Matthew Watkins completed a PhD in mathematics in 1994, but has always been more interested in trying to understand what mathematics "is" and "where it comes from" (as well as trying to explain it to his non-mathematical friends) than pursuing a conventional research or teaching career.
The second half of the 1990s were spent living as a nomadic musician (he plays the saz, a seven-stringed Turkish instrument), contemplating the underlying nature of reality while wandering the British Isles, busking, picking fruit, planting trees, visiting megalithic sites, etc. The music continues, documented here.
In 1999 he had a little maths and physics reference book published (also illustrated by Matt Tweed) as part of the popular Wooden Books series. This has since been licensed by Walker & Co., NYC and translated into at least half a dozen languages.
[personal homepage at Exeter]
Since 2000, he's been an Honorary Fellow in Exeter University's mathematics department (which keeps changing its name, but is currently part of the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Physical Sciences). In the early 2000's, as well as having done a bit of teaching work, he initiated and has been since been curating the online Number Theory and Physics Archive and the related (but more popularly accessible) site Inexplicable Secrets of Creation, a project which naturally led to the idea of this series of books.
In 2004, in collaboration with playwright and mythogeographer Phil Smith, he received the first arts commission from the British Association for the Advancement of Science in its 173-year history. This took place in Exeter and was a suprisingly well-received combination of a local history walk, a mathematics lecture and a piece of experimental street theatre, based on the fascinating life and work of local 19th century mathematical visionary William Clifford.
More recently, he's been showing up at various festivals (The Secret Garden Party, Big Green Gathering, WOMAD, etc.) as his alter ego, the (even more) eccentric mathematician Professor Raphael Appleblossom, doing "freestyle walkabout mathematics performance lecturing", honing his ability to communicate challenging mathematical ideas to highly non-mathematical (yet curious) members of the public.
In March 2010, he participated in an experimental collaborative venture with sculptor Conrad Shawcross at Urbanomic Studio, a centre of interdisciplinary arts/science/philosophy research in Falmouth, UK. Further collaborations with Urbanomic have since occurred, including being asked to address a group of Goldsmiths College conceptual art postgraduates on sheaf theory during a seminar on site-specific art (?!) and to write a piece on the philosophical problems of classical probability theory for their "philosophical research and development" journal Collapse. Other curious public engagements of late have seen Matthew in the pulpit at St. Mary's Church (and arts centre) in Sandwich delivering a "sermon" on Pythagorean triangles and the megalithic monuments of Britain, as well as improvising a talk on Euler's formula at an avant-garde arts event in Canterbury backed up by a free-improv jazz trio.
Along with occasional live DJ appearances and miscellaneous involvement in cultural events in and around the City of Canterbury, Matthew produces the monthly music podcast Canterbury Sans Frontières and the almost-weekly philosophical videoblog The Reality Report. In the summer of 2017 he completed his latest book You Are Here: The biography of a moment, an experimental, psychogeographically-informed "accelerating history of Canterbury from the Big Bang to noon on the 15th August 2014".