Introduction: Travelling Abroad to Study

  • Hilary Perraton


Srinivasa Ramanujan was born in a small southern Indian village in 1887, one of six children of whom three died in infancy. His father was a clerk in a silk shop. Ramanujan went to primary and then high school, passing most of his examinations, but with no great distinction except in mathematics where he excelled. At the age of about 16 he was given a copy of the standard English university text Carr’s A synopsis of elementary results in pure and applied mathematics. Ramanujan devoured the book and began work on a series of his own notebooks in which he extended what was in the text, explored its theorems and suggestions, and went on to discover, infer and go beyond much of what was then advanced pure mathematics. Ramanujan went on to college and entered for an arts degree, but did not complete it as he got poor marks in English, had a vegetarian’s objection to the dissection of frogs in physiology and was essentially interested only in mathematics. He got a job as a clerk which gave him an income as well as spare time for mathematics. His capacity here was so remarkable that, despite the lack of a degree, he was soon appointed to a research post at Presidency College Madras. Though he was still isolated from much mainstream mathematical thinking, this put him in touch with local mathematicians; they encouraged him to write to G. H. Hardy at Trinity College, Cambridge, one of the most eminent pure mathematicians of the time.


Seventeenth Century Foreign Student European Economic Community Student Mobility Student Number 
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  1. 8.
    C. W. Chitty 1966 ‘Aliens in England in the sixteenth century’, Race 8: 2, 131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 17.
    Personal communication, Lewis Elton. Cf. J. Seabrook 2013 The refuge and the fortress, Basingstoke, 30, 36–7.Google Scholar

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© Hilary Perraton 2014

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  • Hilary Perraton

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