Gresham Lectures

Gresham College in London has been presenting mathematics lectures to the public since 1598, when Henry Briggs (co-inventor of logarithms) was appointed the first Gresham Professor of Geometry. Later holders of that Chair have included Isaac Barrow, Robert Hooke, and more recently Sir Christopher Zeeman, Ian Stewart and Sir Roger Penrose. The current position now covers all areas of mathematics, not just geometry.

In 2007, the Society and Gresham College established a yearly joint lecture with the Society providing the speakers while Gresham provides the attractive venue and covers the costs of the lecture and a reception. These events are usually held in May.

Past lectures (video and transcripts available)

2018 Mathematical Research from Toy Models

Professor Tadashi Tokieda (Stanford University)

‘Toy’ here has a special sense: an object of daily life which you can find or make in minutes, yet which, if played with imaginatively, reveal behaviours that keep seasoned mathematicians and physicists puzzled for a while. The lecture consists of table top demos of such toys, together with simple, robust modelling of what is going on. The theme that emerges is singularity.

2017 Mathematics Can Make You Fly?

Dr Carola Bibiane-Schonlieb (University of Cambridge)

Well, not quite. But it can make you seem to be flying, virtually. Some of the mathematical principles that can be used for creating such an effect will be discussed, with a focus on partial differential equations used for such a virtual image manipulation or restoration task. After lifting the mystery on the flying mathematician, we will see that such principles can be used beyond special effects, in the reconstruction of crucial information in satellite images of our earth, restoration of MR images in molecular imaging to the renovation of digital photographs and medieval artwork.

2016, Mathematics, Measurement and Money

Professor Norman Biggs (LSE)

Throughout its brief history, mathematics has been closely linked with measurement and money. In the ancient settlements the rules of arithmetic and geometry were used to solve problems about the allocation of food and resources. When life became more complex, the use of coined money led to computational problems that required good algorithms for their solution.

Nowadays we rely on mathematics for security, and the links between information and money have become blurred. Can mathematics keep us safe?

2015, Geometry: A New Weapon in the Fight Against Viruses

Professor Reidun Twarock (University of York)

Viruses like the common cold look like tiny footballs and mathematics can therefore help to understand how they form and evolve. Our highly interdisciplinary approach in understanding and combating viruses, in which mathematics plays a key role, provides surprising new avenues in our fight against viral disease.

2014, The Secret Mathematicians

Professor Marcus du  Sautoy,OBE (University of Oxford)

From composers to painters, writers to choreographers, the mathematician’s palette of shapes, patterns and numbers has proved a powerful inspiration. Artists can be subconsciously drawn to the same structures that fascinate mathematicians as they hunt for interesting new structures to frame their creative process. 

Professor du Sautoy will explore the hidden mathematical ideas that underpin the creative output of well-known artists and reveal that the work of the mathematician is also driven by strong aesthetic values.

2013, Mathematics, the Next Generation

Professor Peter Cameron (Queen Mary, University of London)

Mathematics is important to us all.  So it is important to enable young mathematicians, clear-thinking and passionate about their subject, to contribute at the highest level.  Peter Cameron spoke about his experience designing and presenting a course for first-semester university students aiming to produce mathematicians.

2012, Home Office Mathematics

Professor Bernard Silverman (Chief Scientific Adviser to the Home Office)

The Chief Scientific Adviser is the head of Home Office Science, which provides scientific advice and support to the whole range of the Home Office's work as the lead government department for immigration and passports, drugs policy, crime, counter-terrorism and police. Many aspects of our scientific work involve mathematics, and in this talk a selection will be presented. These show not only how mathematics is used by one particular government department, but also how wide is the range of topics where mathematical thinking and methods are important.

2011, Undecidable and Decidable Problems in Mathematics

Professor Angus Macintyre (Queen Mary, University of London)

What are the limits of proof, and what follows? – A timely look at the life and mathematical work of Alan Turing. As we approach the centenary of his birth, this lecture offers a chance to learn more about perhaps Britain’s most famous modern mathematician.

2010, Indra’s Pearls:Geometry and Symmetry

Professor Caroline Series (University of Warwick)

A Buddhist myth describes the heaven of Indra as containing a net of pearls, each of which was reflected in its neighbour, so that the whole Universe was mirrored in each pearl. Join Caroline Series on the path from basic mathematical ideas to simple algorithms whose repetition creates delicate fractal filigrees which are only now beginning to be fully explored.

2009, Mathematics and Smallpox

Professor Tom Körner (University of Cambridge)

250 years ago Daniel Bernoulli used mathematics and statistics to try to weigh the risks and benefits of inoculation against smallpox. The arguments of Bernoulli and his critics still remain relevant today.

2008, Cancer can give you Maths!

Professor Philip Maini (University of Oxford)

Verbal reasoning alone cannot be used to understand the outcome of the complex interactions that typically comprise biological function, so more and more researchers are turning to mathematical and computational modelling to gain insights on experimental results. Some approaches and advances will be illustrated concerning understanding the basic dynamics of solid tumour growth.

2007, Multiplying and dividing whole numbers: why it is more difficult than you might think

Professor Timothy Gowers (University of Cambridge)

2006, Can maths catch criminals and bring them to justice?

Professor Chris Budd (University of Bath)

Mathematical techinques lie at the heart of modern forensic methods for investigating crime and bringing the criminal to justice. Across all fields of crime detection and analysis, we encounter a rich range of applications of mathematical, statistical and probabilistic methods. This talk showed a broad range of mathematical and statistical methods used to bring the criminal to justice.