Unsung Heroes of Ancient Egypt: the anonymous mathematicians

Unsung Heroes of Science Celebration Day, Hertford College, Oxford, delivered online, 30 June 2020

Among the ultimate unsung heroes of science are those who developed scientific ideas in ancient civilisations – because we don't even know their names. In this talk, I will give a short account of what (mostly) unknown people achieved in mathematics in ancient Egypt.

Parallel lines down the centuries

Bodleian Library Lates: Thinking 3D, Weston Library, Oxford, 12th June 2019

In the third century BC, Euclid of Alexandria stated as one of his basic assumptions of geometry that parallel lines must meet at infinity. For Euclid, this was an obvious truth about the way that geometry works in the real world around us; unlike his other assumptions, however, it clearly could not be tested. Thus, in the centuries that followed, mathematicians worried a great deal about Euclid’s assumption on parallel lines: do we really need to assume it, or is it in fact a consequence of his other assumptions? Is it possible to make geometry ‘work’ without it? It was not until the nineteenth century that these questions received satisfactory answers – but these were answers that caused mathematicians to reassess the fundamental nature of geometry, and even of mathematics itself.

Ada Lovelace: Mathematical Learner

Talk to Oxford Mirzakhani Society, Mathematical Institute, Oxford, 24th February 2019

A biographical account of Lovelace life and work, and a survey of recent research thereon.

Mathematics and competition: scientific communication during the Cold War

Talk to STEM Society, Oxford High School, 12th March 2018

A brief survey of the ups and downs of East-West scientific communication during the twentieth century, and during the Cold War in particular, with a focus on mathematics, and an indication of how some Western and Soviet approaches to the same mathematical topics differed.

Ada Lovelace and her mentors

Skype lecture for Ada Lovelace Day, University of Edinburgh, 11th October 2016

A brief summary of the education and scientific work of Ada Lovelace, with a particular focus on the figures who influenced her either as tutors or mentors.

Ebbe og flod: Cold War scientific communication

Talk to visiting students, Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, 5th April 2016

I give a brief overview of the ups and downs of East-West scientific communication during the twentieth century, and during the Cold War in particular.

Ada Lovelace: 19th-century mathematician and computer scientist

STEM Access Event, Wadham College, Oxford, 24th November 2015

A short account of Ada's life, and an indication of why she is famous.

Sistemas de algarismos não-posicionais

Talk to 'C-infinito': Clube de Matemática da FCUL, 1st October 2009

Com muitos exemplos da história, falarei sobre os sistemas de algarismos em geral, e os sistemas não-posicionais em particular. Examinarei o desenvolvimento destes sistemas e compararei sistemas diferentes.

With lots of examples from history, I will speak about systems of numerals in general, and non-positional systems in particular. I will examine the development of these systems and compare different systems.