Prof of Mathematics, Open University
Prof of Geometry, Gresham College
Abstract: Four Colours Suffice
How many colours are needed to colour a map
so that neighbouring regions are coloured differently?
It seems as though the number ought to increase as
the map becomes increasingly more complicated, but surprisingly this
is not the case.
This illustrated talk presents the 124-year history
of this fascinating problem, from its origin in 1852 to its eventual
computer-aided solution -- a solution that raised various
philosophical issues about the nature of mathematical proof.
Robin Wilson is Professor of Pure
Mathematics at the Open University, UK, a Fellow in Mathematics at
Keble College, Oxford University and Gresham Professor of Geometry,
London (the oldest mathematical Chair in England).
He has written and
edited over thirty books, mainly on graph theory and the history of
mathematics. His historical interests focus mainly on British
mathematics, especially in the 19th and early 20th centuries and on
the history of graph theory and combinatorics.
He is very involved with
the communication and popularisation of mathematics, having produced
books on mathematics and music, mathematical philately and sudoku &
also on the Gilbert & Sullivan operas. His book ‘Four Colours
Suffice’ (Penguin, 2002) was a best seller.
He also gives about
forty public lectures per year.