Mathematics in Times of Crisis - Online Conference

Mathematics in Times of Crisis - Online Conference

Monday 6 July 2020 (All day)
Online, in BSHM website and Zoom

This online conference uses a mix of specially recorded presentations and live discussions.

A day discussing how mathematics and mathematicians caused, responded to or developed during crises. The "crises" range from international conflicts to internal mathematical ones, and the discussions from the impact on individuals to the response of communities.

Link to recorded talks. Allow approx 30 mins for watching each talk.

Links for live Q&A sessions have been sent to registered participants. If you have not received the email, please check your junk folder. If you still cannot find them, contact Isobel Falconer (


All times are UK time, which is currently British Summer Time, i.e. GMT +1

PDF icon abstracts_010720.pdf

Session 1: Individuals in world events (recorded talks)

  • Richard Simpson (independent): Paolo Ruffini (1765-1822) - a forgotten talent
  • Norman Biggs (LSE): Don't panic - send for a mathematician: memories of Bill Tutte
  • Tony Gardiner: Alison who?

10.00-11.00. Live Q&A with Richard, Norman and Tony. Chair Isobel Falconer.

Session 2: Mathematical Crises (recorded talks)

  • Henrik Kragh Sørensen (Copenhagen) & Anton Suhr (Copenhagen): Bridging practices in analysis during a time of crisis: Abel’s representations of elliptic functions
  • David Robertson (Independent): Gödel's incompleteness theorem, and the reaction to it
  • Michael Friedman (Humboldt, Berlin): Metaphorical reactions to the "crisis of intuition"

13.00-14.00 Live Q&A with Henrik, Anton, David and Michael. Chair Troy Astarte

Session 3: Responses of the mathematical community (recorded talks)

  • Stefano Gulizia (Polish Institute of Advanced Studies): "Truth" and "testimony" in the 17th century: a Keplerian-artisanal view
  • Brigitte Stenhouse (Open University): Conjuring the "spirit of Laplace": translation as an answer to mathematical crisis
  • Michael Barany (Edinburgh): How to reschedule an International Mathematics Conference postponed due to world events, 1939-1950
  • Peggy Kidwell (Smithsonian): Mathematical instruments in times of crisis

16.30-18.00: Live Q&A with Stafano, Brigitte, Michael and Peggy + reflections on the day. Chair Mark McCartney

An extra bonus piece of content: a letter from imprisoned Bertrand Russell during WWI, courtesy of David Orenstein.