Mathematics into pictures

The nature of mathematics and the mathematics of nature. Watch Sir Christopher Zeeman in our 1978 CHRISTMAS LECTURES.

About this series

Professor Christopher Zeeman presents the 1978 CHRISTMAS LECTURES® on “one of the oldest and most splendid endeavours of mankind”.

As he explains in his original introduction to the series maths is at its core a paradoxical subject:

"we are never quite sure whether it is an art or a science, whether we invent it or discover it, whether it is a man-made toy or a truth so universal that it is independent of the universe."

True to the tradition of the CHRISTMAS LECTURES®, Zeeman places practical demonstrations at the heart of his presentations, using diagrams and pictures to reveal the nature and beauty of mathematical theorems and illustrating different types of mathematical modelling.

The first three lectures start with a pure point of view to ask “What is the nature of mathematics?” before shifting to an applied point of view to explore the mathematics of nature.

Inspiring a Generation

These were the first CHRISTMAS LECTURES® in its then 149-year history to be presented on the subject of mathematics and the series is still lauded as inspiring a new generation of mathematicians. Amongst the live audience was a budding young mathematician called Marcus du Sautoy who went on to present the Lectures in 2006 entitled ‘The num8er my5teries’ [coming soon].

Furthermore, the enthusiasm generated by the series led Professor Zeeman to establish the Ri’s Mathematics Masterclasses programme in 1981. They continue to enable thousands of young people across the UK to participate in the hands-on and inspired learning that is the hallmark of the CHRISTMAS LECTURES®.

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