The Longitude Prize gives us a new hero

 The Longitude Prize gives us a new hero

By Boyd Tonkin

The implied question was “1729”. The spontaneous answer would prompt one of the best-loved stories in the history of mathematics.

In 1918, the eminent Cambridge mathematician G H Hardy went to visit, in a Putney nursing home, the sickly and fragile Srinivasa Ramanujan: his friend, protégé, collaborator and, above all, a creative thinker in the realm of numbers far beyond even his mentor’s class. “I had ridden in taxi cab number 1729,” Hardy recalled, “and remarked that the number seemed to me rather a dull one, and that I hoped it was not an unfavourable omen. ‘No,’ he replied, ‘it is a very interesting number; it is the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.’” Or, to be precise: 1729 = 13 + 123 = 93 + 103. Continue reading

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