Indian has a rich history of great mathematicians/astronomers in ancient times, the likes of which include Brahmagupta, Varahamihira, Aryabhata, Baudhayana, who penned great mathematical and astronomical marvels. In modern times, however, mathematics has become highly specialized and abstract. In the last century or two India has produced a number of world-renowned mathematicians. Here is a compilation of top 10 Indian mathematicians of modern times.
10. Shakuntala Devi
Shakuntala Devi is a world renowned mathematical genius. She has been nicknamed ‘Human Computer” because of her innate ability to solve complex mathematical problems without using any kind of aid. Among her other feats, her two most outstanding feats fetched her a place in the 1995 Guinness Book of World Records. The first one was in January of 1977, at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, when she extracted the 23rd root of a 201-digit number, at the fifty-second mark, with the correct answer being ‘546372891’. She had beaten the then fastest computer, UNIVAC’s time of 62 seconds. Her second feat was in June of 1980 when she demonstrated the multiplication of two 13-digit numbers: ‘7,686,369,774,870 x 2,465,099,745,779′, picked randomly by the Computer Department of Imperial College of London. She produced the correct answer of ‘18,947,668,177,995,426,462,773,730’, in just 28 seconds.
9. Chakravarthi Padmanabhan Ramanujam (C. P. Ramanujam)
C. P. Ramanujam was born in 1938 in Chennai. In the year 1957 he joined Tata Institute of Fundamental Research with two of his other friends. In 1967 when Ramanujam took his doctoral examination, he impressed all his teachers, who concluded that he had extraordinary talent in the field of mathematics. He is known for his contribution in the field of number theory and algebraic geometry. Other than mathematics, his interests also included literature including both fiction and non-fiction and he was also a music lover. He was elected a Fellow of the Indian Academy of Sciences in 1973. The cause of Ramanujam’s death was largely depression from his diagnosis of Schizophrenia. In October of 1974 at the tender age of 37 he took his own life in a feat of depression by overdosing on antidepressants.
8. Dattaraya Ramchandra Kaprekar (D. R. Kaprekar)
D. R. Kaprekar was born in 1905 in Maharashtra. He received his bachelor’s degree from University of Mumbai in 1929, but he never received any formal postgraduate training in his career. He worked as a school teacher in Nashik and he published papers extensively on various topics like recurring decimals, magic squares, and integers with special properties. He is known for his discoveries in number theory. In addition to his discoveries of Kaprekar constant and Kaprekar number, he also described Devlali or self number, Harshad number and Demlo number. He died in 1986.
7. Narendra Karmarkar
Narendra Karmarkar was born in a Marathi family of Gwalior in 1957. He received his B. Tech in Electrical Engineering from IIT Bombay and finished his postgraduation and Ph.D. in USA. He is known for his invention of a polynomial algorithm for linear programming also known as the interior point method. This algorithm became a cornerstone in the field of Linear Programming. He was awarded the prestigious Paris Kanellakis Award in 2000 for his work on polynomial time interior point methods for linear programming. His algorithm is otherwise known as Karmarkar’s algorithm. He received National Science Talent Award in Mathematics in India in 1972.
6. Harish Chandra
Harish Chandra was a prominent Indian-American physicist and mathematician. He was born in 1923 in Kanpur. After finishing his graduation, he did his postgraduate research fellowship under the supervision of Homi Bhabha. He is famously known for his infinite dimensional group representation theory. He is also known for his work with Armand Borel on the theory of arithmetic groups; and for papers on finite group analogues. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S. and a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was the recipient of the Cole Prize of the American Mathematical Society in 1954. Indian Government named the Harish-Chandra Research Institute in Allahabad that is dedicated to theoretical physics and mathematics after him. He died in 1983 due to heart attack.
5. Calyampudi Radhakrishna Rao (C.R. Rao)
C.R. Rao is an Indian-American mathematician and statistician. He was born in 1920 in Karnataka. From Andhra University he received his M.Sc. in Mathematics and later M.A. in Statistics from the Calcutta University in 1943. He was among the first few people in the world to hold a Master’s degree in Statistics. His most famous and well-known discoveries include Cramér–Rao bound and the Rao–Blackwell theorem both related to the quality of estimators. He also worked on multivariate analysis, estimation theory, and differential geometry. His other contributions include the Fisher–Rao Theorem, Rao distance, and orthogonal arrays. He was awarded Padma Vibhushan by Government of India in 2001 for his contributions to the field of statistics.
4. Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis (P.C. Mahalanobis)
P.C. Mahalanobis was an Indian scientist and applied statistician. He was born in a Bengali family in 1893. He finished his Tripos in physics at the University of Cambridge. In the Indian statistical universe Mahalanobis not only established the base for Indian statistical system putting in place the necessary infrastructure and suggesting strategic steps for planning, but also showed the path to the world with his remarkable vision for statistics. He coined D2-Statistics, which is also known as Mahalanobis Distance Measure that is used for divergence based grouping. Mahalanobis was also the founder of Indian Statistical Institute as well as the National Sample Surveys Organization for which he gained international recognition. For his contributions to science and the country, Government of India awarded him with Padma Vibhushan in 1968. He died in 1972, a day short of his 79th birthday.
3. Conjeevaram Srirangachari Seshadri (C. S. Seshadri)
C. S. Seshadri was born in 1932. He received his B.A. Honors degree in mathematics in 1953 from Madras University and later his Ph.D. from Bombay University in 1958. For most of his career he worked in the School of Mathematics at Tata Institute of Fundamental Research. He is known for his work in algebraic geometry and Seshadri constant is named after him. He influenced the field of algebraic geometry from his work with M. S. Narasimhan on unitary vector bundles and the Narasimhan–Seshadri theorem. He was the recipient of Padma Bhushan in 2009 for his contributions.
2. Satyendra Nath Bose
Satyendra Nath Bose was a Bengali physicist, who specialized in mathematical physics. He was born in Kolkata in 1884. He was a bright student right from the young age and once in high school Bose was awarded 110 marks out of 100 in mathematics because he had solved some problems by more than one method. His interests ranged in various fields that included physics, mathematics, chemistry, biology, mineralogy, philosophy, arts, literature and music. He was also well versed in Bengali, English, French, German and Sanskrit. Bose, who worked in Kolkata and Dhaka, was a contemporary of Albert Einstein. In 1924, he sent a paper to Einstein describing a statistical model that eventually led to the discovery of what came to be known as the Bose-Einstein condensate phenomenon. He was awarded Padma Vibhushan by Government of India in 1954. Recently, scientists at Europe’s CERN Research Centre have found a new subatomic particle that could be the Higgs Boson, the basic building block of the universe. The word Boson owes its name to Bose’s pioneering work in particle physics. He died in 1974.
1. Srinivasa Ramanujan
Srinivasa Ramanujan was born in a Brahmin family of Erode in 1887. He had no formal training in mathematics, but he was a self-taught mathematical genius. He demonstrated extraordinary mathematical skills during his school years and had won several accolades. He received scholarship in Government College of Kumbakonam, but then lost it when he failed in non-mathematical course work. He later joined another college to pursue his research. In 1912–1913, he sent some of his sample works on theorems to three academics at the University of Cambridge. Godfrey Harold Hardy recognized the brilliance of his work and invited him to visit and work with him at Cambridge. He then went to England to work with J. E. Littlewood and G. H. Hardy. His substantial contributions to the field of mathematics include his works on analytical theory of numbers, elliptic functions, continued fractions and infinite series. After five years of mathematical research in England, he returned back to India in 1919 due to his persistent illness. Soon he succumbed to his illness at just the age of 32. In Tamil Nadu, his birthday on 22nd December is celebrated as ‘State IT Day.’