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# GENERAL ⎜ ARTICLE

Nilakantha,
.. Euler and p

Shailesh A Shirali

## Shailesh Shirali has been

at the Rishi Valley School
(Krishnamurti Foundation
of India), Rishi Valley,
than ten years and is
currently the Principal. He
has been involved in the
Programme since 1988. He
has a deep interest in
mathematics, particularly
aspects. He is also
interested in problem
solving (particularly in the
fields of elementary
number theory, geometry
and combinatorics).

1
Achilles and the tortoise is
resolved by studying the
underlying geometric series.

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+...
(4)

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A theorem of
Riemann's
(extremely
surprising at first
encounter) states
! thatif Siai
converges but not
absolutely (that is,
Si| ai| diverges),
then by suitably
rearranging the
terms we can get
the resulting series
to converge to any
desired number
whatever!

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2
Or so we think ! The facts are
unfortunately not too well known.
In the text Yuktibhasa , the series
Sangamagrama ( 1 3 5 0 - 1 4 1 0 ) ,
who lived almost a full century
before Nilakantha
.. . The result
is stated as follows: if c is the
circumference of a circle of
diameter d , then
4 d 4 d 4 d 4d
c =4 d - + - + -L.
3 5 7 9
See S Balachandra Rao in
details.

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Figure 1

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## What is the value

of S 1/n2?
n
The question
remained a
mystery and Jakob
Bernoulli
expressed the
feelings of his
contemporaries
when he wrote:
"...If anyone finds
and communicates
to us that which till
now has eluded
our efforts, great
will be our
gratitude...". In
1734 Euler
produced a
solution using a
marvellous piece
of reasoning.

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## It is clear that the

proofs of the
Gregory–
Nilakantha
. . series
are complete in
every respect,
while Nilakantha's
..
proof is only
slightly incomplete.
The missing steps
are very minor and
can easily be filled
in, without much
effort. Considering
the era in which
the proof was
written — a time
when the notion of
limit was non-
existent elsewhere
in the world — this
is a remarkable
achievement on
the author's part.

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However when we
come to Euler's
evaluation of
Sn 1/n2, we have
quite a different
situation before us.
While we can sit
back and marvel at
the sheer virtuosity
and brilliance of
Euler's work, at its
freshness and
vitality, we are at
the same time
it is far from being
a proof.

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## By the end of the

nineteenth century,
complex analysis
on an extremely
secure foundation.
Obviously, this
owes in
considerable
measure to the
pioneering work
done by Euler.

##  C N Srinivasiengar. The History of Ancient Indian Mathematics. World

Press. Calcutta, 1967
 T A Sarasvati Amma. Geometry in Ancient and Medieval India. Motilal
Banarasidass. Delhi, 1979
 John B Conway. Functions of One Complex Variable. Springer Verlag.
2nd Edn., 1980.
 Ranjan Roy. The Discovery of the Series Formula for p by Leibniz,