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Thomas Browne and the mystery of numbers


Thursday 30 May 2019, 5.30PM

Speaker(s): Professor Jessica Wolfe (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

The Annual Distinguised Patrides Lecture

The seventeenth-century physician and essayist Thomas Browne is, like many of his English and European contemporaries, confused about what numbers are, how they behave, and what can and cannot be computed with the discipline of mathematics. Taking as its starting point Browne's concerns about the ease with which computational errors may arise and endure in scholarship, this lecture will explore various aspects of Browne's puzzlement over "numerical Characters or characteristical Numbers," including his suspicion of the field of biblical chronology, his concerns about the relative and variable nature of calendrical systems,  and above all his perception of the corruptive influence of human error upon mathematical practices.

Followed by a wine reception in the Berrick Saul Foyer. 

Sponsored by the Department of English and Related Literature and the Centre for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies

Location: Bowland Auditorium, Berrick Saul Building

Admission: All welcome, free admission.