C.P Ramanujam (1938-1974)
Chakravarthi Padmanabhan Ramanujam was an Indian mathematician. He is famous for his works in the fields
of number theory and algebraic geometry. Indian mathematicians biography reflects much about his personalities and romance with the subject.
Early life and education of C.P. Ramanujam
Indian mathematicians history will remain incomplete without discussing the achievements of Chakravarthi Padmanabhan Ramanujam. Born on 9th January 1938 in Madras to Chakravarthi
Srinivasa Padmanabhan, C. P. Ramanujam was the eldest of the seven children. Ramanujam finished his schooling from
Madras and joined Loyola College there in the year 1952 with specialization in mathematics. During this
time, he was encouraged by Father Racine, a missionary who became his teacher and friend. Under his
encouragement and recommendation, Ramanujam applied to the graduate school in the TATA Institute of
Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Bombay and was admitted to TIFR.
Career of Ramanujam:
Ramanujam set out for Mumbai to pursue
his interest in mathematics. He and his school mate Raghavan Narasimhm and S. Ramanan joined TIFR. During
that time, there was a tradition for some graduate students to write up the notes of each course of
lectures. During that time, he showed great efforts and interest in using his analytical mind to create
notes and information. His doctoral advisor, K. G. Ramanathan stated that Ramanujam displayed versatility
and depth in mathematics during his two years of stay there. During that time, however, he was frustrated
due to inaccurate results proportionate to his mathematical breadth and depth. This led his guide to
suggest him to begin working on a problem relating to the work of the great German number theorist C. L.
Siegel. His insight and knowledge finally bore fruit and he solved the long outstanding problem relating
to the work of the great German number theorist C. L. Siegel. He then took up Waring’s problem in
algebraic number fields and got interesting results. In recognition of his work and his contribution to
the Number Theory, the Institute promoted him as the associate professor. He then wrote his thesis in the
year 1966 and took his doctoral examination in the year 1967. Ramanujam also started teaching himself
Garman, Italian, Russian and French so that he could study mathematical works in their original form.
Indian mathematicians Ramanujan had the capability to motivate people easily with his passion for mathematics and he
used to freely give time and knowledge to whoever sought of him. Ramanujam also had interest in music and
In between the years 1964 and 1968, he was making great strides in Number theory and
his contacts with Shafarevich and Mumford led him on to Algebraic Geometry. In the year 1964, based on
his participation in the International Colloquium on Differential Analysis, he earned the respect of
Grothendieck and Mumford who invited him to Paris and Harvard. Ramanujam accepted the invitation and was
in Paris for a brief period. However, due to overwork he suffered from illness. He was diagnosed with
schizophrenia in the year 1964 and with severe depression and later left Paris for Chennai. He then
resigned from his post in Mumbai in the year 1965 after a bout of illness and secured a tenured position
as a professor in Chandigarh in Punjab. Ramanujam then stayed in Chandigarh for only eight months and
after that returned to Chennai for his treatment. However TIFR was his real home and he was back there
again on June 1965. In the year 1970 again, Ramanujam sent his resignation to TIFR but the institute
would not take it seriously. During this time, Mumford invited Ramanujam, to University of Warwick as a
visiting professor during the Algebraic Geometry year. Ramanujam also had a short tenure in Turin which
he widely appreciated and accepted. Ramanujam was elected a Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences in
the year 1973.
After he was back in India after his year at the University of Warwick,
Ramanujam requested for a professorship in the Tata Institute but to make tenable in their Bangalore
campus. Ramanujam was then put on charge of a new branch dealing with applied mathematics in
Bangalore. He settled down in Bangalore but again due to the bouts of depression caused by his illness,
he tried to leave the institute and obtain a university teaching post. During one of those attacks, he
tried to take his life but was rescued in time. Later then in one evening on 27th October 1974, after a
lively discussion with a visiting foreign professor Ramanujam took his life with an overdose of
barbiturates. Ramanujam was barely thirty seven during his death.