Maths and History in the “Science in the Classroom” programme in London

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

On the 8th February 2016, Mathematician Francisco A. González Redondo and Lecturer of History of Science in the Universidad Complutense de Madrid visited 14-18 years-old students in the Spanish School Vicente Cañada Blanch. This was the third session of “Science in the Classroom”. The title of the lecture was “The journey of a Mathematician between Sciences and Humanities”. 

González-Redondo obtained his Degree in Mathematics by the Universidad de Cantabria in 1988 and later on, he got not only a PhD in Philosophy and Sciences of Education by the Universidad Complutense de Madrid (UCM) in 1993, but also a PhD in History of Mathematics by the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid in 2000. Currently he is a Lecturer in the Department of Algebra of the Faculty of Education at the UCM, and member of many academies and learned societies. Through his academic story, Dr Gonzalez-Redondo aimed to deliver a clear message to students: “in life, you need to be responsible, take decisions every time, and make many efforts to achieve all your dreams”. 

The Lecturer of Universidad Complutense de Madrid also described the daily routine of a University Lecturer, stressing the four key objectives of the University: research, education, transfer of knowledge, and dissemination of knowledge to society.

Renowned Spanish scientists

González-Redondo mentioned his different research lines, from the History of Mathematics, to Physics, Chemistry, Education and Technology. Even more, the Lecturer also does research on the biography of the life and achievements of renowned Spanish scientists such as Blas Cabrera, Enrique Moles, and Leonardo Torres-Quevedo. Precisely, it was with the latter, that Dr Gonzalez-Redondo expanded his talk.

Why did Maurice D’Ocagne define Leonardo Torres-Quevedo as the “most prodigious inventor of all his time”? Students were surprised to learn everything about the prolific achievements of this engineer: algebraic machines, cable railway, “telekino”, chess machines, and so on. González-Redondo ensured that “when a Historian of Science as myself finds such an impressive life’s work of one of the few figures of worldwide reputation as Leonardo Torres-Quevedo, but also checks that it is not known at all, not even in Engineering Schools; then, one has the moral obligation to communicate it in conferences, universities, learned societies and, as we do here today, schools. This Spanish Engineer was ahead of his time in many fields, for instance he was ahead of the works of pioneers in Computer Sciences such as Alan Turing or Norbert Wiener. So we ought to place Torres-Quevedo in the place he well deserves”. 

Students wanted to learn how a mathematician was involved in historical research projects as well as how he could do so many things in his day-to-day. González-Redondo replied “as someone with a Degree in Mathematics, I could have worked in many companies that approached Mathematicians from the Universidad de Cantabria, or could have opted to quickly obtain a position as a teacher at any school, but I was thrilled to do research, to teach and to communicate in and from the University. In summary, I wanted to give back to society with my job as much as the society had supported me with my public education.” 

The international scientific coordinator of FECYT in London and coordinator of “Science in the Classroom”, Dr Lorenzo Melchor, actively collaborated during the lectures to live up debates. According to Lorenzo, “Francisco González-Redondo’s communication skills had inspired students to ask themselves vital questions, as well as to understand that to achieve every goal, it is required to make a big effort. Moreover, Francisco has surprised students with Leonardo Torres Quevedo’s life works”. 

Minister Counsellor for Cultural and Scientific Affairs of the Spanish Embassy in London, Mr Fernando Villalonga, attended one of the lectures. “This session of ‘Science in the Classroom’ has shown a good example to students. The talk has been very motivating and it will help them to take decisions about their personal life and professional careers. Everything at a crucial age”, he concluded. 

González-Redondo was very fulfilled with his participation in “Science in the Classroom”. He commented that “compared with other talks that I have given at universities, academies or research centres, both in Spain or abroad, this session to young students has been the most challenging so far. I wanted to stress the importance of responsibility, a culture of effort, and the need to giving back to society, regardless of the job these students end up working in”.

About “Science in the Classroom”

“Science in the Classsroom” is a programme organised by the Spanish Foundation for Science and Technology (FECYT) and the Office for Cultural and Scientific Affairs of the Embassy of Spain in London, by which a scientist or engineer per month visits 14-18 years-old students in the Spanish School Vicente Cañada Blanch in London until the end of the term. This programme is also supported by the Spanish Education Office in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland, the Spanish School Vicente Cañada Blanch, and the Society of Spanish Researchers in the United Kingdom (SRUK/CERU). “Science in the Classroom” is embedded in the FECYT line of action related to the promotion of scientific culture and dissemination, and support for internationalization of Spanish science. 


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