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Play on Ramanujan, the Greatest Mathematician, opens in Berkeley

BERKELEY, CA, May 12, 2003: Eighty years after his death, mathematician Srinivasa Iyengar Ramanujan is still surrounded in mystery. Ramanujan is one of Indiaīs great intellectual heroes, a brahmin who defied tradition to travel to England in order to study at Cambridge; a mathematical genius who attributed his brilliance to a personal relationship with a Hindu Goddess.

His work has been used to help unravel knots as varied as polymer chemistry and cancer, yet how he arrived at this theorems is still unknown. It is the friendship between Ramanujan and his British benefactor, mathematician G.H. Hardy, that makes up Ira Hauptmanīs new play "Partition," directed by Barbara Oliver.

Reviewed as witty, intelligent, and surprisingly accessible to the math-challenged, Partition follows Ramanujanīs pilgrimage to Trinity College, where Hardy taught. The two men couldnīt have been more dissimilar.

The naive, inexhaustible Ramanujan was an observant Hindu, adept at dream interpretation and astrology. His work was marked by bold leaps and gut feelings. Hardy, ten yearsī Ramanujanīs senior, was a stringent atheist who prized rationality and intellectual rigor above all.

Although he managed to convince the vehemently atheist Hardy otherwise, Ramanujan was a devout man. Growing up he had learned to worship Namagiri, the consort of the lion god Narasimha. Unbeknown to Hardy, Ramanujan believed that he existed to serve as Namagiriīs champion. His grandmother had had a vision to that effect, and his mother believed it was through Namagiriīs agency that she was finally able to get pregnant. In real life Ramanujan told people that Namagiri visited him in his dreams and wrote equations on his tongue; in the play, she decides she doesnīt have enough to do in India so she accompanies Ramanujan to Cambridge to keep an eye on him.

The play will be at the Aurora Theater in Berkeley through May 18. For performance times visit their website at www.auroratheatre.org.