Early Mathematics

Gresham College

A look at the history of early mathematics, where fundamental mathematical ideas originated and what evidence we have. The emphasis is on the historical development of mathematical techniques.These talks come from a conference held at Gresham College in May 2011.

Course Lectures
  • A short introduction to early mathematics, spanning the globe from Egypt to Greece and on to India, by Robin Wilson, Emeritus Gresham Professor of Geometry.

  • What is the mathematical significance of certain prehistoric objects that have been unearthed in northern Scotland? This lecture is given by Tony Mann, Head of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Greenwich.

  • An examination of the role of numeracy within ancient civilisations, by Dr Serafina Cuomo of Birkbeck, University of London.

  • In 1900 a group of sponge divers blown off course in the Mediterranean discovered an Ancient Greek shipwreck dating from around 70 BC. Lying unnoticed for months amongst their hard-won haul was what appeared to be a formless lump of corroded rock. It turned out to be the most stunning scientific artefact we have from antiquity. For more than a century this 'Antikythera mechanism' puzzled academics. It was ancient clockwork, unmatched in complexity for 1000 years - but who could have made it, and what was it for? Now, more than 2000 years after the device was lost at sea, scientists have pieced together its intricate workings and revealed its secrets.

  • One day on YouTube, Alex Bellos saw a video of an amazing mathematical "trick". He wanted to know more about this 'Vedic Mathematics', so he got on a plane to India. This is a lecture about his journey that touched on mathematics, mysticism, Indian history, nationalism and culture.