Interview: Ken Ono, mathematician, The Idea of Ramanujan

Growing up in the United States during the1950s was tough for Ken Ono, whose parents moved here soon after the end of World War II. America was unwelcoming of Japanese immigrants and Ken grew up isolated from the mainstream community around him. Life wasn’t easier at home either, thanks to his brilliant but sternly disciplinarian mathematician father and “tiger mom,” both of whom had determined little Ken’s life goal early on—to acquire a Ph.D. in mathematics from an Ivy League college. Forbidden from social and sports activities, Ken struggled for years to live up to his parents’ ambitions and even dropped out of high school. Later, he gained admission to the University of Chicago, but was less than enthused about academics. Eventually, Ono found his feet and grew to love mathematics, going on to become a professor in the subject. Traumatic childhood memories, though, continued to haunt him, leading once to a failed suicide attempt.

Interview: Ken Ono, mathematician on Khabar


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