A series of walking tours launched next week aim to show participants the hidden mathematics within Oxford.
The free tours, beginning on March 3rd, will take the public around some of Oxford’s best known buildings, including the Sheldonian Theatre, the Ashmolean Museum and the Sackler LIbrary.
The Maths in the City webpage welcomes potential tourists by asking, ‘Did you know that the roof of the Sheldonian is held up by a piece of mathematics that Christopher Wren learnt while he was studying at Oxford?’
Along the tour, the website reveals that participants should expect to discover the ‘influence of maths in the architecture of a building in St. John’s College aptly named ‘the Beehive” and how GPS is indebted to the work of ‘simply geography’ with the help of Einstein.
Meanwhile the Bridge of Sighs is described as ‘an interesting piece of maths hidden in a beautiful piece of architecture. This is also a chance to highlight the importance of mathematical curves in engineering and architecture.’
The project is led by Marcus du Sautoy, Oxford’s Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science, who told Cherwell, ‘I love going on walking tours where a guide shows you a side of your city you’ve never been aware of before.
‘There are so many fascinating mathematical stories hiding behind the buildings and structures of our urban environmment that I thought they would make great material for a tour.’
Du Sautoy stated that his projects would also “nurture the science communicators of the future,” since the tours will be led by Oxford students and members of the public are encouraged to add their own mathematical stories.
University Maths professors have expressed their support, with St John’s fellow Paul Tod stating, ‘It sounds like a clever idea and I know some smart people are involved. It should prompt the walkers to look at their surroundings in a different way, and think constructively about maths outside the classroom.’
Professor Charles Batty added that the project ‘fits well with the style of du Sautoy’s approach to increasing public appreciation of mathematics.’
Maths student Sam Kinsley agreed that it was a ‘great initiative’ which would ‘educate people who aren’t necessarily aware of the less obvious applications of maths.’ Fellow mathematician James Moran added, ‘Many will find it interesting to see another level of history behind [Oxford].’
The tours are organised by Maths in the City and funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.