Cedric Villani: ‘Mathematics is about progress and adventure and emotion”

“It’s a project of the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences,” he says via a crackly line. “I go every year and teach. I have a link as well with Algeria because my parents were born there. But anyway, I also consider it part of life, to do such cooperative things. And Africa is such a warm and joyful place that I always come back to Europe full of energy.”

Collaboration is, he says, “maybe the single most important thing about the book. One of the greatest misconceptions about mathematics is that it’s a solitary activity in which you work with your pen, alone, in a room. But in fact, it’s a very social activity. You constantly seek inspiration in discussions and encounters and randomness and chance and so on.

Carole Cadwalladr

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