MAS336 Differential Geometry

Note: This is an old module occurrence.

You may wish to visit the module list for information on current teaching.

Semester 1, 2021/22 10 Credits
Lecturer: Dr Simon Willerton Home page Timetable Reading List
Aims Outcomes Teaching Methods Assessment Full Syllabus

Differential geometry is the study of geometric objects using calculus, and it has plenty of applications in other sciences and engineering. In this introductory course, the geometric objects of our interest will be curves and surfaces. You will learn more about such familiar notions as arc lengths, angles and areas. You will also learn how to quantify the "shape" of an object, via various notions of curvature. There are rich interactions between curvature and other geometric quantities, as illustrated most notably by Gauss' Theorem. For example, we can make a map of the Earth that correctly represents either all angles or all areas; but by Gauss' Theorem, the Earth's curvature prevents us from ever making a map that correctly represents distances.

Prerequisites: MAS211 (Advanced Calculus and Linear Algebra)
No other modules have this module as a prerequisite.

Outline syllabus

Curves in R2
  • basic notions and examples
  • curvature
Surfaces in R3
  • basic notions and examples
  • metric quantities
  • curvature
  • Gauss' Theorem


  • to introduce differential geometry: its goals, techniques and applications;
  • to translate intuitive ideas into mathematical concepts that allow quantitative studies and development of sophisticated results;
  • to illustrate geometric concepts and results through many examples.

Learning outcomes

  • express geometric quantities in different ways, for conceptual or computational purposes
  • curves in R2: understand the meaning and significance of curvature
  • surfaces in R3: understand the meaning of curvature and its effects on other geometric quantities
  • discover a number of applications of differential geometry

Teaching methods

lectures, problem solving

20 lectures, no tutorials


One online, 2.5-hour exam (+30 mins upload time) during January exam period.

Full syllabus

1. Introduction (1 lecture)

2. Curves in R2 and their Curvature (7 lectures)
Recap on vector differentiation. Parametrization. Tangent vectors. Arc lengths. Unit-speed parametrization. Smooth curves. Curvature. How curvature characterises the shape of a curve.
3. Surfaces in R3 (4 lectures)
Parametrization. Tangent planes. Smooth surfaces.
4. Metric Quantities of a Surface (4 lectures)
First fundamental form. Local isometries. Conformal parametrizations. Area-preserving parametrizations.
5. Curvature of a Surface (4 lectures)
Normal vectors. Second fundamental form. Weingarten map. Normal curvature. Principal curvatures and vectors. Gaussian curvatures, Gauss' theorem.

Reading list

Type Author(s) Title Library Blackwells Amazon
B Pressley Elementary differential geometry 513.73 (P) Blackwells Amazon

(A = essential, B = recommended, C = background.)

Most books on reading lists should also be available from the Blackwells shop at Jessop West.


Mon 14:00 - 14:50 lecture   Hicks Lecture Theatre 7
Fri 11:00 - 11:50 lecture   Hicks Lecture Theatre 6