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Nottingham's Magnificent Mathematician

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by Erin (subscribe)
I travel as much as possible at home and abroad. I'm always ready for new experiences
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The George Green Exhibition at the Weston Gallery
George Green is not a well known name, even in his birthplace of Nottingham. He is perhaps best remembered for his windmill in Sneinton, which is now a museum and science centre. In a new exhibition titled Nottingham's Magnificent Mathematician, the Weston Gallery in association with the George Green Memorial Fund is seeking to shed new light on the life and works of this brilliant mathematician and ensure that he is 'celebrated again in his hometown'.

Green's Windmill. Photo by Peter Jemmett.

I attended the launch of the exhibition on 12 September and was surprised by the large crowd. I waited for about 30 minutes to enter the gallery, which was packed with a wide range of people, including mathematicians, members of the Memorial Fund, students, families, and even a school group. The exhibition holds great appeal for scientists and mathematicians, but it's also an educational opportunity for students, children, and the Nottingham community.

Green was born in Sneinton, Nottingham in 1793 and worked as a miller for most of his life. Green's mathematical brilliance is all the more noteworthy in that he was 'almost entirely self-taught' (NM Ferrers, 1871). In fact, he only received one year of formal education. In 1828, he wrote An Essay on the Applications of Mathematical Analysis to the Theories of Electricity and Magnetism, which introduced concepts that would later become Green's Theorem and Green's Functions as used in present day physics. Upon reading Green's essay, the mathematician Edward Bromhead assisted Green with entrance to Cambridge University. Green was 44 when he graduated with his undergraduate degree and he stayed on as a faculty member at Gonville and Caius College. He wrote on optics, light behaviour, wave motion, acoustics, and hydrodynamics before his death in 1841. The biographical information above is drawn mainly from the exhibition and George Green - Mathematician, Physicist and Miller.

Title Page of Green's essay. Public Domain.

Most of Green's papers were destroyed after his death and the items on display at the Weston Gallery have been drawn from the collection gathered by his biographers and the Memorial Fund. With the lack of physical evidence, it's difficult to piece together his life, so tributes from famous scientists, such as Lord Kelvin, Einstein, and Julian Schwinger, are also presented. A copy of his seminal 1828 essay is on display along with items related to his life as a miller and education at Cambridge.

Three lunchtime talks will also take place over the course of the exhibition period. The talks are free and take place from 1pm-2pm at the Djanogly Theatre. Places must be booked in advance by calling 0115 846 7777. The talks include:

George Green and His Mill (1 October): The chairman of the Friends of Green's Mill, Tom Huggon, will be speaking about Green's life as a miller, the restoration of the mill, and plans for the future.

George Green's Contribution to MRI (21 October): Emeritus Professor Roger Bowley, Nottingham University School of Physics, will be discussing how he and his team used Green's Function to design the actively screened coils used in Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

George Green's Mathematical Influences (12 November): Peter Rowlett, Nottingham Trent University, will be discussing Green's influences in Nottingham and Cambridge.

Even if you don't have a strong connection to mathematics or physics, you will be pleasantly surprised by this enjoyable, informative, and highly accessible exhibit on 'Nottingham's Magnificent Mathematician'.
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When: Monday - Friday: 11am-4pm; Saturday, Sunday, bank holidays: 12 - 4pm
Phone: 0115 846 7777
Where: Weston Gallery: Lakeside Arts Centre, University Park, Nottingham NG7 2RD
Cost: Free
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