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I am looking for mathematical documentaries, both technical and non-technical. They should be "interesting" in that they present either actual mathematics, mathematicians or history of mathematics. I am in charge of nourishing our departmental math library (PUCV) and I would like to add this kind of material in order to attract undergraduates toward mathematics. For this reason, I am not looking for videos of conferences or seminar talks, but rather for introductory or "wide public" material.

Here are some good examples.

Are there more examples? Thanks, Ricardo.

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Not exactly a documentary, but appropriate for an undergrad math library: youtube.com/watch?v=wO61D9x6lNY –  Aaron Hoffman Jun 19 '12 at 18:57
This question should surely be community wiki. –  HJRW Jun 19 '12 at 19:41
Yes, Ricardo: please edit your question and click on the option "communiy wiki" (see the FAQ for more information on what that is). –  André Henriques Jun 19 '12 at 19:55

45 Answers 45

THE THINGS YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND, 2010, Peter and Petra Lataster Mathematician Hendrik Lenstra has no car, no computer and no television. But he is the proud owner of numerous editions of Homer’s Odyssey. Directors Petra & Peter Lataster draw a portrait of Lenstra, a mathematician who thinks on the highest level. And also in daily life he is not interested in the superfluous and the fashionable. http://www.latasterfilms.nl/en/films/the-things-you-dont-understand/

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A very nice interview of László Lovász can be found here: https://www.simonsfoundation.org/science_lives_video/laszlo-lovasz/ A very wide variety of topics are covered (see the 'playlist' at the right hand side)!

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This documentary on John Von Neumann produced by the MAA in 1966 is pretty good. Has interviews with Paul Halmos, Stanislaw Ulam, Eugene Wigner, among others.


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Here is a short film on Paul Halmos.

  • The 44-minute film contains a rare interview with Paul Halmos by Peter Renz, revealing his thoughts on mathematics, and how to teach it and write about it. Five bonus features include comments by mathematicians Robert Bekes, David Eisenbud, Jean Pedersen, and Donald Sarason about their experiences with Halmos. Interviews with Halmos by Don Albers and Halmos's own writings are included as PDF documents
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Well, you may want to check out some short documentaries about beautiful minds. For example, my mathematical idol Kurt Gödel, here is the clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2KP1vWkQ6Y There can be many more examples, just to give the students a taste of what it is like to be a mathematician.

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There is a document "Banach spaces" about S.Banach and other polish mathematicians from Lviv ( S.Ulam, J.P.Schauder)

Unfortunetelly I don't know about any translation to english.


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The best I have ever seen is "The Proof". It is a Nova documentary on Sir Andrew Wiles and his proof of Fermat's last theorem. I can always find something interesting to talk about with my students who range from algebra one level to calculus.

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Already mentioned in this answer: mathoverflow.net/questions/100033/… –  Zev Chonoles Feb 15 '13 at 18:31

"Between The Folds" is another beautiful documentary about Math. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tE4lqYzS2m0

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You can find a selection of open source maths films on the IMAGINARY platform: http://www.imaginary.org/films

Many of the already mentioned films are there (like Dimensions, Chaos, Braids, etc.), but also some really good new ones, like "The Future of Glaciers", etc. The platform is also open for contributions from outside, so you can come back and find a growing repository of free licensed maths films.

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Leon Henkin, an expert on mathematical logic and induction, made a movie on Mathematical Induction

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The youtube channel of Simons Foundation can be considered as a series of one-shot "documentaries" about puzzles and (auto)biographies of mathematicians: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZVjCmJOQRpAQ_EruAIPqXg

There is also a (rare?) documentary on the life of Grothendieck in french, I saw a trailer here: http://youtu.be/UO5KgnTY_fU

Unfortunately I haven't seen the movie but apparently they are working on an english translation of the movie as well.

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Although not a video series, the podcast series Relatively Prime by Samuel Hansen is a superbly produced series of 8 podcasts including interviews with eminent mathematicians and covering a wide range of topics. Perfect listening material for long commutes I've found.

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Au Bonheur des Maths (it's in French but you can put English subtitles)

Several short interviews of mathematicians around the IHES:
Alain Connes, Misha Gromov, Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, Cédric Villani, Sir Michael Atiyah, Giancarlo Servetto, Carolina Canales Gonzalez, Nicole El Karoui, Don Zagier.

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