First woman to hold historic Geometry (Maths) Professorship

Thought to be oldest Maths Professorship in UK

First lecture series: Mathematics in Music and Writing


Gresham College, London’s oldest Higher Education Institution, is delighted to announce the appointment of Sarah Hart as Gresham Professor of Geometry.

She will succeed Chris Budd as Geometry Professor. Past Gresham Geometry Professors include Henry Briggs, Robert Hooke, Karl Pearson, Sir Roger Penrose, and John D Barrow; and the position is thought to be the oldest Mathematical chair in Britain.

Sarah Hart will be the first woman to hold the position in its 423-year history.

Professor Hart is Professor of Mathematics at Birkbeck, University of London, with specialist research interests in the area of pure mathematics known as group theory. She is Vice-President of the British Society for the History of Mathematics and a keen mathematics communicator, speaking to a wide variety of audiences at numerous public lectures as well as talks in schools; she has also appeared regularly in the media.

Professor Sarah Hart said: “I was inspired by Gresham lectures on Mathematics by Christopher Zeeman when I was still at school. I particularly remember being impressed by a talk he gave on the mathematics of dressmaking, which introduced the concepts of topology and geometry in such a clear and entertaining manner. I’ve been attending Gresham events when I can ever since.

“I am incredibly excited to become part of Gresham’s mission of free adult education, helping people become inspired by mathematics, and I’m especially delighted to be the first woman mathematician in this role.”

As Gresham Professor of Geometry Sarah Hart will continue the College’s tradition of delivering free public lectures within the City of London and beyond. During the academic year, Gresham College fills auditoriums for its lectures – a total of 130 a year. 

All Gresham lectures are live-streamed. More than 2,500 past lectures are freely available to view on the College’s website. The Geometry Professorship is one of the original seven Gresham Professorships established in Thomas Gresham’s will of 1575.

Sir Richard J Evans, Provost of Gresham College, said: “Professor Sarah Hart is a great mathematics communicator and we’re delighted she’s joining us as Gresham College’s Professor of Geometry. It’s also an historic moment for the College as she becomes the first woman to be appointed Gresham Professor of Geometry since the chair was established in 1597.”

The Lectures

A series of six free public lectures a year is delivered by each of the College’s ten Professors. These are augmented by series presented by Visiting Professors and as many as 40 individual lectures from a range of illustrious speakers selected from the worlds of academia, the arts, law, medicine, politics and industry.

In 2020-21, Professor Hart will be lecturing on Mathematics in Music and Writing, part of a three-year exploration of Mathematics, Culture and Creativity.

1. The Mathematics of Musical Composition, 13 October 2020, 1pm-2pm Museum of London/ online

2. The Sound of Mathematics, 17 November 2020, 1pm-2pm, Museum of London/ online

3. The Mathematics of Bell Ringing, 5 January 2021, 1pm-2pm, Museum of London/ online

4. Mathematical Journeys into Fictional Worlds, 9 February 2021, 1pm-2pm, Museum of London/ online

5. Mathematical Structure in Fiction, 9 March 2021, 1pm-2pm Museum of London/ online

6. Where do Mathematical Symbols come from? 27 April 2021, 1pm-2pm, Museum of London/ online

About Professor Sarah Hart

Sarah Hart is Professor of Mathematics and Head of Mathematics and Statistics at Birkbeck, University of London.

She studied at Oxford and Manchester, gaining her PhD in 2000. Postdoctoral research and teaching followed, including a prestigious Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Fellowship, before she was appointed to a lectureship at Birkbeck in 2004. She has been Professor of Mathematics there since 2013. She is also Vice President of the British Society for the History of Mathematics.

Sarah is an active researcher, publishing mainly in the area of pure mathematics known as group theory, which has many applications both inside and outside of mathematics, for example in coding theory and cryptography. She is passionate about communicating mathematics and is a sought-after public speaker. She is particularly interested in the links between mathematics, culture and creativity: many of her public lectures and talks in schools are on this topic, especially on mathematics and art.

More information about the Professorship can be found here: https://www.gresham.ac.uk/professorships/geometry-professorship/

Gresham During Coronavirus/ COVID-19

During the lockdown period in the UK Gresham College has been trying to live-stream as many lectures as possible online direct from Professors’ homes.

Note to Editors: Further information from Lucia Graves in the press office: 07799 738 439 or l.graves (at) gresham.ac.uk. Press tickets are available for all lectures, please email Lucia to reserve a seat for any of our lectures.