Numbers: Their Human Aspects. Perspective from Indigenous Cultures

Presented by the Centre for Human Aspects of Science and Technology (CHAST)

Speaker: Dr Helen Verran, History and Philosophy of Science, University of Melbourne.

Many people spend a lot of time looking at numbers, or more to the point, looking through numbers at something else.

In this talk, Dr Helen Verran will take a look at numbers as such. How can we ‘see’ numbers? And why would we want to?

Dr Verran will tell of the experience of working with teachers in primary school classrooms in Nigeria. This made Dr Verran recognise that if we are going to understand how science might come to life as a significant cultural element in places like Nigeria, we need a way to see the cultural lives that things like numbers have.

Having done some preliminary thinking with the help of Nigerian primary school children, Dr Verran turned to her experiences of working with Yolngu Aboriginal Australians who own lands in northeast Arnhem Land.

Dr Verran will make a rather surprising analogy which she suggests can help us better understand the sorts of things numbers are.

Dr Helen Verran is a Reader in History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Melbourne. She has a PhD in metabolic biochemistry. For most of the 1980s she worked as a science lecturer in the Institute for Education at Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria. Her book Science and an African Logic (2001) was published out of this experience. Since she returned to Australia she has worked with Yolngu Aboriginal communities in northeast Arnhem Land. An early product of this work was the small book Singing the Land, Signing the Land now available online. The website: provides background for her CHAST Lecture.

Free admission, no bookings. All welcome. More info here!

When 8 November 2011, 5:30pm – 6:30pm
Where Eastern Avenue Auditorium, University of Sydney
RSVP None!! Just turn up!

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