The Story Of Maths (2008) BBC Four

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Video Description


From the seventeenth century, Europe replaced the Middle East as the engine house of mathematical ideas. Du Sautoy visits Urbino to introduce Perspective using mathematician and artist, Piero della Francesca's The Flagellation of Christ.

Du Sautoy proceeds to describes René Descartes realisation that it was possible to describe curved lines as equations and thus link algebra and geometry. He talks with Henk Bos about Descartes. He shows how one of Pierre de Fermat’s theorems is now the basis for the codes that protect credit card transactions on the internet. He describes Isaac Newton’s development of math and physics crucial to understanding the behaviour of moving objects in engineering. He covers the Leibniz and Newton calculus controversy and the Bernoulli family. He further covers Leonard Euler, the father of topology, and Gauss' invention of a new way of handling equations, modular arithmetic. He mentions János Bolyai.

The further contribution of Gauss to our understanding of how prime numbers are distributed is covered thus providing the platform for Bernhard Riemann's theories on prime numbers. In addition Riemann worked on the properties of objects, which he saw as manifolds that could exist in multi-dimensional space.

Documentary Description

Mathematics is the Empress of the Sciences. Without her, there would be no physics, nor chemistry, nor cosmology. Any field of study depending on statistics, geometry, or any kind of calculation would simply cease to be. And then, there are the practical applications: without maths there’s no architecture. No commerce. No accurate maps, or time-keeping: therefore no navigation, nor aviation, nor astronomy.

She is all-powerful: and she rules ruthlessly. Imperious and unyielding, mathematics brooks no dissent and tolerates no error. In an age of uncertainty, mathematics is the only discipline that generates knowledge that’s immutably, incontestably, and eternally true.

In this landmark series of films for BBC FOUR, Marcus du Sautoy, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford, escorts viewers through the history of this most important of all intellectual disciplines. In a journey that takes him through the ages and around the world, he examines the development of key mathematical ideas and shows how, in a multitude of surprising ways, mathematical ideas underpin the science, technology, and culture that shape our world.

As Marcus shows, mathematics was part of the bedrock of intellectual life in the world’s great civilisations. It was central to the survival of some of the world’s most powerful empires. And even today, mathematical knowledge remains the motor-force that drives the modern world.

The films in this ambitious series offer clear, accessible explanations of important mathematical ideas but are also packed with engaging anecdotes, fascinating biographical details, and pivotal episodes in the lives of the great mathematicians. Engaging, enlightening and entertaining, the series gives viewers new and often surprising insights into the central importance of mathematics, establishing this discipline to be one of humanity’s greatest cultural achievements.
Content last updated: 10/04/2008
Source: BBC Open University


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