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Is History Important?

In the novel I, Claudius, Robert Graves imagines a conversation between three Roman historians: Claudius, Livy and Pollio. After a long argument involving moral decline and sulphurous sheep, the young Claudius comes to the conclusion that:

“…There are two different ways of writing history: one is to persuade men to virtue, the other is to compel men to truth”

Paper about teaching using ‘unplanned impact’

I have a paper published online-first by BSHM Bulletin: Journal of the British Society for the History of Mathematics. This means it is online and will be in an upcoming issue.

My title is: ‘The unplanned impact of mathematics’ and its implications for research funding: a discussion-led educational activity.


‘George Green’s Mathematical Influences’ — audio now available

I recently gave a public talk about George Green’s mathematical education and influences, the audio for which is now available online.

Beautiful Science at the British Library


The British Library has an exhibition on at the moment that you might like to see.

Beautiful Science: Picturing Data, Inspiring Insight is all about data visualisation. Here’s the blurb:

Turning numbers into pictures that tell important stories and reveal the meaning held within is an essential part of what it means to be a scientist. This is as true in today’s era of genome sequencing and climate models as it was in the 19th century.

Beautiful Science explores how our understanding of ourselves and our planet has evolved alongside our ability to represent, graph and map the mass data of the time.

From John Snow’s plotting of the 1854 London cholera infections on a map to colourful depictions of the tree of life, discover how picturing scientific data provides new insight into our lives.

Beautiful Science is in the British Library’s Folio Society Gallery until the 26th of May and admission is free.

More information

Beautiful Science at the British Library.

Why maths isn’t like science (and may be evil)

Yesterday I gave a talk to the Nottingham Trent University Maths Society, ‘A brief history of mathematics: 5,000 years from Egypt to Nottingham Trent’. I had a slide in this where I said something about what the Greek style of proof means for mathematics. It has helped me put my finger on something of why mathematics isn’t like science, and I thought I would share it here so I can look it up when I’ve forgotten again.

Recent history

I am preparing a talk for our undergraduate Maths Society (perhaps ill-advisedly) with the title ‘A brief history of mathematics: 5,000 years from Egypt to Nottingham Trent’. This will be a stampede through some very selected hightlights, starting with some arm waving about pyramids and ending with something modern. In fact, as well as some recent results that have been reported on this site this year, I intend to end with a recent piece of research published in the department (and a colleague has promised a nice picture of a brain for this1).

Relatedly, a colleague who teaches on our Financial Mathematics degree suggested I include Black–Scholes in my talk, as one of the most recent results included in an undergraduate degree. It’s from 1973. Can we do better? I asked Twitter.

  1. Something to do with complexity and computational graph theory. []