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Inaugural lecture

Explore the depths of maths with Keith Devlin’s models and their magic

Dive into the depths of mathematics with Keith Devlin’s inspiring inaugural lecture at IMADA and discover how models shape the way we think. And find out how even ‘fake’ models can have immense value in our creative process.

By Ursula Lundgreen, , 9/22/2023

A model itself might be false in a visual sense, but even though this is the case, it can demonstrate immense value when we need to think and create

Keith Devlin, adjungeret professor

Mathematics is an ancient field, dating back to the cradle of civilization and emerging from early societies in Ancient Egypt and Sumer (modern-day Iraq). Like natural languages, the development of mathematics likely began for practical reasons, such as keeping track of inventory and taxes. Keeping track involves counting and measuring, and to a large extent, the study of mathematics remains rooted in numbers.

However, math is so much more than just numbers. It has continually expanded into increasingly abstract and powerful areas of study. Professional mathematicians often specialize, and only a few, truly exceptional individuals can claim to understand most of the field. Nevertheless, at its core, mathematics remains the study of numbers, as well as numerical treatments of structures, shapes, and changes. It is one of the most influential fields of study—one of humanity's central discoveries—that has enabled modern science and technology, from abstract physics to the blueprints for devices like iPhones and cars. In essence, math runs the world.

Few professionals embody this expansive view of mathematics better than Keith Devlin, who has been ranked number one among influential mathematicians by the organization Academic Influence.

The Department of Mathematics and Computer Science are fortunate that Devlin has become an Honorary Professor in our department. During his inaugural lecture, he presented a model designed to apply across multiple human domains, including linguistics, global project management, office information systems design, intelligence analysis, and clinical psychiatry. This model will now help us better understand how we think about education. 

Devlin further provided an overview of other similar models that shape our way of thinking about various subjects. One of his key points was that while a model may visually appear to be incorrect, it still has immense value in aiding our thought processes, enabling us to create and innovate.

The full lecture is available below:


Keith Devlin

About Keith Devlin

Dr. Keith Devlin is Adjunct Professor at Centre for Research in Science Education and Communication at the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science, University of Southern Denmark.

Keith Devlin is emeritus mathematician at Stanford University, where he directs Stanford Mathematics Outreach Project in the Graduate School of Education. He is a co-founder and Executive Director Emeritus of the university’s Human-Sciences and Technologies Advanced Research Institute (H-STAR) and co-founder of the Stanford mediaX research network.

He is a World Economic Forum Fellow, a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a Fellow of the American Mathematical Society.

Much of his current research is focused on the use of different media to teach and communicate mathematics to diverse audiences

Source: Wikipedia and LinkedIn.

Meet the researcher

Keith Devlin is an adjunct professor at the Centre for Research in Science Education and Communication at the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science.


Editing was completed: 22.09.2023