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The University of Southampton
Mathematical Sciences

MATHS=E+D+I art competition. Follow-up

Published: 20 May 2021
Art competition - follow-up

The School of Mathematical Sciences has run in early 2021 an art competition on the theme MATHS=E+D+I that was open to all staff and students at the University of Southampton.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity are at the very core of mathematics. The validity of a theorem, the uncanny ability of mathematics to describe, measure and model the world around us are independent of the gender, race, social and economic class, etc. of mathematicians and, more controversially, even of their humanity, as in the computer-based proof of the four colour theorem. Mathematics can also act as a force for positive change by highlighting unjustifiable differences, from the gender pay gap to race bias in sentencing. And yet, significant inequalities within mathematics exist. For example, only approximately a third of Maths A-level students are female. Can we make Mathematics more inclusive? And, ultimately, can Mathematics make the world more inclusive? The purpose of this art competition was to remind us all that mathematics is open to everyone and that nobody should think that mathematics is not for them because of who they are, rather than what they like.

The three winning entries are:

Image by Raffaella Mulas
© Raffaella Mulas

Raffaella Mulas (first prize) - Being different doesn't make you odd

The number 2 is beautiful and it has many unique properties.

It is the only even prime number, and being different from the other prime numbers doesn't make it odd.

This is true also for people: being different doesn't make you odd. It makes you beautiful and unique.

Art: Adam Oseman
© Text: Larry Riddle ( Art: Adam Oseman

Adam Oseman (second prize) - Sophie Germain Digital Art

Sophie Germain was a mathematician in the early 1800s who made important contributions towards solving Fermat’s Last Theorem, as well as producing important work on the mathematics of elasticity. She was not allowed by her family to study mathematics as they believed it was inappropriate for a woman to study. She then pursued her study of mathematics in secret, learning an astounding amount of mathematics with no tuition. She even joined the Ecole Polytechnique masquerading as a man called M. Le Blanc, sending in her work via post. When her professor, the well known Lagrange, saw the quality of her work he wanted to meet her and he therefore discovered she was in fact a woman. Lagrange recognised her talents and mentored her, allowing her to have a place in the academic world, a position she would not have been able to have without his support. Sophie Germain died at the age of 55, on June 27, 1831, after a battle with breast cancer. Shortly before this, Gauss, one of her earliest mentors, had convinced the University of Göttingen to give Sophie an honorary degree. She died before she could receive it.

Sophie was not properly recognised in her time and even today her talents and achievements are not properly credited. I wanted to create a piece that told her story and showed some of the mathematics she worked on, proving a property for the n=5 case of Fermat’s Last Theorem.

I think Sophie represents the struggles still faced today by women who are under represented and not given the chance to pursue the career they want.

Fatumah Atuhaire
© Fatumah Atuhaire

Fatumah Atuhaire (third prize) - A representation of equality, diversity and inclusion in classroom setting

In this photo, we represent the nine protected characteristics of age, sex, disability, ethnicity, religion & belief, marriage & civil union, maternity & pregnancy, gender reassignment and sexual orientation in a maths lecture setting.

We illustrated famous mathematicians from different backgrounds to portray the society at the university of Southampton.

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