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Jeffrey Watumull (2010)
Summary: University of Cambridge (PhD student in Mathematical Biolinguistics)
Citizenship: United States
Degree and subject: PhD
College: Christ's College
“Philosophy is written in this vast book, which continuously lies upon before our eyes (I mean the universe). But it cannot be understood unless you have first learned to understand the language and recognize the characters in which it is written. It is written in the language of mathematics” (Galileo). The Galilean ideal that the beauty of nature is definable mathematically is empirically verifiable in the uniquely human capacity for language. We are genetically endowed with the mental (computational) algorithms to generate linguistic expressions of technically infinite complexity (explicable in terms of set theory and algebra). To discover the mathematical laws that emerged in our evolution to govern the generative power of language is the desideratum of my research--research that would be impossible for me to conduct but for the Gates Scholarship with its audacity to suppose with me that pure science (pure mathematics) will ultimately redound to the good of nature.