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Tribute to a truly inspired mind

india Updated: Aug 15, 2009 03:07 IST
Dr APJ Abdul Kalam
Dr APJ Abdul Kalam
Hindustan Times
Hindustan Times

I am happy that Hindustan Times has brought out the India Inspired series showcasing innovations and creative thinking, which can transform the lives of many in the country.

Such innovative spirit has to become a part of life of every young mind in the nation. I would like to present to the readers two great minds who have nurtured creativity and innovation even in the most difficult circumstances and both of them are remembered for their work.

Birth of Creativity in a difficult situation Mario Capecchi had a difficult and challenging childhood. For nearly four years, Capecchi lived with his mother in a chalet in the Italian Alps.

When World War II broke out, his mother, along with other Bohemians, was sent to Dachau as a political prisoner. Anticipating her arrest by the Gestapo, she had sold all her possessions and given the money to friends to help raise her son on their farm.

On the farm, he had to grow own wheat, harvest; take it to miller to be ground. Then, the money which his mother left for him ran out and at the age of four and half years, he started sometimes living in the streets, sometimes joining gangs of other homeless children, sometimes living in orphanages and most of the time hungry.

He spent the last year in the city of Reggio Emelia, hospitalised for malnutrition where his mother found him on his ninth birthday after a year of searching. Within weeks, Capecchi and his mother sailed to America to join his uncle and aunt.

He started third grade afresh and studied political science. But he didn’t find it interesting and changed into science, became a mathematics graduate in 1961 with a double major in Physics and Chemistry.

Although he really liked Physics, its elegance and simplicity, he switched to molecular biology in graduate school, on the advice of James D Watson, who advised him that he should not be bothered about small things, since such pursuits are likely to produce only small answers.

His objective was to do gene targeting. The experiments started in 1980 and by 1984, Capecchi had clear success.

Three years later, he applied the technology to mice. In 1989, he developed the first mice with targeted mutations. The technology created by Doctor Capecchi allows researchers to create specific gene mutations anywhere they choose in the genetic code of a mouse. By manipulating gene sequences in this way, researchers are able to mimic human disease conditions on animal subjects. What the research of Mario Capecchi means for human health is nothing short of amazing, his work with mice could lead to cures for Alzheimer’s disease or even Cancer. The innovations in genetics that Mario Capecchi achieved won him the Nobel Prize in 2007. The message we learn from Mario Capecchi:

“When you wish upon a star, Makes no difference who you are Anything your heart desires Will come to you”

A genius well ahead of his time, Ramanujan, born and raised in Erode, Tamil Nadu, first encountered formal mathematics at the age of 10. He demonstrated a natural ability at mathematics, and was given books on advanced trigonometry by SL Loney.

He mastered this book by age thirteen, and even discovered theorems of his own. He demonstrated unusual mathematical skills at school, winning many awards.

By the age of seventeen, Ramanujan was conducting his own mathematical research on Bernoulli numbers and the Euler–Mascheroni constant. He received a scholarship to study at Government College in Kumbakonam. He failed his non-mathematical coursework, and lost his scholarship. Srinivasa Ramanujan lived only for 33 years and did not have formal higher education or means of living.

Yet, his inexhaustible spirit and love for his subject made him contribute to the treasure house of mathematical research — some of which are still under serious study and engaging allavailable world mathematicians’ efforts to establish formal proofs.

Ramanujan was a unique Indian genius who could melt the heart of the most hardened and outstanding Cambridge mathematician Prof G H Hardy. In fact, it is not an exaggeration to say that it was Professor Hardy who discovered Ramanujan for the world. Professor Hardy rated various geniuses on a scale of 100.

While most of the mathematicians got a rating of around 30 with rare exceptions reaching to 60, Ramanujan got a rating of 100. There cannot be any better tribute to either Ramanujan or to Indian heritage. One of the tributes to Ramanujan says that, ‘every Integer is a personal friend of Ramanujan’.

Ramanujan used to say “An equation means nothing to me unless it expresses a thought of God”. For him the understanding of numbers was a process of spiritual revelation and connection.

In his investigations into pure mathematics, he drew extraordinary conclusions that mystified his colleagues, but were usually proven, eventually, to be right. He opened a universe of theory that still today is reaping applications. The landscape of the infinite was to Ramanujan a reality of both mathematics and spirit.

Dear readers you saw, how great innovative minds even in difficult circumstances, challenged the problems to succeed through the instrument of knowledge and creativity.

Dear readers, when I we see the great lives of Mario Capecchi and Ramanujan, very important traits emanate for achievements are: Inventions and discoveries have emanated from creative minds that have been constantly working and imaging the outcome in the mind. With imaging and constant effort, all the forces of the universe work for that inspired mind, thereby leading to inventions or discoveries. Higher the number of creative minds in the country, the best results of innovation in all the three sectors of the economy will emerge.

Inventions and discoveries is possible only through inspired minds. Inspired minds will elevate the nation in thinking and action.. May I wish the people of our nation a happy, prosperous, peaceful and dynamic life. On this independence day, let us all take the independence day oath:

“My national Flag flies in my heart and I will bring glory to my nation”.