ABOUT: Margaret Wertheim is a writer, artist and curator whose work focuses on relations between science and the wider cultural landscape. A two-fold perspective animates her work: on the one hand science can be seen a set of conceptual enchantments that delight our minds and senses; on the other hand science is a socially embedded activity intersecting with philosophy, culture and politics. Wertheim aims to illuminate both dimensions of science and mathematics through her books, articles, lectures, workshops, and exhibitions.
Wertheim is the author of six books including Pythagoras Trousers, a history of physics and religion; The Pearly Gates of Cyberspace, a history of scientific concepts of space; and Physics on the Fringe, a ground-breaking exploration of outsider science. She has written for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Guardian, Aeon, Cabinet and many others. In 2003, with her twin-sister Christine, she founded the Institute For Figuring, a Los Angeles based practice devoted to the “aesthetic and poetic dimensions of science and mathematics.” Through the IFF she has designed art & science exhibits for galleries and museums around the world, including the Hayward Gallery (London), Science Gallery (Dublin) and Art Center College of Design (Pasadena). Margaret and Christine’s Crochet Coral Reef project is a global participatory art & science endeavor that has been seen by more than two millions people and exhibited at the Andy Warhol Museum (Pittsburg), Museum of Arts and Design (New York), Deutsches Museum (Munich), the Smithsonian (Washington D.C.), and other international venues, including the 2019 Venice Biennale. Throughout her career, Margaret has been a pioneer in communicating STEM subjects to women. She lectures widely at universities, colleges, and conferences. With degrees in physics (University of Queensland) and mathematics (University of Sydney), she has worked on all seven continents and stood on the South Pole.
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Awards + Honors
Wertheim’s honors include Australia’s Scientia Medal for science communication (2017), the American Association of Physics Teachers’ Klopstep Memorial Award (2016) for "communicating the excitement of physics” (the first woman to gain this honor in ten years), and the American Institute of Biological Sciences Print Journalism Award. She has been a Vice Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of Melbourne (2015), a Discovery Fellow at the University of Southern California (2012/2013), and a National Science Foundation visiting journalist to Antarctica (2004). Her writing has appeared in Best American Science Writing (2003, edited by Oliver Sacks), Best Australian Science Writing (2014, 2016, 2018), and Best Writing on Mathematics 2018 (Princeton University Press). Physics Today voted her book Physics on the Fringe one of the 10 best books of the year and her essay “Radical Dimensions” (in Aeon) was Runner-Up for the Bragg Prize (Australia, 2018). Her TED talk about her Crochet Coral Reef project has been viewed more than a million times and translated into 22 languages. In 2019, her work was included in the Venice Biennale.
TED Talk – "The Beautiful Math of Coral"
On Being (NPR) – "The Grandeur and Limits of Science", interview with Krista Tippett
To The Best Of Our Knowledge (NPR) - "Is the Universe a Number?", interview with Anne Stainchamps
The Mystery of Our Mathematical Universe - Video of a discussion at the New York Academy of Sciences with Margaret and supersymmetry physicist Sylvester Gates, moderated by NPR host Steve Paulson - from the NYAS 2018 conversation series "The Nature of Reality".
ANTENNAE – Margaret is interviewed about the Crochet Coral Reef and her work on science and art in Antennae: The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture. Issue 47, 2019