Tuesday, 19 February 2013, 1:00PM
Museum of London

Are Averages Typical?

Professor Raymond Flood

Not necessarily, for example the average person has fewer than two legs!  This is because some people have fewer than two legs but nobody has more than two, so dividing the total number of legs by the total number of people to get the average gives a number less than two.  Average does not mean typical!  The lecture will examine how the work in the 19th century of such mathematicians as Florence Nightingale, Adolphe Queteller and Karl Pearson on describing and quantifying variation and uncertainty laid the foundations for the theory of statistics as a mathematical discipline.

This is a part of the lecture series, Shaping Modern Mathematics. The other lectures in the series are as follows:
    Ghosts of Departed Quantities: Calculus and its Limits
    Polynomials and their Roots
    From One to Many Geometries
    The Queen of Mathematics
    Modelling the World

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Raymond Flood has spent most of his academic life promoting mathematics and computing to adult audiences, mainly through his position as University Lecturer at Oxford University, in the Continuing Education Department and at Kellogg College. In parallel he has worked extensively on the history of mathematics, producing many books and writing diverse educational material.

He is Emeritus Fellow of Kellogg College, Oxford, having been Vice-President of the College and President of the British Society for the History of Mathematics before retiring in 2010. He is a graduate of Queen’s University, Belfast; Linacre College, Oxford; and University College, Dublin where he obtained his PhD.

He enjoys communicating mathematics and its history to non-specialist audiences, as he has done recently on BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time and on transatlantic voyages with the QM2. Two of the most recent books with which he has been involved are The Great Mathematicians, which celebrates the achievements of the great mathematicians in their historical context, and Mathematics in Victorian Britain,which assembles into a single resource research on the history of mathematicians that would otherwise be out of reach of the general reader.

His first year of lectures as Gresham Professor of Geometry was titled Shaping Modern Mathematics:

The 19th Century saw the development of a mathematics profession with people earning their living from teaching, examining and researching and with the mathematical centre of gravity moving from France to Germany. A lot of the mathematics taught at university today was initiated at that time. Whereas in the 18th Century one would use the term mathematician, by the end of the 19th Century one had specialists in analysis, algebra, geometry, number theory, probability and statistics, and applied mathematics. This series of free public lectures looks at the shaping of each of these mathematical areas and at the people who were involved.

Professor Flood continues his Geometry series in the 2015/16 academic year, entitled 'Great Mathematicians, Great Mathematics'.

Professor Flood's previous lecture series' are as follows:

2014/15 Great Mathematicians, Great Mathematics
2013/14 Applying Modern Mathematics
2012/13 Shaping Modern Mathematics

All of Professor Flood's past Gresham lectures can be accessed here.

Current Gresham Professor of Geometry

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