Nerenberg Lecture


2019 Nerenberg Lecture

The Department of Applied Mathematics and the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences announce that the 2019 Nerenberg lecture will be given on Thursday, October 24 in Conron Hall, University College at 7:30pm. The lecture is free and open to the public.

The speaker is Prof. Tom Korner from Cambridge University and his topic is "Smallpox and Mathematics: Analyzing the Risks of Inoculation".

An abstract of Professor Korner's talk is given below:


Before vaccination was discovered in the fight against smallpox, people used inoculation in their efforts to avoid a terrifying disease which killed 1 in 8 children who became infected. Inoculation was the dangerous practice of deliberately passing the disease to healthy people, in the hope of controlling its effects while creating immunity. People had to decide whether to undertake one dangerous step, in the hope of avoiding a worse danger in the future. How to decide? The remarkable mathematician Daniel Bernoulli (1700-1782) chose to use mathematics to analyze the risks and benefits of inoculation. The Nerenberg lecture will describe Bernoulli's pioneering work in risk analysis and smallpox. Mathematics cannot make decisions for us, but it can inform our decisions. Daniel Bernoulli's discussion of smallpox inoculation raises issues still central today.





About the Nerenberg Lecture Series

The Nerenberg Lecture Series recognizes accomplished people having extraordinary and authentic things to say to a broad audience on the great ideas of our age relating to science and mathematics.

Mortan Paddy NerenbergThe Nerenberg Lecture is named after the late Morton (Paddy) Nerenberg, a much loved professor and researcher born on 17 March - hence his nickname. He was a Professor at Western for more than a quarter century, and a founding member of the Department of Applied Mathematics. He was a successful researcher and an accomplished teacher, who believed in the unity of knowledge. He believed that scientific and mathematical ideas belong to everyone, and that they are of human importance. He regretted that they had become inaccessible to so many, and anticipated serious consequences from it. He died in 1993 at the age of 57. He is survived by his children Albert, Ben, and Simone. The series honors his appreciation for the democracy of ideas.

This free public lecture series seeks to make the important, the surprising and the little known discoveries of science and mathematics accessible to all. Information about past Nerenberg Lectures can be found here.