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6. Mathematics is the music of reason.



Srinivasa Ramanujan, the brilliant Indian mathematician born in 1887, embodies the profound connection between mathematics and human reason. His life story illustrates how mathematics transcends conventional boundaries, becoming an intricate symphony of insight and imagination.

Growing up in colonial India with limited formal education, Ramanujan’s innate mathematical talent blossomed against all odds. Despite his humble beginnings, his relentless pursuit of mathematical truths led to the creation of remarkable theorems, identities, and conjectures, recorded meticulously in his notebooks. In 1913, his work caught the attention of British mathematician G.H. Hardy, marking the beginning of a transformative collaboration. Ramanujan’s contributions to number theory, mock modular forms, and modular functions were groundbreaking, unveiling a world of mathematical beauty and complexity.

Ramanujan’s story encapsulates the statement that “Mathematics is the music of reason.”


Essence of the topic:

The essence is brought out by recognizing that mathematics serves as a unique bridge between the world of reason and the world of imagination. Just as music evokes emotions and tells stories, mathematics unravels the narratives of the universe, allowing us to grasp the intricate interplay of patterns and relationships that govern our reality.


Thesis statement:

This essay will progress by first delving into the historical roots of mathematics as a fundamental tool for problem-solving and scientific advancement. Subsequently, it will explore the creative aspects of mathematics, highlighting its role in inspiring innovation and artistic expression similar to music. Ultimately, it can be concluded that mathematics is a universal language with inherent beauty that explains rationality and the universe.


Mathematics: History, Purpose, and Impact

  • Quote: “Nature is written in mathematical language.” — Galileo Galilei
  • What it is: Mathematics, often described as the “queen of sciences,” has a rich history that spans millennia, with India playing a significant role in its development. It is the systematic study of numbers, quantities, shapes, and patterns.
  • Rich history:
  • Mathematics in Ancient Civilizations: In India, mathematical achievements date back to the Indus Valley Civilization, where an advanced system of weights and measures was in use. Ancient Indian mathematicians, including Aryabhata and Brahmagupta, made significant contributions to number theory and algebra.
  • The Arabic Renaissance: Indian mathematical texts were translated into Arabic during the Islamic Golden Age, contributing to the development of algebra and the spread of mathematical knowledge.
  • The European Enlightenment: European mathematicians, influenced by Indian and Arabic mathematical ideas, made groundbreaking advancements, including the development of calculus by Newton and Leibniz.
  • Problem-Solving Tool: Mathematics is a universal tool for solving complex problems in various fields, from physics and engineering to economics and cryptography.
  • Scientific Advancement: It plays a pivotal role in scientific discoveries, enabling us to model natural phenomena, predict outcomes, and unravel the mysteries of the cosmos.
  • Technological Innovation: The development of computers and digital technology relies heavily on mathematical principles, driving innovation in communication, healthcare, and transportation.
  • Economic Growth: Financial institutions and markets rely on mathematical models for risk assessment, investment strategies, and economic forecasting, impacting global economies.

Mathematics & Reason: The Music

  • Quote: “Mathematics is, in its way, the poetry of logical ideas. ” — Albert Einstein
  • Boundless discipline: Just as music has a seemingly endless array of melodies, harmonies, and rhythms, mathematics boasts an infinite realm of theorems, equations, and patterns waiting to be discovered.
  • Discovery or invention: Some mathematicians argue that mathematical concepts exist independently, waiting to be unearthed, much like a composer discovering a new melody. Others view mathematics as a human invention, a carefully constructed symphony of abstract ideas, akin to composing a piece of music.
  • The Language of Science and Technology: From the laws of motion formulated by Sir Isaac Newton to Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, mathematics provides the grammar and vocabulary to express the fundamental principles that govern the physical world. Thus, it is the language of logic beautifully expressed as the music of reason.
  • Artistic expression in mathematics: While mathematics is often associated with logic and rigour, it also possesses an artistic dimension. From Da Vinci to Jacobus Verhoeff, many artists have been inspired by mathematics to create art.
  • Examples:
  • The Golden Ratio: It is an irrational number approximately equal to 1.618. It appears in various aspects of art, architecture, and nature, including the proportions of the Parthenon in Athens and the spiral patterns of nautilus shells.
  • Fibonacci Sequence: The Fibonacci sequence is a mathematical pattern where each number is the sum of the two preceding ones (e.g., 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, …). This sequence is found in nature, such as in the growth patterns of sunflowers and pinecones.
  • Fractals: Fractals are complex, self-replicating geometric patterns that can be generated through iterative mathematical equations. Examples include the Mandelbrot set and the Koch snowflake.
  • Game Theory: Game theory applies mathematical concepts to analyze decision-making in strategic situations. It has applications in economics, political science, and evolutionary biology.

Math Today: An Evolving Symphony of Ideas

  • Quote: “Mathematics knows no races or geographic boundaries; for mathematics, the cultural world is one country.” – David Hilbert
  • Global collaboration: Mathematicians from diverse backgrounds collaborate on research projects, contributing to a collective pool of knowledge. For instance, the collaborative nature of the Polymath Project aims to solve complex mathematical problems.
  • Physical science and technology: Mathematics plays a crucial role in solving global issues like climate change with modelling. In other areas like space exploration, it is proving to be foundational human knowledge with renewed space race to the moon with missions like Chandrayaan-3 and Artemis.
  • Awards and recognition: The Fields Medal, often described as the “Nobel Prize of Mathematics,” is awarded to mathematicians under the age of 40 for outstanding contributions. Such recognition promotes this beautiful discipline.
  • Spread of Reason and Logic: Mathematics education transcends borders through digital platforms, open-access textbooks, and international math competitions. The International Mathematical Olympiad (IMO) brings together young mathematical talents. Organizations like the Global Math Project aim to share the joy of mathematics with people of all ages and backgrounds worldwide.
  • Inclusivity and Diversity: Organizations like the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) and initiatives like “Girls in STEM” are working to break gender and cultural barriers, ensuring that mathematics truly knows no boundaries.


“Mathematics is not about numbers, equations, computations, or algorithms: it is about understanding.” – William Paul Thurston

As we appreciate the elegance and universality of mathematics, we recognize that its symphony of ideas harmonizes with the human spirit’s quest for knowledge and understanding. In this timeless endeavour, mathematics remains an instrument through which we unlock the mysteries of the world and compose a collective melody of enlightenment and progress.