I dimly recall reading somewhere (perhaps in "The Man Who Knew Infinity"?) that Ramanujan associated personalities (perhaps it was mystical personalities, e.g. specific gods and goddesses?) with small positive integers. Is there a list of of which numbers were associated by him with which personalities?


1 Answer 1


According to The Man Who Knew Infinity, Ramanujan dealt with the quantity $2^n-1$. According to him:

When $n=0$, the expression denotes nothing.

When $n=1$, the expression denotes unity, the Infinite God.

When $n=2$, the expression denotes Trinity, the three demigods of Hindus: Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheswar (Shiva).

When $n=3$, the expression denotes Sapta Rishis.

For further reading see, Ramanujan Memorial Number, Vol. 1, Letters and Reminiscences and Ramanujan Memorial Number, Vol. 2, An Inspiration, Madras: Muthailpet High School by P. K. Srinivasan.

  • $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/w/… — using things there are $n$ of, to denote the number $n$, was a standard practice in classical Indian mathematics. I'm not sure whether Ramanujan had encountered any classical Indian mathematics though, so I have a tiny suspicion that the author of The Man Who Knew Infinity just got things a bit mixed up. (Or maybe Ramanujan did arrive at the same convention by himself; we know he did that with a lot of mathematics!) $\endgroup$ Jun 10, 2014 at 16:58

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.