2015-2016 Baylor Undergraduate Lecture Series in Mathematics


Simon Singh, an award-winning author, producer and director, was the eighth speaker in the annual Baylor Undergraduate Lecture Series in Mathematics. Dr. Singh gave two lectures when he visited Baylor University on October 19, 2015.

Simon Singh

Dr. Singh holds a Ph.D. in particle physics from Cambridge University and conducted his doctoral research at CERN in Switzerland. His research centered on the search for the 'top quark', the elusive subatomic particle (and the last undiscovered particle of the six-member quark family predicted by current scientific theory) which was eventually discovered, after an almost twenty year search, at the FermiLab in 1995.

Throughout his undergraduate studies at Imperial College, Dr. Singh enjoyed occasionally writing for various student newspapers and departmental newsletters. At the time, however, he was headstrong in becoming a research physicist and he had no intention of starting a career in journalism. However, his obvious talents for writing and his exceptional ability to explain science to the general public eventually turned his promising career in academia to writing and broadcast journalism.

In 1990, Dr. Singh joined the BBC’s Science and Features Department, where he was a producer and director of various television programs. In 1997, he directed an award-winning documentary "Fermat’s Last Theorem" which aired as part of BBC’s Horizon series. This film was memorable for its opening shot of Andrew Wiles holding back tears as he recalled the moment when he finally realized how to prove Fermat’s Last Theorem, the most notorious problem in the history of mathematics. This documentary was also aired in the US as part of PBS's NOVA series; "The Proof", as it was retitled in the United States, was subsequently nominated for an Emmy Award. The story of this celebrated mathematical problem was also the subject of his first book "Fermat’s Enigma", published in 1997. This became the first book about mathematics to become a No.1 bestseller in the UK and has been translated into twenty-five languages.

Dr. Singh also began working on his second book "The Code Book" in 1997. This book, detailing the history of codes and code-breaking, led to him presenting a five-part television series in the UK called "The Science of Secrecy". He has also presented several radio and TV shows for the BBC, including "Mind Games", "Five Numbers" and "Five Particles".

He has also written several other best-selling books: "The Big Bang" (2004), "Trick or Treatment?: Alternative Medicine on Trial" (2008), and "The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets" (2013).

After being sued for libel by chiropractors in 2008, Dr. Singh successfully defended his criticism of chiropractic and was then at the forefront of a campaign to reform the libel laws of England and Wales. This resulted in the more liberal Defamation Act 2013.

Dr. Singh received the Kelvin Medal from the Institute of Physics in 2008 for his achievements in promoting physics to the general public, and received an MBE from Queen Elizabeth II in 2003. He has received honorary doctorates from Royal Holloway, University of London, the University of Kent, the University of St. Andrews, the University of Southampton, the University of the Loughborough, the University of the West of England and the University of East Anglia.

For a poster advertising Dr. Singh's public lecture, click here.

The titles, and abstracts, for his two lectures are:

Monday, October 19, 2015 at 4:00 pm - MMSCI 101

FIRST LECTURE: Happy Birthday Fermat's Last Theorem

Abstract: Simon Singh celebrates the fact that it has been exactly twenty years since a proof of Fermat's Last Theorem was published. He will discuss the origin of the world's most notorious mathematical problem, describe the heroes and villains who tried and failed to prove Fermat's Last Theorem, and tell the story of Professor Andrew Wiles, who conquered Fermat's challenge after working in secret for seven years. Along the way, Simon will explain how he turned this mathematical conundrum into a bestselling book (Fermat's Enigma) and an award-winning documentary aired as part of the PBS Nova series (The Proof).

Monday, October 19, 2015 at 6:00 pm - MMSCI 101

PUBLIC LECTURE: The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets

Abstract: Simon Singh, author of Fermat's Enigma, The Code Book and Big Bang, talks about his latest book, which explores mathematical themes hidden in The Simpsons. Everyone knows that The Simpsons is the most successful show in television history, but very few people realize that its team of mathematically gifted writers have used the show to explore everything from calculus to geometry, from pi to game theory, and from infinitesimals to infinity. Singh will also discuss how writers of Futurama have similarly made it their missions to smuggle deep mathematical ideas into the series.


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