Florence Nightingale Day, December 2014

Thursday 18th December 2014, 10:00 - 15:30, Management School Building, Lancaster University

Our third Florence Nightingale Day was part of our continuing efforts to promote mathematics and statistics and especially the participation of women in those subjects. The day was aimed especially at female students in years 11, 12 and 13 but is open to male students too. It was organised by Dr Nadia Mazza and Dr James Groves, with help from colleagues and postgraduate students.

While Florence Nightingale is well-known for her medical work as a nurse, she was also a pioneer in statistics, especially in the use of visualisation of statistical data. A description of this work may be found in her biography on the MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, along with a large number of biographies of other female mathematicians.

The event comprised talks by prominent female mathematicians, a maths contest and opportunities for informal discussions over a buffet lunch and at a number of information stands. A summary of the talks and activities for the day is below and some pictures from the event may be found in the Gallery.

Talks and activities

  • 9.30-10.00: Registration
  • 10.00-10.15: Introduction
  • 10.15-11.00: Professor Caroline Series (University of Warwick), "Indra's Pearls: Geometry and Symmetry" (abstract)
  • 11.00-11.20: Refreshments
  • 11.20-12.30: Maths QUIZ!
  • 12.30-13.15: Lunch
  • 13.15-14.00: Dr Ron Knott (University of Surrey), "Numbers You Can Eat, or Why Nature Likes the Fibonacci Numbers and how they relate to your 5-a-day" (abstract)
  • 14.05-14.50: Dr Katie Steckles (Think Maths), "Maths's Greatest Unsolved Puzzles" (abstract)
  • 14.50-15.00: Quiz results and awarding of prizes
  • 15.00-15.30: Maths gallery


We are grateful to the Further Mathematics Support Programme for financial support.

Caroline Series - Indra's Pearls: a mathematical adventure

This talk is based on the book of the same title by David Mumford, Caroline Series and David Wright.

It tells the story of the authors' computer experiments with some simple but repeated operations on complex numbers. The results are amazingly delicate and beautiful fractals. The talk will have lots of illustrations and will explain the geometry and algorithms which made them. And even without following all the maths, you can still enjoy the pictures!

Caroline Series is a Professor of Mathematics at Warwick University. She was born and educated in Oxford and then went to the USA to do a PhD. She came back to England and has been teaching at Warwick since 1979.

She likes finding the patterns behind geometrical structures, and her research area, "Non-Euclidean Geometry", is closely related to fractals and chaos.

Caroline has done many things to encourage women in mathematics. She is currently Vice-Chair of the International Mathematical Union's Committee for Women in Mathematics.

She also cares about green issues, especially climate change, and helped set up the Environment Committee at Warwick University.

Katie Steckles - Maths's Greatest Unsolved Puzzles

Mathematicians are undoubtedly brilliant, and their work is used in all kinds of amazing scientific and technological discoveries - but there are still questions they can't answer. Every mathematical question is a puzzle to be solved, and while there'll be plenty of puzzles for you to chew on, we'll also discuss some of the questions that still leave mathematicians stumped - from simple-sounding number and shape problems to some truly mind-bending fundamental questions.

About Katie

Katie Steckles is a mathematician based in Manchester, who gives talks and workshops on different areas of maths. She completed a PhD in 2011, and since then has talked about maths in schools, at science festivals, at music festivals, as part of theatre shows and on the internet. She enjoys doing puzzles, solving the Rubik's cube and baking things shaped like maths.

Ron Knott - Numbers You Can Eat, or Why Nature Likes the Fibonacci Numbers and how they relate to your 5-a-day

About Ron

Dr Ron Knott was a lecturer in Mathematics and Computing Sciences for many years at University of Surrey, Guildford. He is now a Visiting Fellow and gives many talks to schools and universities on recreational mathematics topics. He appeared on Melvyn Bragg’s In Our Time on BBC Radio 4 when they talked about the Fibonacci Numbers. He still maintains a large website on fun mathematical topics both on and off the school syllabus which is now one of the oldest mathematical websites in the world.