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Dr. Ken Ono

Thomas Hunt Morgan Biological Sciences Building Room 107
Speaker(s) / Presenter(s):
Ken Ono, Emory University


Dear Sir...I beg to introduce myself to you as a clerk... of the Port Trust Office at Madras... I have been employing the spare time at my disposal to work at Mathematics...I have not trodden through the conventional regular course... but I am striking out a new path...

What followed in the letter were astonishing mathematical formulas, so otherworldly the letter's recipient could not help but believe they were true. Written in 1913, it has taken mankind one century to understand their meaning; along the way, the pursuit has led to solutions of ancient mathematical mysteries, breakthroughs in modern physics, and ideas which help power the internet. With this letter, Srinivasa Ramanujan-impoverished Hindu college dropout, self-taught in mathematics, reaching for worlds beyond the shores of India-introduced himself not only to G.H. Hardy (superstar British mathematician), but to the history of human thought. Ramanujan spent his youth sitting on cool stone floors in the neighborhood temple, surrounded by deities, his mind wandering the cosmos of math as he built upon the contents of a shabby textbook that was his bible. After absorbing the surprising equations in the letter, Hardy invited Ramanujan to study in England, an extraordinary offer for an Indian under colonial rule. Together they innovated vast tracts of mathematics, before Ramanujan returned to India in fragile health. Tragically, he died at 32 from a misdiagnosed illness, leaving three enigmatic notebooks that drive cutting-edge research to this day. The speaker will talk about Ramanujan and share exclusive clips from the recent Hollywood film "The Man Who Knew Infinity" which stars Dev Patel (Ramanujan) and Jeremy Irons (G. H. Hardy).

About the speaker: Ken Ono is the Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at Emory University. He has authored over 150 research papers, as well as 5 books. His work includes ground-breaking results in Number Theory. He has received numerous awards and honors, including a Levy Prize, Sloan Fellowship,a Presidential Career Award from President Clinton, a Packard Fellowship, and a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society, and he is a member of the US National Committee for Mathematics at the US National Academy of Sciences. In addition to his research accomplishments, Ono is also a master lecturer and teacher as evidenced by his receipt of the 2005 National Science Foundation Director's Distinguished Scholar Award. He has recently been named the George Polya Distinguished Lecturer by the Mathematical Association of America and the MacLaurin Lecturer by the American Mathematical Society. He is also an Associate Producer for the film "The Man Who Knew Infinity".

Reception: There will be a reception for Professor Ono from 2:30-3:15 pm in room 745 of the Patterson Office Tower on 27 October.

Acknowledgements: Ken Ono's visit is sponsored by the Department of Mathematics, The Dr. J.C. Eaves Undergraduate Excellence Fund in Mathematics, and the College of Arts and Sciences as part of Passport to the World - Year of South Asia.

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