Five of our best lectures by Women Professors

Five great Gresham women speakers

As we celebrate International Women’s Day this March 8th take a look at some of our audience’s most-watched lectures from our women speakers and Professors at Gresham College. These lectures by celebrated and acclaimed women academics cover a range of topics from tales of Africans living in Tudor England to exploring the magnetic fields of the Universe. 

When Galaxies Collide… - with Professor Carolin Crawford 

There is a whole Universe of different shapes, sizes and colours of galaxies. This lecture by our brilliant former Astronomy Professor Carolin Crawford, one of Britain’s foremost science communicators, looks at some of the 'ordinary' galaxies and then moves on to consider the more peculiar systems, discussing quite how and why they came to morph into such strange shapes. 

Black Tudors: Three Untold Stories – with Dr Miranda Kaufmann

Dr Miranda Kaufmann is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and an expert on the history of Africans in Renaissance Britain. She  gave this popular lecture as part of our Black History Month series. It tells the stories of three Africans living in Tudor England – Jacques Francis, a diver employed by Henry VIII to recover guns from the wreck of the Mary Rose; Mary Fillis, a Moroccan woman baptized in Elizabethan London; and Edward Swarthye, a porter who whipped a fellow servant at their master's Gloucestershire manor house. How did they come to England? What were their lives like? How were they treated by the church and the law? Most importantly: were they free? 

Magnetic Universe – with Professor Katherine Blundell OBE

Professor Katherine Blundell has been Gresham Professor of Astronomy since 2019 and is also Professor of Astrophysics at Oxford University. This lecture –her most popular Gresham lecture to date – explores how magnetic fields have mysterious effects that can be dramatically counterintuitive, and they are ubiquitous throughout the Universe and can have influence on large scales. This lecture explores how some of the exotic and energetic phenomena in the Universe can only be explained in terms of these magnetic fields that pervade space. 

The Politics of Fabric and Fashion in Africa: 1960-Today – with Dr Christine Checinska

This lecture was part of our Black History Month series in 2022 – and one our most popular lectures this year! Dr Christine Checinska is the V&A’s inaugural Senior Curator of African and African Diaspora Fashion and Lead Curator of the Africa Fashion exhibition. She tells the story of how fashion changed after 1960 a key milestone when over seventeen countries rid themselves of colonial rule and a new sense of pride in being Black and African was expressed through myriad artforms, notably via the fashioning of the body. The lecture explores how fibre and fabric carried meaning in the moment of independence and carries meaning now in the cutting-edge work of Africa’s contemporary fashion creatives, Aphia Sakyi, Thebe Magugu and Artsi Ifrach. 

Where do Mathematical Symbols Come From – with Professor Sarah Hart

Professor Sarah Hart is the first woman Professor of Geometry at Gresham College and was appointed in 2020. This is her most popular Gresham lecture to date. In it she asks, where do we get our mathematical symbols from? Why is the set of integers called ℤ? When was the equals sign first used? How about zero? Good notation tends to catch on quickly, whereas bad notation can obscure beautiful theory. The lecture explores how the introduction of new notation has paved the way for new leaps in understanding, and considers some mathematical quirks of language, such as what the number 4 in English has in common with the number 11 in Russian.