Ken OnoBy Franklin Abbott

Ken Ono served as the mathematical consultant for the 2015 film (just out on DVD and Netflix), “The Man Who Knew Infinity.” In the film Dev Patel plays Indian math genius Srinivasa Ramanujan whose work so impressed Cambridge don H.D. Hardy, played by Jeremy Irons, that Hardy invited him to come to Britain to study with him. What fascinated Hardy has been a source of inspiration and bewilderment to mathematicians every since. How could a young man from colonial India who never had the opportunity to formally study high math have possibly come up with the theorems that Ramanujan postulated. Ono, who studies Ramanujan’s notebooks was uniquely qualified to act as the film’s math adviser. He admires the film’s director, Matt Brown, and its stars for wanting to understand the math behind the story they portrayed.

Ono was inspired by Ramanujan in his own life’s journey. A self-described “tiger boy,” Ono was raised by immigrant Japanese parents who moved to America for his father’s career. His father, the eminent mathematician Takashi Ono, and his mother, Sachiko Ono, did their utmost to encourage their three sons to be exceptional achievers in academics and music. Ono worked hard to meet his parents expectations in both areas, but experienced a chasm between being the perfect child and a normal American kid. He rebelled first against playing the violin and then against finishing high school. His father finally allowed him to leave school based on his son’s argument that Ramanujan, someone his father deeply admired, had failed at traditional education before going on to become one of the great mathematicians of the modern world.

Ono’s memoir, “My Search for Ramanujan,” is about his struggles with perfection and his reinvention of himself as a mathematician of international  standing. Ono teaches at Emory University where he also does research.

One of Ono’s current projects is a global search for undiscovered mathematical talent. This project, the Spirit of Ramanujan Math Talent Initiative, is underwritten by the Templeton World Charity Foundation. For more information visit this link.

Ono will be reading from his memoir at the Decatur Book Festival on Saturday at the Marriott Conference Center at 11:15 a.m.

Franklin Abbott is an Atlanta psychotherapist and consultant, writer and community organizer. 

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.

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