Not necessarily, for example the average person has fewer than two legs! This is because some people have fewer than two legs but nobody has more than two, so dividing the total number of legs by the total number of people to get the average gives a number less than two. Average does not mean typical! The lecture will examine how the work in the 19th century of such mathematicians as Florence Nightingale, Adolphe Queteller and Karl Pearson on describing and quantifying variation and uncertainty laid the foundations for the theory of statistics as a mathematical discipline.
The transcript and downloadable versions of the lecture are available from the Gresham College website:
Gresham College has been giving free public lectures since 1597. This tradition continues today with all of our five or so public lectures a week being made available for free download from our website. There are currently nearly 1,500 lectures free to access or download from the website.
Professor Raymond Flood
Raymond Flood has spent most of his
academic life promoting mathematics and computing to adult audiences, mainly
through his position as University Lecturer at OxfordUniversity, in the Continuing
Education Department and at KelloggCollege. In parallel he
has worked extensively on the history of mathematics, producing many books and
writing diverse educational material.
is Emeritus Fellow of Kellogg College, Oxford,
having been Vice-President of the College and President of the British Society
for the History of Mathematics before retiring in 2010. He is a graduate of
Queen’s University, Belfast; Linacre College, Oxford; and University College, Dublin where he obtained his PhD.
enjoys communicating mathematics and its history to non-specialist audiences,
as he has done recently on BBC Radio 4’sIn Our Timeand on transatlantic voyages with the
QM2. Two of the most recent books with which he has been involved areThe
celebrates the achievements of the great mathematicians in their historical
context, and Mathematics in Victorian
Britain, which assembles into a single resource research on the
history of mathematicians that would otherwise be out of reach of the general
The 19thCentury saw the development of a
mathematics profession with people earning their living from teaching,
examining and researching and with the mathematical centre of gravity moving
from France to Germany. A lot
of the mathematics taught at university today was initiated at that time. Whereas
in the 18thCentury
one would use the termmathematician, by the end of the 19thCentury one had specialists inanalysis,
algebra, geometry, number theory, probabilityand
statistics, andapplied mathematics. This series of free
public lectures looks at the shaping of each of these mathematical areas and at
the people who were involved.
the succeeding years he will choose topics illustrating how mathematics has
developed more recently and, in particular, what mathematics can, cannot, and
hopes to achieve.