Marcus du Sautoy profile

Mathematics: it's the new rock 'n' roll. Or at least the new easy listening. In which case, Marcus du Sautoy is very definitely its Sinatra. Prepare to be seriously impressed.

Marcus du Sautoy profile

Every field has its TV champion. Natural history has David Attenborough, space has Brian Cox, history has Simon Schama, and life-sucking contempt has Frankie Boyle. Now maths too has its man: Marcus du Sautoy, who sounds like a Bond villain but is actually a very nice chap with a penchant for brightly coloured clothes and surfing. He's also Professor of Mathematics at Oxford, before whom we should really cower like the barely evolved halfwit ape-people we really are. But let's not do that, he'd probably feel awkward.

Marcus was just 12 when he was taken under the wing of an enigmatic maths teacher and set on the course that would lead him to mathematical supremacy. Until that point, it was actually languages that did it for him – he had vague ideas of becoming a foreign operative for the secret service – but from that point on it was the lavish splendour of numbers that would bewitch his mind. And if you think we're over-egging things a tad, bear in mind this is the bloke whose idea of a normal afternoon is to sit around with a pen in hand, investigating infinity on pads of A4.

And don't be fooled by the fact he's a "media personality" – Marcus is about as academic as you can get. A browse through the titles of his various papers would give Doctor Who a headache. "Counting subgroups in nilpotent groups and points on elliptic curves" and "The zeta function of sl2 and resolution of singularities" are just two of his must-reads. Remember prime numbers? To us, they're just numbers which can only be divided by themselves and one. To Marcus, they're the "atoms of arithmetic", and sources of mystical wonder to be unlocked and delved into. Like the Ark of the Covenant, only with less face melting.

Of course, what sets Marcus apart from other maths gurus is that he doesn't dress in fifty shades of beige, and his passion is infectious. Even to those of us normally rendered droolingly catatonic at the very sight of a fraction. His epic series, The Code, explored the secret mathematics of everything from the Giant's Causeway to Pixar, and then of course there's Dara O Briain's School of Hard Sums, in which Marcus is the problem-setter and riddler and all-round Dungeon Master, making guest comedians pull frustrated faces as they try to work out how maths can save your life, or help you pull in clubs.

And it seems maths can also help you win at football. Marcus is a devotee you see (he's called Arsenal his religion), and plays for the acclaimed Recreativo Hackney FC. When the team was languishing at the bottom of the Super Sunday League Division 2, he got them to agree to change all the team numbers to PRIME numbers. The result? Promotion in the very next season. Told you the man's a genius.

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