Comedian Dara Ó Briain honoured for raising public awareness of maths

20 Oct 2021

Image: Dara Ó Briain

The stand-up star and TV presenter studied mathematics and theoretical physics before pursuing a career in comedy.

Irish comedian Dara Ó Briain has received an award for his contribution to raising public awareness of maths.

This is an award that is presented each year during Maths Week Ireland – the annual all-island festival of maths and numeracy, which is currently running with events across the country and online.

Organisers of the event said Ó Briain is a worthy winner due to his “infectious enthusiasm for maths” that has been demonstrated across a variety of platforms over the years.

He graduated with a degree in mathematics and theoretical physics from University College Dublin (UCD) in 1994, before pursuing a career in comedy.

But he has combined these areas in recent years, with TV programmes such as Dara Ó Briain: School of Hard Sums and books including Secret Science and Beyond the Sky.

‘Maths is the language in which the universe is written’

“I don’t consider myself an expert in maths, but I’m an enthusiastic fan and I do try to help promote the work of those who are,” Ó Briain said, dedicating the award to Seán Dineen, emeritus professor of mathematics at UCD.

“Maths is the language in which the universe is written. It’s innate to the human brain and a spectacular thing that we’ve discovered. It permeates our lives, so it’s important to engage with it positively and I’m delighted to be able to help people to do that.”

Dr Sheila Donegan, co-founder of Maths Week Ireland, added that her team is always looking to get people to engage with this subject in a fun and interesting way.

“Dara Ó Briain has done that repeatedly, while also working to make maths less mysterious, or intimidating. Fear of failure can hold people back from engaging with maths, despite the career opportunities it presents and its importance in every aspect of our lives,” she said.

“Dara has helped many overcome this fear. Dara has made mathematical concepts more accessible to the public and has normalised maths. Dara has always been an unapologetic champion of critical thinking and rationality, positioning maths and science in that arena.”

This award was started in 2016 to recognise public figures across the island of Ireland who promote maths. Last year’s recipient was mathematics education lecturer and advocate Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin.

Maths Week Ireland is continuing to run events in the coming days, primarily in schools and online.

The annual festival is coordinated by Calmast, Waterford Institute of Technology’s STEM outreach centre. It is supported by Science Foundation Ireland, the Department of Education and Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy, along with employers, universities, institutes of technologies, libraries, schools and more.

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Sarah Harford was sub-editor of Silicon Republic