A lecture to mark the publication of Robin Wilson and Raymond Flood's new book. Mathematics pervades our daily lives. Our credit cards and the nation's defence are kept secure largely due to the properties of prime numbers, and mathematics is intimately involved whenever we fly in an aeroplane, predict the weather or analyse data. But what mathematics is involved, and who first introduced it? Raymond Flood and Robin Wilson describe some interesting mathematicians' contributions.
Professor Robin Wilson is Emeritus Gresham Professor of Geometry, a professor in the Department of Mathematics at the Open University, and a Stipendiary Lecturer at Pembroke College, Oxford. Professor Wilson also regularly teaches as a guest Professor at Colorado College.
Professor Wilson's academic interests lie in graph theory, particularly in colouring problems, e.g. the four colour problem, and algebraic properties of graphs. He also researches the history of mathematics, particularly British mathematics and mathematics in the 17th century and the period 1860 to 1940 and the history of graph theory and combinatorics.
Outside of the strict mathematical canon, Professor Wilson is particularly interested in the musical output of Gilbert and Sullivan - an interest that has given rise to publications and two Gresham College lectures: 'The Other Side of Sullivan' and 'A Sing-In with Gilbert and Sullivan'.
Prior to his appointment as Gresham Professor of Geometry in 2004, he was the Visiting Professor in the History of Mathematics. Upon his appointment to the Geometry chair, Professor Wilson said: "Mathematics is, and has always been a central part of human culture, and I do not believe that one can fully understand the subject if it is separated from its historical roots. My proposed lectures are designed to support this conviction."
All of Professor Wilson's past lectures can be accessed here.
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:
All of Professor Flood's past Gresham lectures can be accessed here.