the author

Matthew Watkins completed a PhD in mathematics in 1994, but has always been more interested in trying to understand what mathematics “is” and “where it comes from” (as well as trying to explain it to his non-mathematical friends) than pursuing a conventional research or teaching career. The second half of the 1990s were spent living as a nomadic musician (he plays the saz, a seven-stringed Turkish instrument), contemplating the underlying nature of reality while wandering the British Isles, busking, picking fruit, planting trees, visiting megalithic sites, etc. The music continues, documented here.

In 1999 he had a little maths and physics reference book published as part of the popular Wooden Books series. This has since been licensed by Walker & Co., NYC and translated into at least half a dozen languages.

Since 2000, he’s been an Honorary Fellow in Exeter University’s mathematics department (which keeps changing its name, but is currently part of the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences). During the early 2000’s, as well as having done a bit of teaching work, he initiated and has been since been curating the online Number Theory and Physics Archive and the related (but more popularly accessible) site Inexplicable Secrets of Creation.

personal homepage at Exeter

In 2004, in collaboration with playwright and mythogeographer Phil Smith, he received the first arts commission from the British Association for the Advancement of Science in its 173-year history. This took place in Exeter and was a suprisingly well-received combination of a local history walk, a mathematics lecture and a piece of experimental street theatre, based on the fascinating life and work of local 19th century mathematical visionary William Clifford.

Between 2010 and 2012 he self-published the Secrets of Creation trilogy, a popularisation of certain mysterious goings-on in the foundations of mathematics, richly illustrated by Matt Tweed and later licensed by Liberalis Books. His attention then turned to local history, with unexpected results!

In recent years, he’s been showing up at various festivals (The Secret Garden PartyBig Green GatheringWOMADetc.) as his alter ego, the (even more) eccentric mathematician Professor Raphael Appleblossom, doing “freestyle walkabout mathematics performance lecturing”, honing his ability to communicate challenging mathematical ideas to highly non-mathematical (yet curious) members of the public. As well as occasional live DJ appearances and miscellaneous involvement in cultural events in and around the City of Canterbury, Matthew produces the monthly music podcast Canterbury Sans Frontières and the almost-weekly philosophical videoblog The Reality Report.