Combinatorial mathematics is concerned with selecting, arranging and counting objects of various kinds. Included under its wide umbrella are permutations and combinations, graphs and networks, certain geometrical problems, and sudoku puzzles. This lecture marks the publication of Combinatorics: Ancient & Modern, edited by Robin Wilson and John J. Watkins and written for a general audience by a galaxy of distinguished historians of science and practising mathematicians. The first ever history of the subject, it has chapters ranging from ancient India and China, via the Islamic world and the Renaissance, to recent topics.
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.