Additional information provided at the end of the novel:
Srinivasa Ramanujan (his last name pronounced ‘rah mah new gen’ with the emphasis on the second syllable), was a mathematical genius whose works and enigmatic notes are still being studied and unraveled by generations of mathematicians. His life is largely as outlined in this novel in which I’ve tried to portray the struggles he must have undergone in dealing with contrasting cultures, British imperialism and attitudes, and debilitating illness. He died at the young age of 33.
G.H. Hardy and J.E. Littlewood were world-famous British mathematicians and both knew, mentored, and collaborated with S. Ramanujan. E.H. Neville was also a mathematician of repute who encouraged Ramanujan to come to England from Madras, and he and his wife, Alice, provided Ramanujan his initial home base in England. I have invented the name of Mr. Neville’s brother.
Mary Cartwright became famous for her work in chaos theory. She studied for her doctorate under Hardy and collaborated with Littlewood. There is little chance she actually met Ramanujan, but her age in the book is accurate.
Ralph H. Fowler, among other things, explained field electron emissions and became well known in physics and astronomy. He was at Trinity College at the same time as Hardy and was a cricket player. He did get wounded in Gallipoli and worked on anti-aircraft ballistics.
There was a Lord North who owned a manor in Shotteswell, England, but that is the only association with this work of fiction.
Ramanujan had a cousin in Visakhapatnam, and I have taken the liberty of naming him Krishnasamy. Ramalingam, Mahalanobis, and Rao were good friends of Ramanujan’s, and Drs. Chowry-Muthu and Ram were his actual physicians in England. Ramalingam went by the name A.S. Ram while in England. Dr. Chowry-Muthu was on the Nevasa with Ramanujan. Ramanujan’s wife, Janaki, and mother, Komalatammal, are portrayed largely as described in his biography, The Man Who Knew Infinity by Robert Kanigel, as are most of the strictly historical events that occurred in India and England. The remainder of the people, places, and circumstances are of my own invention.
My purpose in writing this novel is to highlight the changes and struggles that must have been encountered by Ramanujan in the last years of his life when he made his journey to England. Here was a poor, religious, and largely rural Indian growing up in Kumbakonam which 100 years after he lived there has a population of 170,000 people. Before he traveled to England, he lived in Madras (Chennai) on and off for several years, and so was accustomed to a bigger city (estimated to have a population of 500,000 or so in 1910). Still, I feel that the accounts of him, even by G.H. Hardy, seem to brush aside the enormous adaptations he must have had to make in moving to Cambridge, a town probably of a similar size to Kumbakonam at the time, but situated in a modern, industrial, insular, Christian, cold, wet, England just at the outbreak of the First World War. This would have been difficult enough for anyone even without facing severely declining health and estrangement from those he loved. So, my intention here is to focus on Ramanujan and his culture rather than on G. H. Hardy and his Cambridge society.