Brief History of Mathematics

This ten part history of mathematics from Newton to the present day, reveals the personalities behind the calculations: the passions and rivalries of mathematicians struggling to get their ideas heard. Professor Marcus du Sautoy shows how these masters of abstraction find a role in the real world and proves that mathematics is the driving force behind modern science.

1 Newton and Leibniz

The story of two late 17th century mathematicians who worked on the same problem at the same time – the calculus – in which the great hero of British science, Newton, reveals himself to be a little less gentlemanly than his German rival, Leibniz. The calculus is one of the greatest achievements of mankind: an astronaut and an investment analyst pay homage to its enormous power. Listen here

2 Leonard Euler

how the mathematics that Leonard Euler invented two hundred years ago has transformed the internet. Euler’s solution to an 18th-century conundrum paved the way for the search engines most of us use every day. Listen here

3 Joseph Fourier

The mathematics of Joseph Fourier. It’s thanks to his mathematical insight that you can hear Marcus on the radio and that Brian Eno can create sounds that have never been heard before. Listen here

4 Evariste Galois

How the mathematics of the French revolutionary, Evariste Galois, has proved invaluable to particle physicists working today.The mathematics that Galois began, over two hundred years ago, now absolutely describes the fundamental particles that make up our universe. Listen here

5 Carl Friedrich Gauss

It was the German scientist and mathematician, Carl Friedrich Gauss, who said mathematics was the Queen of Science. One of his many mathematical breakthroughs, the Gaussian or normal distribution, is the lifeblood of statistics. It underpins modern medicine and is a valuable tool in the fight against prejudice. Listen here

6 The Mathematicians Who Helped Einstein

The pioneering nineteenth century mathematicians who helped Albert Einstien with his maths: Jonas Bolyai, Nicolas Lobachevski and Bernhard Riemann. Without the mathematics to describe curved space and multiple dimensions, the theory of relativity doesn’t really work. Listen here

7 Georg Cantor

Georg Cantor, the mathematician who showed us how to carry on counting when the numbers run out. An insight into the nature of infinity that Roger Penrose believes helps to explain why the human brain will always be cleverer than artificial intelligence. Listen here

8 Henri Poincare

Henri Poincare, the man who proved there are certain problems that mathematics will never be able to answer: a mathematical insight that gave rise to chaos theory. Listen here

9 Hardy and Ramanujan

G.H.Hardy, the mathematician who insisted he had never done anything useful. And yet his work on the “diabolical malice” inherent in prime numbers inspired the millions of codes that now help to keep the internet safe. Listen here

10 Nicolas Bourbaki

The mathematician that never was, Nicolas Bourbaki. A group of French mathematicians, working between the two world wars and writing under the pseudonym Nicolas Bourbaki transformed their discipline and paved the way for several mathematical breakthroughs in the 21st century. Listen here

Info from BBC Radio 4

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