Past Oxford Mathematics Public Lectures

1 October 2015
Oxford Mathematics Public Lectures
This lecture has now sold out
There will be a special public lecture at 5pm on October 1 in the Andrew Wiles Building at Oxford University, during the week of the Clay Mathematics Institute’s annual Research Conference.  The lecture will be given in English by the French Mathematician Étienne Ghys and will be designed for A-level students (and above). After the lecture, Professor Ghys will be presented with the first Clay Award for the Dissemination of Mathematical Knowledge.
Nineteenth century observations of the behaviour of smoke rings and fluid vortices inspired an ingenious but misconceived model of the atom, a flawed proposal that nonetheless gave birth to the modern theory of knots. The chain of ideas has now come full circle with recent theoretical and experimental results on the existence of knotted vortices.

Clay Award for Dissemination 

The first Clay Award for Dissemination of Mathematical Knowledge has been made to Étienne Ghys in recognition of his own important contributions to mathematical research and for his distinguished work in the promotion of mathematics. 

Étienne Ghys  is a CNRS Directeur de Recherche at ENS, Lyon.  He has published outstanding  work in his own fields of geometry and dynamics,  both under his own name and under the collaborative pseudonym “Henri Paul de Saint Gervais”—contributions recognised by invitations to speak at the International Congress in 1990 and by his elevation to the French Académie des Sciences in 2004.  He has also given invaluable service to the international mathematical community in many contexts, as a member of the program committee for the ICM in Hyderabad, as a member of the Fields Medal committee in 2014, and through service on many other bodies. 

But it  is through his work in the promotion of mathematics in France and elsewhere that he has become a legend.  He has given numerous carefully crafted lectures to audiences ranging from school children to delegates at the International Congress in 2006, when he gave a beautiful and exceptionally clear plenary lecture on Knots and dynamics.  He has enthusiastically embraced modern technology to aid the exposition of deep ideas, for example during his editorship of Images des mathématiques, which he transformed to an online publication in 2009, and which received more than five million visits over his five-year term of office. He himself has written more than 90 articles for Images, as well as a monthly column in Le Monde.  

He created with others the Maison de mathématiques et informatique  in Lyon and co-founded, with Dierk Schleicher, the International summer school of mathematics for young students. His series of films, produced with Aurélien Alvarez and Jos Leys and published as DVDs and online in many languages, has had a huge impact on high school students.  The first, Dimensionshas been downloaded more than a million times.


  • Oxford Mathematics Public Lectures
16 June 2015
Gábor Domokos

In 1995, celebrated Russian mathematician V.I. Arnold conjectured that, contrary to common belief, convex, homogeneous solids with just two static balance points ("weebles without a bottom weight") may exist. Ten years later, based on a constructive proof, the first such object, dubbed "Gömböc", was built. In the process leading to the discovery, several curious properties of the shape emerged and evidently some tropical turtles had evolved similar shells for the purpose of self-righting.

This Public Lecture will describe those properties as well as explain the journey of discovery, the mathematics behind the journey, the parallels with molecular biology and the latest Gömböc thinking, most notably Arnold's second major conjecture, namely that the Gömböc in Nature is not the origin, rather the ultimate goal of shape evolution.

Please email to register.

  • Oxford Mathematics Public Lectures
10 June 2015

Artist Antoni Malinowski has been commissioned to produce a major wall painting in the foyer of the new Mathematical Institute in Oxford, the Andrew Wiles Building. To celebrate and introduce that work Antoni and a series of distinguished speakers will demonstrate the different impacts and perceptions of colour produced by the micro-structure of the pigments, from an explanation of the pigments themselves to an examination of how the brain perceives colour.


Jo Volley, Gary Woodley and Malina Busch, the Pigment Timeline Project, Slade School of Fine Art, University College London

‘Pigment Timeline’

Dr. Ruth Siddall - Senior Lecturer in Earth Sciences, University College London

‘Pigments: microstructure and origins?’  

Antoni Malinowski

‘Spectrum Materialised’ 

Prof. Hannah Smithson Associate Professor, Experimental Psychology, University of Oxford and Tutorial Fellow, Pembroke College

‘Colour Perception‘

11.30am, Lecture Theatre 1

Mathematical Institute, University of Oxford

Andrew Wiles Building

Radcliffe Observatory Quarter

No booking required


  • Oxford Mathematics Public Lectures
10 March 2015
Cedric Villani

Oxford Mathematics Public Lectures

Inaugural Titchmarsh Lecture


Cédric Villani

Birth of an Idea: A Mathematical Adventure 

What goes on inside the mind of a mathematician? Where does inspiration come from? Cédric Villani will describe how he encountered obstacles and setbacks, losses of faith and even brushes with madness as he wrestled with the theorem that culminated in him winning the most prestigious prize in mathematics, the Fields Medal. Cédric will sign copies of his book after the lecture.


Lecture Theatre 1, Mathematical Institute, Andrew Wiles Building, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Woodstock Road, OX2 6GG

Please email to register

Cedric Villani is a Professor at the University of Lyon and Director of the Institut Henri Poincaré

  • Oxford Mathematics Public Lectures
21 November 2014
Robin Wilson

The entire history of mathematics in one hour, as illustrated by around 300 postage stamps featuring mathematics and mathematicians from across the world.

From Euclid to Euler, from Pythagoras to Poincaré, and from Fibonacci to the Fields Medals, all are featured in attractive, charming and sometimes bizarre stamps. No knowledge of mathematics or philately required.

  • Oxford Mathematics Public Lectures
14 November 2014
The atomic bomb and meltdowns like Fukushima have made nuclear power synonymous with global disaster. But what if we’ve got nuclear power wrong? An audience favourite at the Sundance Film Festival, 'Pandora's Promise' asks whether the one technology we fear most could save our planet from a climate catastrophe, while providing the energy needed to lift billions of people in the developing world out of poverty. Director Robert Stone and acclaimed climate change writer Mark Lynas will attend and take questions after the screening.
  • Oxford Mathematics Public Lectures
29 October 2014
Viktor Mayer-Schonberger
Big Data promises to change all sectors of our economy, and deeply affect our society. But beyond the current hype, what are Big Data's salient qualities, and do they warrant the high hopes? How will Big Data shape businesses, especially the financial services industry? What do we need to harness Big Data? And where are Big Data's limits? These are some of the questions that will be addressed in this talk
This lecture celebrates the opening of the Oxford-Nie Financial Big Data Laboratory made possible through the generous support of Financial Data Technologies Ltd. The lecture will be preceded by a brief opening ceremony presided over by Professor Andrew Hamilton, Vice-Chancellor, University of Oxford and followed by a drinks reception.

Viktor Mayer-Schönberger is Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at the University of Oxford's Internet Institute. He is also a faculty affiliate of Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Together with Kenneth Cukier he is the co-author of the international bestseller Big Data.





  • Oxford Mathematics Public Lectures
25 October 2014
26 October 2014

Struggling for ideas at the weekends? Learn how to draw with colour and discover the creation of colour from our natural environment. Have a go at making your own natural paint colours. Create your own mini planet inspired by alchemy and the Radcliffe Observatory. Paint making demonstrations throughout the day with artist Nabil Al. All materials provided. Suitable for all ages from 6 to 60. Invite your friends.


  • Oxford Mathematics Public Lectures