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  The Annual William Marshall Bullitt Lecture 
Creative math insights for the everyday

Dr. Po-Shen Loh
Carnegie-Mellon University

Thursday, April 13th, 2017
Natural Sciences Building, Room 112
University of Louisville

Abstract: What is the practical value of mathematics for the common person? We'll illustrate the answer through puzzles and paradoxes that arise from the failure of human intuition. See how mathematical reasoning can help us make sense out of these thought-provoking situations, and experience the surprising and fun nature of mathematics in the process. You'll see everyday things in the world in a new mathematical light. These insights were accumulated from over a year of mathematical introspection on topics of common interest, and freely published as weekly interactive challenges on Several have appeared in features of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and FiveThirtyEight (part of ESPN).

for more information, contact or call (502) 852-6826

BIO: Po-Shen Loh is a math enthusiast and evangelist, operating across the entire mathematical spectrum from original research to mass-market education. He is a math professor at Carnegie Mellon University, where he researches topics in combinatorics, probability, and computer science. He also works with the Mathematical Association of America as the National Coach of the USA Math Olympiad team, which won consecutively in the last two years, definitively breaking a 20-year winning drought. He extends his activity to the global mainstream through his free educational technology platform, delivering creative math puzzles and personalized math practice on every smartphone or web browser.

There is also a Bullitt Lecture in Physics.

The Mathematics Department’s Bullitt Lecture is a free, public lecture that has brought to Louisville each year, beginning in 1993, a distinguished mathematician to speak to 200-500 audience members about important and cutting-edge mathematics. Ronald Graham, former Chief Scientist at AT&T, and Indiana University College Professor of Cognitive Science and Computer Science, author and computer scientist Douglas R. Hofstadter  (author of Gödel, Escher, Bach) are former Bullitt Lecturers. The emphasis has been drawing people from the outside academia.  Talented high school students, area professionals, and other parties interested in the impact and excitement that mathematics has generated, especially in the last decade, have attended the Bullitt Lecture in surprisingly large numbers.

The Lecture is endowed through a grant from the family of William Marshall Bullitt, the Solicitor General of the United Stated under President William Howard Taft.  The first Bullitt lecture was given by Jerry King of Lehigh University (a native Kentuckian, UK Ph.D) on the subject of his then popular book "The Art of Mathematics," Plenum Press, NY and London, 1992.  It took place on April 5, 1993.
The second lecture was given by Professor Fred Rickey, one of the leading American historians of mathematics who was  then at Bowling Green University (and is now at the United States Military Academy at West Point), on the then popular topic of the history of Fermat's Last Theorem. Recall that Andrew Wiles had announced his proof of FLT in the summer of 1993.  Professor Rickey's talk took place in April of 1994.
Paul Humke gave the third lecture in 1995 on visualizing the 4th dimension.  After 1995, the Bullitt Lecture was advertised via posters shown below.

 Click on photo to download PDF file containing the poster.
(some of these files are large, > 1mb)

Bullitt 1996 image

Bullitt 1997 image
Bullitt 1999 image
Bullitt 2000 image
Bulllitt 2001 image
Bullitt 2002 image
Bullitt 2003 image
Bullitt 2004 image
Bullitt 2006 Poster
  Bullitt Lecture 2007
Bullitt 2009 Thumbnail
Bullitt Poster 2011 2011
2012 Thumbnail Bullitt
Bullitt 2013 Thumbnail

Bullitt Poster 2014
2015 Bullitt poster thumbnail 2015
Bullitt2016 jpeg 2016

William Marshall Bullitt, the Solicitor General of the United Stated under President William Howard Taft, was a Louisville native and an 1894 Princeton graduate.  He received his law degree from the University of Louisville. Bullitt is descended from one of the most prominent Kentucky families- five Kentucky counties bear the name of his direct ancestors. 

Bullitt was an authority on insurance law and wrote a number of important pamphlets in actuarial mathematics.  He was a personal friend of a number of important figures in twentieth-century mathematics, including G.D. Birkhoff, G.H. Hardy, and Albert Einstein. 

The Bullitt family had already compiled collections of rare books in history, horticulture, and other field when William Marshall Bullitt decided to pursue acquisitions of rare mathematical editions. Bullitt began by seeking the aid of mathematicians and historians of mathematics in determining a list of ``25 Greatest Mathematicians (Excluding all Living Mathematicians)”.  Prior to World War II, Bullitt and his wife traveled extensively in Europe; his cousin, William Christian Bullitt, was the American Ambassador to France at the time.  Bullitt put together a magnificent collection of rare and significant mathematics.  “Strangely enough, anyone wishing to write about Galois in Paris would do well to journey to Louisville, Kentucky,” wrote Leopold Infeld, author of Whom the Gods Love, a fictionalized biography of the celebrated French mathematician Evariste Galois.  A well-written account of Bullitt and his efforts to obtain rare mathematics manuscripts is given in ``William Marshall Bullitt and His Amazing Mathematical Collection”, by Richard M. Davitt (Professor of Mathematics at the University of Louisville), in The Mathematical Intelligencer, Vol. 11, No. 4, 1989.

In 1958, Bullitt’s wife gave the entire mathematics collection and related correspondence to the University of Louisville, where today it is the William Marshall Bullitt Mathematical Collection. Visitors from around the world visit the Collection.  Members of the Bullitt family are frequent Lecture attendees. The mathematics community—indeed, the entire Louisville community—gratefully and gladly acknowledges the debt to the family for the inestimable contribution

    University of Louisville, Department of Mathematics. Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved.