Gresham College has been putting on free public lectures in the City of London since 1597; it claims the title of London’s first higher education institution. It had professors of Astronomy, Divinity, Geometry, Law, Music, Physic and Rhetoric; a professor of Commerce was added in 1985.
Although I have lived on the edge of the City for fifteen years, to my shame I had never been to a lecture at Gresham College until last night, when I went to hear Bernard Silverman, chief scientist at the Home Office, talk about the kind of mathematics his department uses.
The ostensible reason for going was that Bernie was giving the London Mathematical Society – Gresham College lecture, and I will be giving this lecture next year, so I wanted to see how it was done and what the audience was. But it was a thoroughly enjoyable occasion. Bernie wisely kept off sensitive topics such as queueing theory, and told us instead how to design bollards around sensitive buildings, how to tell the difference between a smuggler of radioactive material and a load of bananas (I don’t think I realised how radioactive a banana is), what happens to a building when a bomb goes off, and what effect immigration has on jobs. (It seems that one immigrant from outside the EU causes a reduction of 0.23 in the number of jobs available to natives, with a standard deviation of 0.05, but the effect washes out after five years.)
If you are interested, my lecture will be on Tuesday, 14 May 2013. I have been offered a modern lecture room in the Museum of London, but last night’s lecture was in a smaller room in Barnard’s Inn Hall (the headquarters of Gresham College), in a delightful lecture room which I think I would prefer. So there is a possibility that I could lecture there and give the talk twice. (Robin Wilson adopted this strategy when he was a Gresham professor.)
See you there (wherever it turns out to be).