# University of Cambridge - Forde Lecturer: Professor Julia Wolf

## **The usefulness of useless (mathematical) knowledge**

The talk's title is a play on the title of a famous essay by Abraham Flexner, the founding director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. Written in 1939--and recently supplemented by a companion piece written by the Institute's current director Robbert Dijkgraaf--its central thesis is that 'the search for answers to deep questions, motivated solely by curiosity and without concern for applications, often leads not only to the greatest scientific discoveries but also to the most revolutionary technological breakthroughs'. In a world dominated by the desire for immediate impact and quick returns, this premise has (again) become acutely relevant as funding for the basic sciences is being called into question. This talk elaborates on this theme in the context of mathematical research in number theory, combinatorics and harmonic analysis, drawing on striking examples from across the centuries.
*This talk will not be recorded.*

**Date:**Wednesday, March 18th

**Time:**6:00pm - 7:00pm

**Location:**RHLT1, Rutherford House, Victoria University of Wellington, Pipitea Campus