Author: Aoife Moriarty
Yesterday, it was announced that billionaire hedge fund founder David Harding is to contribute £5 million towards a maths gallery for London’s Science Museum. It is the largest individual donation that the museum has ever received.
Harding, who also helped fund the museum’s Collider exhibition, said the main reason he made the contribution is to help change how maths and science are viewed in everyday life.
Speaking to The Times, he opined that calling people who are good at maths ‘geeks’ and ‘nerds’ was equivalent to using terms of racist abuse. ‘I’m not sure that y** is less insulting. One is a Jewish person and one is a person who is very good at maths,’ he said.
The billionaire businessman added: ‘Are these words really used affectionately by society? It doesn’t feel like that. I think they’re used with a slight fear and a slight putting something down so you don’t have to be respectful of it.’
Exploring how mathematicians have shaped our world since the 17th century, the new Zaha Hadid-designed gallery will undoubtedly influence the next generation to think differently about the power of numbers. Science Museum Director Ian Blatchford said he also hoped the ‘game-changing gift’ would inspire ‘further transformational philanthropy’.
A centrepiece of the gallery will be a 1929 Handley Page aircraft, with the design of the space anchored in mathematical and engineering concepts, in keeping with Hadid’s signature approach. The gallery is set to open its doors for its first visitors in 2016.