In Our Time: 25 Theories and Thinkers in the History of Mathematics

In Our Time: 25 Theories and Thinkers in the History of Mathematics

A BBC Radio 4 Collection


Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss 25 pivotal concepts, theorists and developments that have advanced the science of mathematics

'Might be the best radio programme ever' Oliver Burkeman, The Guardian

In Our Time is a Radio 4 phenomenon, a knowledge juggernaut that has informed and entertained over 2 million listeners each week since its first broadcast in 1998. In its 25 years on air, it has covered an astonishing array of topics, from the Second Law of Thermodynamics to the Sistine Chapel.

Beginning with three introductory episodes, this specially curated collection explores 25 of the most important individuals, ideas and discoveries that have transformed our understanding of mathematics over the past 5,000 years. We learn how Indian mathematics provided the foundations for much of our modern thinking, discover why Euclid's Elements is the most influential textbook ever written and hear of the epic feud between Sir Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz over who invented calculus.

Plus, we are introduced to influential mathematicians including Pythagoras, Blaise Pascal, Emmy Noether and Alan Turing, as well as key concepts, problems and puzzles such as negative numbers, infinity, Fermat's Last Theorem, the Poincaré conjecture and P v NP.

Enlightening, thought-provoking and inspiring, these wide-ranging discussions make abstruse ideas accessible and demystify mathematics, showing how it shaped our world and made us who we are.

Production credits
Presented by Melvyn Bragg
Produced by Simon Tillotson, Thomas Morris and Natalia Fernandez

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on the following dates:

Part I: Context
Mathematics 6 May 1999
Mathematics and Platonism 11 January 2001
Mathematics' Unintended Consequences 11 February 2010

Part II: History of Mathematics
Indian Mathematics 14 December 2006
Euclid's Elements 28 April 2016
Maths in the Early Islamic World 16 February 2017
Renaissance Maths 2 June 2005
Calculus 24 September 2009

Part III: Influential Mathematicians
Pythagoras 10 December 2009
Archimedes 25 January 2007
Blaise Pascal 19 September 2013
Emilie du Châtelet 4 February 2021
Carl Friedrich Gauss 30 November 2017
Ada Lovelace 6 March 2008
Emmy Noether 24 January 2019
Alan Turing 15 October 2020

Part IV: Key Concepts
Zero 13 May 2004
Prime Numbers 12 January 2006
Negative Numbers 9 March 2006
e 25 September 2014
Pi 2 September 2004
Imaginary Numbers 23 September 2010
Infinity 23 October 2003

Part V: Problems and Puzzles
Zeno's Paradoxes 22 September 2016
Fermat's Last Theorem 25 October 2012
The Poincaré Conjecture 2 November 2006
Gödel's Incompleteness Theorems 9 October 2008
P v NP 5 November 2015

© 2023 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd. (P) 2023 BBC Studios Distribution Ltd.

About the author

Melvyn Bragg

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