Device is incompatible to play the video
Monday, 28 September 2020, 4:30PM - 5:30PM
Online Lecture

Number Theory: Queen of Mathematics

Professor Robin Wilson

In which years does February have five Sundays? How many right-angled triangles with whole-number sides have a side of length 29? How many shuffles are needed to restore the order of the cards in a pack with two Jokers? Are any of the numbers 11, 111, 1111, 11111, . . . perfect squares? Can one construct a regular polygon with 100 sides if measuring is forbidden? How do prime numbers help to keep our credit cards secure?

These are all questions in number theory, the branch of mathematics that’s primarily concerned with our counting numbers, 1, 2, 3, etc. Of particular importance are the prime numbers, the ‘building blocks’ of our number system.

The subject is an old one, dating back to the ancient Greeks, and for many years has been studied for its intrinsic beauty and elegance, not least because several of its challenges are so easy to state that everyone can understand them, and yet no-one has ever been able to resolve them.

This lecture situates the above problems and puzzles in their historical context, drawing on the work of many of the greatest mathematicians of the past, such as Euclid, Fermat, Euler and Gauss. Indeed, as Gauss, sometimes described as the ‘Prince of Mathematics’, has claimed: Mathematics is the Queen of the Sciences, and Number Theory is the Queen of Mathematics.


Register for Online Lecture


Given Covid-19, we are live-streaming all our lectures online in 2020-21 and aim to re-introduce in-person lectures gradually as social distancing rules change.

To attend lectures online, please register using the button above. This also allows us to let you know how to book in-person tickets when they are reintroduced. The registration process is simple, free, and only requires an email address.

Speaker_RobinWilson_370x370.JPG

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.

Read More
Read Less
Related Future Lectures
Related Past Lectures
WATCHED

The World of Isaac Newton

Professor Raymond Flood
Monday, 28 September 2020 - 6:00PM
WATCHED
Part of a series

The Mathematics of Musical Composition

Professor Sarah Hart
Tuesday, 13 October 2020 - 1:00PM
WATCHED
Part of a series

Maths and Money: From Gold to Bitcoin

Professor Norman Biggs
Wednesday, 21 October 2020 - 4:00PM
WATCHED
Part of a series

The Sound of Mathematics

Professor Sarah Hart
Tuesday, 17 November 2020 - 1:00PM
WATCHED
Part of a series

The Mathematics of Bell Ringing

Professor Sarah Hart
Tuesday, 5 January 2021 - 1:00PM
WATCHED

Will Computers Outsmart Mathematicians?

Professor Kevin Buzzard
Wednesday, 20 January 2021 - 6:00PM
WATCHED
Part of a series

Equations That Have Changed The World

Professor Chris Budd OBE
Tuesday, 28 April 2020 - 1:00PM
WATCHED
Part of a series

The Art of Maths

Professor Chris Budd OBE
Tuesday, 10 March 2020 - 1:00PM
WATCHED
Part of a series

Engineering: Archimedes of Syracuse

Professor Edith Hall
Thursday, 5 March 2020 - 1:00PM
WATCHED
Part of a series

Great Mathematical Myths

Professor Chris Budd OBE
Tuesday, 11 February 2020 - 1:00PM
WATCHED
Part of a series

Can Maths Save The Whales and Cure Cancer?

Professor Chris Budd OBE
Tuesday, 7 January 2020 - 1:00PM
WATCHED
Part of a series

Maths and Voting

Professor Chris Budd OBE
Tuesday, 12 November 2019 - 1:00PM
WATCHED

The World of Isaac Newton

Professor Raymond Flood
Monday, 28 September 2020 - 6:00PM
WATCHED

The Mathematical World of C. L. Dodgson (Lewis Carroll)

Professor Robin Wilson
Monday, 21 October 2019 - 6:00PM
WATCHED

Euler's Equation: 'The Most Beautiful Theorem in Mathematics'

Professor Robin Wilson
Thursday, 15 February 2018 - 6:00PM
WATCHED
Part of a series
Part of a conference

Pi and e and the the most beautiful theorem in mathematics

Professor Robin Wilson
Wednesday, 25 October 2017 - 6:00PM
WATCHED

The Mathematics that Counts

Professor Robin Wilson
Thursday, 10 October 2013 - 6:00PM
WATCHED

The Great Mathematicians

Professor Robin Wilson
Wednesday, 19 October 2011 - 6:00PM
WATCHED

Is Learning Like Crossing A Desert?

Professor Tadashi Tokieda
Tuesday, 21 August 2018 - 10:00AM
WATCHED

The Enigma Machine: How it Works

Professor Raymond Flood
Tuesday, 19 April 2016 - 1:10PM
WATCHED

The Fly Puzzle and Von Neumann's Response

Professor Raymond Flood
Tuesday, 19 April 2016 - 1:05PM
WATCHED

Three Great Mathematicians: Hardy, Littlewood, and Hardy-Littlewood

Professor Raymond Flood
Tuesday, 15 March 2016 - 1:05PM
WATCHED
Part of a series

Explaining Relativity with a Pencil

Professor Raymond Flood
Tuesday, 20 October 2015 - 1:20PM
WATCHED
Part of a series

Principles of Relativity: Einstein and Galileo

Professor Raymond Flood
Tuesday, 20 October 2015 - 1:15PM