Departmental Colloquia

Spring 2018

The colloquia (unless otherwise stated) will take place on Tuesdays at 3.00pm in Room 500 (25 Godron Street). See the map for further details. There will be a small reception afterwards in Mathematics Room 502 (25 Gordon Street). If you require any more information on the  Departmental Colloquia please contact Prof Dima Vassiliev e-mail: d.vassiliev AT or tel: 020-7679-2442.

6 March 2018

Speaker: Prof Piers Bursill-Hall (Cambridge University)

Title: Euclid's Elements: this is the answer to what question?

Well, we all know the answer to that: axiomatising geometry is a good thing, puts it all on a solid foundation, and allows us to build the rest of mathematics on a sure and certain basis. And once you have read the Elements (not that you have), you might almost believe this. But until you know that axiomatics does this, you wouldn't know that there is a sure and certain foundation to geometry out there. How on earth do you come up with the idea of axiomatising geometry in the first place? Euclid must have had some other motive for axiomatising geometry (and it wasn't to teach geometry, either). So ... why? How did ancient Greek thinking about proof develop in the couple of centuries before Euclid?