Godel's Incompleteness Theorems

Listen in pop-out player

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss an iconic piece of 20th century maths - Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems. In 1900, in Paris, the International Congress of Mathematicians gathered in a mood of hope and fear. The edifice of maths was grand and ornate but its foundations, called axioms, had been shaken. They were deemed to be inconsistent and possibly paradoxical. At the conference, a young man called David Hilbert set out a plan to rebuild the foundations of maths – to make them consistent, all encompassing and without any hint of a paradox. Hilbert was one of the greatest mathematicians that ever lived, but his plan failed spectacularly because of Kurt Gödel. Gödel proved that there were some problems in maths that were impossible to solve, that the bright clear plain of mathematics was in fact a labyrinth filled with potential paradox. In doing so Gödel changed the way we understand what mathematics is and the implications of his work in physics and philosophy take us to the very edge of what we can know.With Marcus du Sautoy, Professor of Mathematics at Wadham College, University of Oxford; John Barrow, Professor of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Cambridge and Gresham Professor of Geometry and Philip Welch, Professor of Mathematical Logic at the University of Bristol.

Release date:

Available now

45 minutes

Last on

Thu 9 Oct 2008 21:30

Related topics

Featured in...

Topics: an extra way to explore our archive

Topics: an extra way to explore our archive

How you helped us find a fresh way to discover our programmes.

Animal Farm quiz

Animal Farm

How well do you know Orwell's allegory on Stalin’s Russia?

In Our Time podcasts

In Our Time podcasts

Every episode of In Our Time is available to download.

Quiz: Where's Melvyn?


How many of these northern landmarks do you know?

Arts and Ideas podcast

Free Thinking

Download the best of Radio 3's Free Thinking programme.