Mathematical heroes and social justice: from victims to hell raisers

Professor Nassif A Ghoussoub, University of British Columbia
Director, Banff International Research Station for Mathematical Innovation and Discovery

Sydney Ideas co-presented with the School of Mathematics and Statistics,Faculty of Science


Maryam Mirzakhan by Shahrokh Heidari

Image: Maryam Mirzakhan by Shahrokh Heidari


One of the best kept secrets about mathematicians is that we are often at the tip of the spear in the struggle for social/political causes. We are inspired by the mathematical hell raisers of previous generations, but we are also shaped by their personal tragedies.

We begin in 1800 France with Sophie Germain having to publish her works using a male pseudonym and end in the present day with Maryam Mirzakhani, an Iranian born mathematician, becoming the first female recipient of The Fields Medal , the highest honour in mathematics.

In between lies a rich and poignant history of mathematical scientists confronting prejudices, injustices, and social stigmas, sometimes with tragic outcomes: Ramanujan, Noether, Turing, Nash and so many others.

Mathematics comes with its own stories of defeats and victories, not always brought about by its widely publicised intellectual challenges.

About the Speaker:

Professor Nassif A Ghoussoub

Professor Nassif A Ghoussoub, OC, FRSC, is a Canadian mathematician working in the fields of non-linear analysis and partial differential equations. He is a Professor of Mathematics and a Distinguished University Scholar at the University of British Columbia.