Symmetry And The Monster

Series exploring the quest to understand one of most famous mathematical problems.



Professor Mark Ronan, author of the book 'Symmetry and the Monster: The Story of One of the Greatest Quests of Mathematics', follows the discovery by the precocious Frenchman Evariste Galois of the 'building blocks' of symmetry.

His legacy, published in 1846 - 14 years after his death in a duel, was to set the study of symmetry on a new course and start a new branch of mathematics called group theory.


Professor Mark Ronan charts the work of Norwegian mathematician Sophus Lie as he followed in the footsteps of Evariste Galois, discoverer of symmetry's building blocks.

In his exploration of multi-dimensional geometry in the 1870s, Lie built on Galois' discovery and his work paved the way for 20th Century advances in theoretical physics.


Professor Mark Ronan follows the work, in the 1930s, of mathematician Richard Brauer, who was forced to leave Germany for North America by the Nazis.

At Harvard, where he influenced a new generation of mathematicians, he brought the quest to understand symmetry closer to fruition.

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Professor Mark Ronan explains how in 1973 Bernd Fischer discovered a structure of 196,883 dimensions, otherwise known as the Monster.

Thus symmetry had come together with the concept of string theory, enabling a much greater understanding of the construction of the universe.