, his relationship with Hardy and others, his stay in London, and his final days. Kanigel has really done a wonderful job in depicting the Brahmin house-hold of the early 1900s. One could really imagine Ramanujan with a tuft and a religious symbol on forehead, but his mind calculating 10,000 th decimal of pi.
His purely professional relations with Hardy has also been very deftly depicted. How hard the days must have been! Being a Ramanujan's biography its hard to avoid mathematical formulas - and the author justifiably includes them when necessary. But even if you do not understand them - you can just wonder at the string of symbols joined together to purport some meaning.
The narration is truly captivating. It sends an horripulating feeling to the mind, when Hardy describes the first letter of formulas as "These must be true. If they are not, nobody would have the audacity to invent it."
The final days of Ramanujan are indeed sad and emotional and also beautifuly captured in the book. Typical is the life of geniuses - the world has hard time understanding them. This book is really worth in my library.
46 internautes sur 52 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 An exploration of genius in the colonial condition .... 13 septembre 1999
Par Wilberne PERSAUD - Publié sur
Kanigel's is the first book I've read on Ramanujan. It is well put together and explores the elements of the man, South India and Cambridge that led to the "collaboration" which allowed Ramanujan to flourish and be "discovered" by the West. Mathematics and Science is Planetary in scope, whereas cultures and colonialism, idiosyncracies of Universities, constraints of poverty, all in some way deny us the fruits of genius, whom I daresay are "normally" distributed in all populations! Nurture, in the true and fullest sense of the word, allows the light to shine through. Ramanujan's letter to Hardy is a classic! It is the essence of understatement, he may have been uneducated in the purely formal sense, but he was quite aware of the world he was to be reluctantly invited to join. His gifts are rare, his powers abundantly evident, there is no use debating how much longer he may have lived, if both he and Hardy understood the difficulties of a South Indian clerk attempting to live in Cambridge. The collaboration brings into sharp relief, the genarally accepted notion that in most endeavours of man, critical mass, or an informed bouncing wall/mirror brings out the best. Does Hingis give of her best against a weak opponent? Doesn't Michael Jordon reach deep when there is half a minute and five points to score? Would Karpov have ramped up his game had Fischer allowed him a match? Ramanujan may have contributed much more had he survived even two more Summers. As it stands his contribution is so outstanding that his notebooks still give up useful gems to knowledge-hungry post-graduate students. Kanigel's book is a must read for anyone interested in the history of Mathematics, anyone interested in harnessing the powers of genius, the relationships among nature and nurture, genes and culture etc. Good companion reading would include the lives of Richard Feynman, John Maynard Keynes and anything on the Manhattan Project to name but a few.
18 internautes sur 19 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 An Extraordinary Biography 8 avril 2007
Par A. Mason - Publié sur
This is a captivating, illuminating, and deeply moving biography of the Indian mathematical genius S. Ramanujan. Genius is always enigmatic, and mathematical genius doubly so to the general reader for whom math will always be a closed book. One of the extraordinary things about this biography is Kanigel's gift for mathematical exposition at the layman level. As a mathematician myself, I can only say I've never seen its equal. Although to some extent he is helped by the "elementary" nature of much of R.'s work -- its gist can be grasped with only a basic understanding of calculus -- the task is still daunting. Yet everything is clearly and correctly explained, freshly, succinctly, memorably.

Kanigel's book is equally rich in human terms, too. His portrait of R. shows not only a genius but also a simple, spontaneous, likeable man. R. must have been the world's worst math tutor -- one shudders at the thought -- yet people liked him. This was a crucial factor in R.'s getting the opportunity to bring his gifts to full flower, for heaven and earth had to be moved. It's sad to think of the other Ramanujans in India and elsewhere who, crushed by life's hardships, were never able to develop or perhaps even recognize their gifts.

I take issue with the previous reviewer concerning Kanigel's treatment of Hardy. Hardy is a complex and fascinating figure in his own right and his personality needs to be explored in the context of his relationship with R. His homosexuality was a part of the constellation and a factor in his championing of the underdog (including women in mathematics), his openness to the unorthodox, and his willingness to take risks. Although bound by their common love for mathematics, the two men were otherwise poles apart both temperamentally and culturally. This contrast adds further interest and poignancy to the already romantic, Cinderella-like story of R.'s brief life in this world, and Mr. Kanigel makes the most of it.

Urgently recommended!
9 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Inspiration vs. Education 16 décembre 2005
Par Judd R. Meyers - Publié sur
While an interesting story, what really separates this book from the pack is its probing look at how much we can learn drawing only from the universe, versus sitting in class and having someone tell us what they have been told is known. Ramanujin operating in a social vacuum experienced tremendous sucesses and tremendous failures. He reinvented theorems that were known 100 years earlier, because he did not attend universities that would have saved him such work. On the other side of the equation, he tackled problems sometimes, from a completely unique perspective, having not had his way of thinking "institutionalized" by those same universities. This is the lesson that hits home in this book. Both types of learning are important. Both create stumbling blocks to higher levels of discovery. It seems to me that this is probably true of every discipline to which we have given a name.
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