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As educational funding is disproportionally being directed towards STEM subjects and holders of related university degrees enjoy work visa privileges, now more than ever we view mathematics as an irreplaceable part of our educational systems. However, most of us tend not to recall the many algebra and geometry classes we sat through during our secondary education among our most exciting or fulfilling school memories. Why is that? Does knowledge and practice of mathematics benefit us personally or on a societal level? We often find ourselves utilising it to add weight to our claims and propositions; what makes mathematical truth unique and how does it affect other fields of human endeavour?
In June last year, then Justice Secretary Michael Gove proclaimed that “people in this country have had enough of experts”. Does that change the role of mathematics in today’s society? How should we navigate this new landscape?
We are excited to announce that History of Mathematics Professor in the Department of Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics, University of Cambridge and storyteller extraordinaire Dr Piers Bursill-Hall will join us for this salon to guide our discussion, enrich it with historical context, and offer his perspective on the topics at hand.
TO THE MEMORY OF FOURIER
[A PROFOUND MATHEMATICIAN, AUTHOR OF ‘LA THEORIE DE LA CHALEUR’]
‘Fourier! With solemn and profound delight,
Joy born of awe, but kindling momently
To an intense and thrilling ecstasy,
I gaze upon thy glory and grow bright:
As if irradiate with beholden light;
As if the immortal that remains of thee
Attuned me to thy Spirit’s harmony,
Breathing serene resolve and tranquil might.
Revealed appear thy silent thoughts of youth,
As if to consciousness, and all that view
Prophetic, of the heritage of truth
To thy majestic years of manhood due:
Darkness and error fleeing far away,
And the pure mind enthroned in perfect day.
Sir William Rowan Hamilton, October