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Mathematics

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Departmental Colloquia

Spring 2019

The colloquia (unless otherwise stated) will take place on Tuesdays at 3.00pm in Room B15 in the Darwin Building. See the map for further details. There will be a small reception afterwards in Mathematics Room 502 (25 Gordon Street - see the map). If you require any more information on the  Departmental Colloquia please contact Prof Dima Vassiliev e-mail: d.vassiliev AT ucl.ac.uk or tel: 020-7679-2442.

12 March 2019

Speaker: Prof Piers Bursill-Hall (University of Cambridge)

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

Abstract

Well, we all know the answer to that: because axiomatising geometry puts it on a sound and certain footing; that's a good thing, 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 did Euclid come up with the idea of axiomatising geometry in the first place? It is not as if axiomatising things is something human beings do naturally ... so there must be some story that leads up to Euclid's axiomatisation (and it wasn't a system to teach geometry, either). So ... why? How did ancient Greek thinking about proof develop in the couple of centuries before Euclid?