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CONSPIRACY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES: The Man Who Knew Infinity

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The Man Who Knew Infinity is a 2015 British biographical drama film based on the 1991 book of the same name by Robert Kanigel. The film stars Dev Patel as Srinivasa Ramanujan, a real-life mathematician who after growing up poor in Madras, India, earns admittance to Cambridge University during World War I, where he becomes a pioneer in mathematical theories with the guidance of his professor, G. H. Hardy, portrayed by Jeremy Irons.

Plot


At the turn of the twentieth century, Srinivasa Ramanujan is a struggling and indigent citizen in the city of Madras in India working at menial jobs at the edge of poverty. While performing his menial labor, his employers notice that he seems to have exceptional skills at mathematics and they begin to make use of him for rudimentary accounting tasks. It becomes equally clear to his employers, who are college educated, that Ramanujan's mathematical insights exceed the simple accounting tasks they are assigning to him and soon they encourage him to make his personal writings in mathematics available to the general public and to start to contact professors of mathematics at universities by writing to them. One such letter is sent to G.H. Hardy, a famous mathematician at Cambridge University, who begins to take a special interest in Ramanujan.


Ramanujan at this time also marries while performing his menial labor and sending out his first publications. Hardy soon invites him to come to Cambridge to test Ramanujan's mettle as a potential theoretical mathematician. Ramanujan is overwhelmed by the opportunity and decides to pursue Hardy's offer to visit Cambridge University even though this means he must leave his wife for an extended period. He parts lovingly with his wife and promises to keep up his correspondence with her.


Upon arrival at Cambridge, Ramanujan is met with various forms of racial prejudice and finds his adjustment to England to be more difficult than expected, though Hardy is much impressed by the potential abilities which Ramanujan begins to put into real evidence during their contact with one another. Hardy remains concerned about Ramanujan's ability to communicate effectively due to Ramanujan's lack of experience in writing proofs, but with perseverance he manages to get Ramanujan published in a major journal. In the meantime, Ramanujan finds out that he suffers from tuberculosis and his frequent letters home to his wife remain unanswered after many months. Hardy continues to see much more promise in Ramanujan, however he remains unaware of the personal difficulties his student is having with his housing and with his lack of contact with his family back home in India. Ramanujan's health worsens while he continues delving into deeper and more profound research interests in mathematics under the guidance of Hardy and others at Cambridge.


His wife, after much elapsed time, wonders at why she has not heard from Ramanujan and eventually discovers that his mother has been intercepting his letters. While still in England, Hardy takes special efforts to get Ramanujan's now recognizably exceptional mathematical skills to be fully accepted by his university by nominating Ramanujan for fellowship at Cambridge University. At first Hardy fails for reasons related to university politics and recurrent ethnic prejudice at the university at the time of World War One. By later gaining the support of key members of the faculty, Hardy then again nominates Ramanujan for fellowship and he is finally accepted as a Fellow of the College. Ramanujan is eventually reunited with his family in India though his declining health suffered from poor housing and harsh winter weather in England ultimately take their toll and lead to his premature death after he has finally become recognized as a mathematician of international merit and importance.

Posted by George Freund on January 27, 2017 at 5:10 PM 351 Views