How geometry created modern physics

24th February 2023, 7:20 – 8:45 pm

Geometry has always been about far more than the measurement of shapes. It is at the heart of physics as well as mathematics. Inscribed above the door of Plato’s Academy in Athens were the words, ‘Let no one ignorant of geometry enter’.

From geometry’s classical beginnings, via the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, to the present day, Yang-Hui He will take us on a journey through time and space, culminating in our understanding of spacetime itself. In the 19th century, mathematicians such as Carl Gauss and Bernhard Riemann considered what would happen if we relaxed Euclid’s axioms. The result was the explosion of post-Euclidean geometry, which paved the way for Einstein’s theory of relativity and the birth of modern physics.

Singularity solutions of spacetime geometry have led to the discovery of black holes. And string theory, in the attempt to unify quantum mechanics with relativity, is giving rise to a brave new world of quantum geometry. If you’re ignorant of any of this on arrival, rest assured that by the time you leave you’ll be fit to enter Plato’s Academy.

This event is in partnership with the London Institute for Mathematical Sciences (LIMS)

Event type

This is a Theatre event, where the speaker and audience in our Theatre are joined by an online audience.

By booking to attend events at the Royal Institution, you confirm that you have read and accept the Ri’s event terms and conditions. You also agree to abide by our code of conduct, and help to create a great experience for yourself and your fellow participants. 

Prof. Yang-Hui He is a Fellow at the London Institute, Professor of Mathematics at City, University of London, Tutor in mathematics at Merton College, Oxford, and Chang-Jiang Chair of physics at Nankai University in China. He obtained his BA at Princeton, where he graduated summa cum laude and was awarded the Shenstone Prize and Kusaka Prize. He did his MA at Cambridge (Distinction, Tripos) and earned his PhD at MIT. After a postdoc at the University of Pennsylvania, Yang joined Oxford University as the FitzJames Fellow and an STFC Advanced Fellow. He works at the interface of string theory, algebraic and combinatorial geometry, and machine learning.

About LIMS

The London Institute for Mathematical Sciences (LIMS) is Britain’s only independent research institute in physics and mathematics. Based at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, LIMS offers scientists an alternative to a university career, giving them the freedom and support to devote themselves full-time to making discoveries.


Doors to the Theatre will open at about 6.50pm.

We try and have all attendees must be seated in the Theatre by 7.25pm. The Discourse will start at 7.30pm.

A Pay Bar will be available from 6.00pm. It will open again after the talk, until 9.30pm.


Please note that this event is for RI members. Harwellians can sign up for RI membership for FREE here.