Maths, murder, and malaria (w/ Dr. Steven Le Comber @le_comber)

July 3, 2019 @ 7:30 pm – 8:30 pm
The Star & Garter Pub
Star & Garter
60 Old Woolwich Rd, London SE10 9NY
Prof. Chris French

Geographic profiling (GP) is a statistical technique originally developed in criminology to prioritise large lists of suspects – often in the tens or hundreds of thousands – in cases of serial murder. GP uses the spatial locations of crime sites to make inferences about the location of the offender’s ‘anchor point’ (usually a home, but sometimes a workplace). The success of GP in criminology has led recently to its application to biology, notably animal foraging (where it can be used to find animal nests or roosts using the locations of foraging sites as input), epidemiology (identifying disease sources from the addresses of infected individuals) and invasive species biology (using current locations to identify source populations). In a talk spanning mathematics, Jack the Ripper and great white sharks, Steve will explain how he used geographic profiling to investigate the identity of the artist Banksy and reanalysed a Gestapo case from the 1940s that formed the basis of a famous novel – and how GP can be used to control outbreaks of diseases such as malaria.

Steven Le Comber is a senior lecturer in the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at Queen Mary University of London. His work covers a wide range of subjects within evolutionary biology, including mathematical and computer models of molecular evolution and studies of spatial patterns in biology. Steve’s work on the mathematics of spatial patterns ranges from the fractal geometry of African mole-rat burrows to epidemiology.

Steve is passionate about science communication, and has given major talks at the Cheltenham Science Festival in the UK, at the Internet Festival in Pisa, Italy and at Ratio in Bulgaria. He has appeared on the BBC and his research has been covered around the world.


Talks are held on the first Wednesday of the month starting at 7:30 pm unless otherwise noted. We meet in the Star and Garter pub, 60 Old Woolwich Road, London SE10 9NY. The Star and Garter pub is close to many transport links and is approximately 7 minutes walk from Maze Hill Overground Station, or 10 minutes walk from the Cutty Sark DLR Station. Although the pub does not serve food, there are plenty of excellent restaurants in Greenwich, including several very nearby on Trafalgar Road. Attendance is free (unless otherwise stated) although a small donation to help cover expenses is appreciated. There is no need to book in advance (again, unless otherwise stated).

For further information, visit or contact Prof Chris French (email: [email protected]).

NB: You are strongly recommended to register (at no cost) with the “Psychology of the Paranormal” email list (run by Professor Chris French, Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit, Goldsmiths, University of London) to ensure that you are informed of any future changes to the programme as well as news of related events. You can also follow @chriscfrench on Twitter for announcements (including news of last-minute cancellations, changes of speaker, etc.).