Florence Nightingale Day, December 2015

Thursday 17th December 2015, 10:00 - 15:30, Management School Building, Lancaster University

Our fourth 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 was 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.


  • 09.30-10.00: Registration
  • 10.00-10.15: Introduction
  • 10.15-11.00: Professor Gwyneth Stallard (Open University; Chair of the London Mathematical Society's Women in Mathematics Committee), The beauty of fractals‌
  • 11.00-11.20: Refreshments
  • 11.20-12.30: Maths QUIZ!
  • 12.30-13.15: Lunch
  • 13.15-14.00: Professor June Barrow-Green (Open University), Sofia Kovalevskaya: a 19th century pioneer for women in mathematics‌
  • 14.05-14.50: Dr Katie Steckles (Think Maths)
  • 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.

Guest Speakers

June Barrow-Green - Sofia Kovalevskaya: a 19th-century pioneer for women in mathematics

When in 1889 the Russian mathematician Sofia Kovalevskaya was appointed to a professorship of mathematics in Stockholm, she was the first woman professor of mathematics in modern Europe. But that was only one of her many firsts. She was also the first woman in modern history to gain a doctorate in mathematics, the first woman to win the prestigious Prix Bordin of the Paris Academy of Sciences and the first woman on the editorial board of a major scientific journal.

But mathematics was only one part of her life. She was a champion for women’s rights – she engaged in a ‘fictitious’ marriage in order to leave Russia – and for radical political causes, and she was an accomplished writer whose work brought her into contact with a variety of distinguished figures such as Dostoyevsky and George Eliot. In my talk, I shall trace Sofia’s pioneering journey through the mathematical centres of Europe describing her mathematics and the mathematicians she met along the way.

About June

June Barrow-Green is a professor of history of mathematics at the Open University. She works mostly in 19th and 20th-century mathematics although occasionally she strays further back in time. Her most recent work has been about British mathematicians during the First World War, and she is currently looking at the challenges for women studying mathematics in Cambridge in the late 1800s. When not buried in an archive she can often be found on a tennis court, running across the country, or on a bicycle.

Gwyneth Stallard - The beauty of fractals

Fractals are sets that have a very intricate structure and contain many copies of themselves at different scales. They are not easily described using classical geometry and so a new theory of fractal geometry has been developed. Such sets have attracted increasing attention in recent years, partly due to the development of striking computer graphics and partly due to a realisation that many natural phenomena such as cloud boundaries and coastlines are best approximated by fractals.

This talk will explore the nature of a variety of fractals, with a particular interest in those arising through the repeated application of a function involving complex numbers - the theory of which is known as complex dynamics.

About Gwyneth

Gwyneth Stallard is a Professor of Pure Mathematics at the Open University where she has worked since 1994 following an undergraduate degree in maths at Cambridge University and a PhD at Imperial College in London. She has greatly appreciated the flexibility and support of the Open University and worked part-time for many years following the birth of her two children. She was promoted to professor in 2009 and returned to full-time work in 2011.

Her research is in the area of complex dynamics and was recognised by the award of the London Mathematical Society's Whitehead Prize in 2000. She has been Chair of the London Mathematical Society's Women in Mathematics Committee since 2006 and her work to support women in mathematics was recognised by the award of an OBE in the 2014 New Years Honours List.

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.