Mathematical Identity


Twenty Second Annual Darwin College Lecture Series 2007

Lecture 4   :   9 February

Marcus du Sautoy

Oxford University



The walls of the Alhambra in Grenada are covered in a cascade of different colours and shapes. But through the mathematician's glasses there are only 17 different symmetries possible on the palace walls. What does it mean for two totally different images to have identical symmetries? Mathematics is full of different ways of looking at the world where seemingly different objects become identical under the mathematicians microscope. Equations too represent a dialogue between the right and left hand side of the equals side where the mathematics magically transforms one idea into an often seemingly unrelated idea. Yet the logical proof behind the equation reveals an identity between the two concepts.


Marcus du Sautoy is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Wadham College. He is Senior Media Fellow at the EPSRC. He has been named by the Independent on Sunday as one of the UK's leading scientists. In 2001 he won the prestigious Berwick Prize of the London Mathematical Society awarded every two years to reward the best mathematical research made by a mathematician under 40. In 2004 Esquire Magazine chose him as one of the 100 most influential people under 40 in Britain. He is author of numerous academic articles and books on mathematics. He has been a visiting Professor at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, the Max Planck Institute in Bonn, the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Australian National University in Canberra. Marcus du Sautoy is author of the best-selling popular mathematics book "The Music of the Primes" published by Fourth Estate and translated into 10 languages. It has won two major prizes in Italy and Germany for the best popular science book of the year. Marcus du Sautoy writes for the Times, Daily Telegraph, Independent and the Guardian and is frequently asked for comment on BBC radio and television. In September 2004 he presented his own series 5 Shapes on Radio 4. He is also presenter of BBC4's TV game show Mind Games, for which he has been nominated for the Royal Society of Television's Best Newcomer to a Network award. In 2005 he presented a one hour documentary for BBC4 based on his book The Music of the Primes. He will be giving the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures in 2006 entitled THE NUM8ER MY5TERIES, to be broadcast on Channel Five. His presentations on mathematics, which include `Why Beckham chose the 23 shirt', have played to a wide range of audiences: from theatre directors to bankers, from diplomats to prison inmates. Marcus du Sautoy plays the trumpet and football. Like Beckham he also plays in a prime number shirt, no 17, for Recreativo FC based in the Hackney Marshes. Born in 1965, he lives in London with his wife, three children and cat Freddie Ljungberg. 

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