4th Annual Boole Lecture in Mathematics

Creativity in mathematics and the arts

a public lecture by

Professor John Wilson

University of Oxford, UK

Friday, 2nd of November 2018

6:00 – 7:20 pm

Newton Lecture Theatre INB0114 in the Isaac Newton building, University of Lincoln

Book a place

How should we begin to find a solution to a mathematical problem (as schoolchildren,  undergraduates, or researchers)?  Is precision the key ingredient?  Suppose instead we want to create a work of art.  Should we allow our imagination free reign, with no constraints?  By considering examples in mathematics and the arts, including music and literature, we shall see that the answers to these questions are not straightforward: the creative requirements in all of these areas are similar, requiring a delicate mixture of precision and wider-ranging thinking.


Professor Wilson, born and brought up in Lincolnshire, studied at the University of Cambridge, receiving the MSc degree in 1970, the PhD degree in 1971 and the ScD degree in 1989. He has held academic positions in Cambridge from 1969 to 1994, at the University of Birmingham from 1994 to 2003, and at the University of Oxford from 2003; he has also held visiting professorships in many other universities on three continents. He has been Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Group Theory since its foundation in 1998, was Editor-in-Chief of Math. Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society from 1987 to 1992 and has served on the editorial boards of a number of other major international journals. Professor Wilson has published over 100 research articles in the area of group theory and one of the standard monographs on profinite groups. He has developed an extensive theory for branch groups, proved important results in the model theory of groups and solved a number of long-standing problems. Professor Wilson is a member of  the Advisory Board of the School of Mathematics and Physics of University of Lincoln. He also composes music.

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