When A Teacher Learned From His Student

A brief story depicting Hardy-Ramanujan relationship.
teacher's day india 2020 ramanujan hardy friendship

This is a special post about the relationship between a renowned student-and-teacher duo. They are Srinivasa Ramanujan and G.H. Hardy respectively, two of the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century.

The lesson to learn here is that students are more "bindaas" meaning that they find hope when there's none...They discover joy even in the darkest of moments. Teachers, on the other hand, or adults beaten down by life's hardships, take themselves and life much too seriously.

Professor Hardy went to see Srinivasa Ramanujan in the hospital, who was terminally ill due to prolonged tuberculosis. Since they were both mathematicians, they always used to quip about numbers and letters.

Hardy, depressed over the fact that his dear student was going to die soon, remarked, that the taxi he had ridden in had a rather dull and ominous number... or so he felt.

"No sir!" A weak Ramanujan, replied after a brief pause. "It is a very interesting number. It is the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways."

After pondering, Hardy couldn't help but smile. Hardy was the one to recognize Ramanujan's genius, and brought him to Cambridge University. Even now in his deathbed Hardy's favorite student managed to save the day.

The number happened to be 1729 which can be written in the following two ways:

1729 = 1³ + 12³

1729 = 9³ + 10³

Such numbers are called Hardy-Ramanujan numbers in the honor of their relationship. They are more commonly called taxicab numbers in pure mathematics.

There is a scene in the film, The Man Who Knew Infinity in which Dev Patel, who plays Ramanujan says, "I owe you so much." Professor Hardy, played by Jeremy Irons, looks him in the eye. "No, it is I who owes you!"

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