Philosophical Society of Washington

The Limits of Friendship: Ramanujan and Hardy in England

Robert Kanigel

2009th Meeting Abstract
Friday, March 05, 1993 at 8:15 PM


In its usual telling, the ever-romantic tale of G.H. Hardy, the distinguished Cambridge University mathematician, and Srinivasa Ramanujan, the self-taught Indian genius, pictures their friendship as an almost ideal one. Hardy, after all, responded to the entreaties of Ramanujan, an unknown and impoverished Indian clerk, when no one else did. He brought him to England. He befriended him, taught him the mathematics he missed, and championed his candidacy for a fellowship in the Royal Society.

And yet, friend to Ramanujan though he surely was, Hardy's emotional reserve, among other features of his personality, may have undermined their relationship, contributed to Ramanujan's problems in England, and, conceivably, played an indirect role in Ramanujan's early death in 1920.

About the Author:

Writer Robert Kanigel is the author of The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan and of Apprentice to Genius: The Making of a Scientific Dynasty, in addition to almost 400 articles, essays, and reviews. He is currently at work on a biography of Frederick Winslow Taylor, the controversial turn-of-the-century efficiency expert, and teaches writing in the publications design program of the University of Baltimore's Yale Gordon College of Liberal Arts.

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