Richard and Louise Guy Lecture Series

The Richard and Louise Guy lecture series celebrates the joy of discovery and wonder in mathematics for everyone. The lecture series was a 90th birthday present from Louise Guy to Richard in recognition of his love of mathematics and his desire to share his passion with the world. Richard Guy is the author of over 100 publications including works in combinatorial game theory, number theory and graph theory. He strives to make mathematics accessible to all. In 2019, the Richard celebrated his 103rd birthday.  Learn more about his life.

Past lectures

The 14th Richard and Louise Guy Lecture (2019)

Abstract: When you send your credit card number over the Internet, cryptography helps to ensure that no one can steal the number in transit. Julius Caesar and Mary Queen of Scots used cryptography to send secret messages, in the latter case with ill-fated results. Cryptography allows people to share secrets, encrypt messages, and digitally sign documents, and it is used in electronic voting and in cryptocurrencies. Some of the recent exciting breakthroughs in cryptography include elliptic curve cryptography, pairing-based cryptography, identity-based cryptography, and fully homomorphic encryption, all of which are based on advanced mathematics. The talk will discuss cryptography through the ages, and how modern cryptography uses mathematics, especially the field of number theory.

Dr. Alice Silverberg
Distinguished Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science at the University of California, Irvine

Bio: Alice Silverberg is a distinguished professor of mathematics and computer science at the University of California, Irvine. She has consulted for film and television, has given over 300 invited lectures, writes about Alice's Adventures in Numberland (at, and occasionally writes mathematically-inspired Scottish country dances. Professor Silverberg's research areas are cryptography and number theory. She earned her undergrad degree summa cum laude from Harvard University, a master's degree and PhD from Princeton University, and a Master of Advanced Study degree from the University of Cambridge. She has been awarded Humboldt, Sloan, IBM, Bunting, and National Science Foundation Fellowships, and has consulted for or done research at a number of industrial labs and research centres including IBM, Microsoft, Xerox PARC, Bell Labs, Sandia National Labs, DoCoMo USA Labs, the Bunting Institute at Harvard University, the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques in France, and the Max Planck Institute für Mathematik in Germany.

Date: Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019
Time: Doors open at 4:30 p.m.
Lecture: 5 p.m.
Location: MacEwan Hall A, Main Campus

The 13th Richard and Louise Guy Lecture (2018)

Abstract: Mathematics can be tasty! It’s a way of thinking, and not just about numbers. Through unexpectedly connected examples from music, juggling, and baking, I will show that math can be made fun and intriguing for all through hands-on activities, examples that everyone can relate to, and funny stories. I’ll present surprisingly high-level mathematics, including some advanced abstract algebra usually only seen by math majors and graduate students. There will be a distinct emphasis on edible examples. Suitable for all ages including keen children.

Dr. Eugenia Cheng
Scientist In Residence, School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Date: Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018
Time: Doors open at 4:30 p.m.
Lecture: 5 p.m.
Location: MacEwan Ballroom, 3rd Floor, MacEwan Student Centre, Main Campus

The 12th Richard and Louise Guy Lecture (2017)

Abstract: Diophantine equations are one of the oldest, frequently celebrated and most abstract objects in mathematics. They crop up in areas ranging from recreational mathematics and puzzles, to cryptography, error correcting codes, and even in studying the structure of viruses. In this talk, Dr. Bennett will attempt to show some of the roles these equations play in modern mathematics and beyond. 

Michael Bennett
President, Canadian Mathematical Society
Professor of Mathematics, University of British Columbia

Date: Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017
Time: Registration at 4:30 p.m.
Lecture: 5 p.m.
Location: Science Theatres Building, Room 135

The 11th Richard and Louise Guy Lecture (2016)

Abstract: Mathematics pervades all the sciences, but it also lies at the heart of a number of fields in the humanities. Two such important subjects which go back to ancient times are linguistics and music. In fact, many of the modern mathematical tools used in probability and combinatorics, and tools applied in varied technologies, such as those on NASA space missions, originate in problems encountered by linguists and musicians thousands of years ago. A look at some of these ancient, poetic problems - and their remarkable solutions through the ages - reveals much about the nature of human thought and the origins of mathematics.

Manjul Bhargava
Mathematics Department, Princeton University
2014 Fields Medal Winner

Date: Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016
Time: Registration at 4:30 p.m.
Lecture: 5 p.m.
Location: Science Theatres Building, MacEwan Hall Student Centre, Ballroom

The 10th Richard and Louise Guy Lecture (2015)

Abstract: This talk will demonstrate some of the surprising connections between the mystery of magic and the art of juggling, and some interesting ideas from mathematics. Ronald Graham is chief scientist at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology and the Irwin and Joan Jacobs professor in computer science and engineering at UC San Diego. He is also an accomplished trampolinist and juggler.

Ronald Lewis Graham
University of California, San Diego

Date: Thursday, Sept. 27, 2015
Time: 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Location:  Science B, Room 103

The 9th Richard and Louise Guy Lecture (2014)

Abstract: One sometimes hears that the indigenous peoples of the Americas are for some reason not predisposed to mathematics. This belief is surprising, as mathematical traditions in the western hemisphere prior to European contact were already rich and extensive. This talk will focus on some of those traditions, primarily Central American but with some information about mathematical traditions in Algonkian cultures such as the Blackfoot. Almost all of this talk will be accessible to any interested listener, with perhaps five minutes in the middle using a small amount of very elementary number theory. Along the way any listener who has ever eaten an 18 Rabbits granola bar will learn why doing so celebrates indigenous mathematics.

Edward Doolittle
First Nations University of Canada

Date: Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014
Time: 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Location: KNB 132

The 8th Richard and Louise Guy Lecture (2013)

Abstract: How could there be something we don’t know about arithmetic? It would seem that subject was sewed up in third grade. But here’s a problem we don’t know: What is the most efficient method for multiplication? How many different numbers appear in a large multiplication table? Come learn about these types of problems and recent progress.

Carl Pomerance
Dartmouth College

Date: Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013
Time: 5 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Location: SB 103

The 7th Richard and Louise Guy Lecture (2012)

Abstract: Doodling has many mathematical aspects: patterns, shapes, numbers and more. Not surprisingly, there are often some sophisticated and fun mathematics buried inside common doodles. I'll begin by doodling and see where it takes us. It looks like play, but it reflects what mathematics is really about: finding patterns in nature, explaining them, and extending them. By the end, we'll have seen some important notions in geometry, topology, physics and elsewhere; some fundamental ideas guiding the development of mathematics over the course of the last century; and ongoing work continuing today.

Ravi Vakil
Stanford University

Date: Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012
Time: 5 p.m. - 6 p.m.
Location: SB 103

The 6th Richard and Louise Guy Lecture (2011)

Abstract: To write a musical canon - be it "Three Blind Mice" or the climax of a Bach fugue - one constructs a melody that can act as its own harmony. Thinking about this task leads us to look at musical structure from points of view usually associated with science and mathematics, not the arts. The lecture will be illustrated with diagrams as well as musical examples form various eras and genres (including at least one improvised on the spot), and will require no technical background in either music or mathematics.

Noam Elkies
Harvard University 

Date: Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011
Time: 4 p.m - 5 p.m.
Location: MFH 162

The 5th Richard and Louise Guy Lecture (2010)

Abstract: When I was six years old, my father Martin Demaine and I designed and made puzzles as the Erik and Dad Puzzle Company, which distributed to toy stores across Canada. So began our journey into the interactions between algorithms and the arts (here, puzzle design). More and more, we find that our mathematical research and artistic projects converge, with the artistic side inspiring the mathematical side and vice versa.  Mathematics itself is an art form, and through other media such as sculpture, puzzles, and magic, the beauty of mathematics can be brought to a wider audience. These artistic endeavors also provide us with deeper insights into the underlying mathematics, by providing physical realizations of objects under consideration, by pointing to interesting special cases and directions to explore, and by suggesting new problems to solve (such as the metapuzzle of how to solve a puzzle). This talk will give several examples in each category, from how our first font design led to building transforming robots, to how studying curved creases in origami led to sculptures at MoMA. The audience will be expected to participate in some live magic demonstrations.

Erik Demaine
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Date: Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010
Time: 4 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Location: Murray Fraser Hall 162

The 4th Richard and Louise Guy Lecture (2009)

Abstract: In the summer of 1965, I worked as a student programmer for Richard Guy and Jack Kenyon generating G-sequences of Nim-like games and searching for patterns in these sequences. Since then, methods for finding repeated subsequences of a sequence have been shown to have consequences in areas as varied as computational biology and prevention of hacker attacks on computer systems. I will focus on Teiresias, a pattern search method due to Isidore Rigoutsos of IBM Research and colleagues. Recent results obtained using this system are causing us to revise our understanding of how genes and proteins work together.

William Pulleyblank
Vice President of the Center for Business Optimization,IBM, New York

Date: Thursday, Sept. 17, 2009
Time: 4 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Location: ST 135

The 3th Richard and Louise Guy Lecture (2008)

Abstract: Combinatorial Games like Chess, Checkers and Go (no dice or cards allowed) have been played for millennia. People, especially those who like to win, have developed strategies for some individual games, consider the number of Chess books, but it was only in 1902 that the hint of a foundation for an abstract theory of Combinatorial Games was published. It took 35 years, 75 years or 105 years (depending on your point of view) to get the theory right. I'll explain, by examples, the development of the theory also with an emphasis on the people involved, many of whom are still alive, Richard K. Guy included. This lecture requires no background in mathematics.

Richard Nowakowski
Dalhousie University

Date: Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008
Time: 4 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Location: ENA 101

The 2nd Richard and Louise Guy Lecture (2007)

Abstract: What makes a knot? How would you tell a friend over an old-fashioned telephone just which knot you're holding, supposing of course that your friend is just as captivated by mathematics as yourself? Can two knots cancel? I'll show how some such questions can be answered by hand-waving, and some more by childish arithmetic. Be prepared to dance!

John Horton Conway
FRS, John von Neumann Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, Princeton University

Date: Thursday, Sept. 20, 2007
Time: 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
Location: ST 141

The 1st Richard and Louise Guy Lecture (2006)

Abstract: One version of the classic travelling salesman problem seeks to determine whether or not, in any given graph, there exists a "Hamiltonian path" which traverses every node exactly once. In the general case, this problem is well-known to be NP Hard. In one interesting subclass of this problem, the nodes are taken to be the first N integers, {1,2,3,...,N}, where there is a branch between J and K iff J+K is in a specified set S = {S[1], S[2], S[3],...,S[M]}. Or, given S, for what values of N does a Hamiltonian path exist? How fast can the elements of S grow such that there exist solutions for infinitely many N? The answer to the second question turns out to be a close relative of the Fibonacci numbers, for which we construct solutions by observing the path of a billiard ball which travels at 45 degree angles to the sides of its table. Using the same billiard ball methodology, we also find some particular solutions when S is the set of squares or the set of cubes.

Elwyn Berlekamp
University of California, Berkeley

Date: September 2006
Time: N/A
Location: N/A