

The Annual William Marshall Bullitt Lecture
2017 BULLITT LECTURE
Creative math insights for the everyday
Dr. PoShen Loh
CarnegieMellon University
Thursday, April 13th, 2017
6:30pm 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
thoughtprovoking 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 expii.com/solve. Several have appeared
in features of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and FiveThirtyEight
(part of ESPN).
FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
for more information, contact math@louisville.edu
or call (502) 8526826
BIO: PoShen
Loh is a math enthusiast and evangelist, operating across the entire mathematical
spectrum from original research to massmarket 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 20year winning
drought. He extends his activity to the global mainstream through his free
educational technology platform expii.com, 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 200500
audience members about important and cuttingedge 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)
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 twentiethcentury 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 wellwritten 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
