In 1972 the meteorologist, Edward Lorenz, delivered a lecture with the title Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly's Wings in Brazil Set off a Tornado in Texas? In this he showed that dynamical systems can exhibit chaotic, seemingly random, behaviour. Many scientists think that this ranks as one of the main scientific advances of the twentieth century together with relativity and quantum theory. I will also talk about how the butterfly effect links chaos and the beautiful geometric objects, fractals.
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 over 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 Oxford University, in the Continuing Education Department and at Kellogg College. In parallel he has worked extensively on the history of mathematics, producing many books and writing diverse educational material.
He 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.
He enjoys communicating mathematics and its history to non-specialist audiences, as he has done recently on BBC Radio 4's In Our Time and on transatlantic voyages with the QM2. Two of the most recent books with which he has been involved are The Great Mathematicians, which 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 reader.
His first year of lectures as Gresham Professor of Geometry will be on Shaping Modern Mathematics:
The 19th Century 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 18th Century one would use the term mathematician, by the end of the 19th Century one had specialists in analysis, algebra, geometry, number theory, probability and statistics, and applied mathematics. This series of free public lectures looks at the shaping of each of these mathematical areas and at the people who were involved.
In 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.