Ramanujan's Mock Modular Forms: Indian Mathematician's Dream Conjecture Finally Proven

Posted: 12/27/2012 2:55 pm EST | Updated: 12/27/2012 3:08 pm EST

By: Live Science Staff

Published: 12/27/2012 12:15 PM EST on LiveScience

While on his death bed, the brilliant Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan cryptically wrote down functions he said came to him in dreams, with a hunch about how they behaved. Now 100 years later, researchers say they've proved he was right.

"We've solved the problems from his last mysterious letters. For people who work in this area of math, the problem has been open for 90 years," Emory University mathematician Ken Ono said.

Ramanujan, a self-taught mathematician born in a rural village in South India, spent so much time thinking about math that he flunked out of college in India twice, Ono said.

But he sent mathematicians letters describing his work, and one of the most preeminent ones, English mathematician G. H. Hardy, recognized the Indian boy's genius and invited him to Cambridge University in England to study. While there, Ramanujan published more than 30 papers and was inducted into the Royal Society. [Creative Genius: The World's Greatest Minds]