Four Colours Suffice

Four Colours Suffice : How the Map Problem Was Solved

3.64 (175 ratings by Goodreads)
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A book to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the solution to one of the world's most puzzling mathematical problems. The four-colour theorem states that every map in the world can be coloured with just four colours in such a way that neighbouring countries have different colours. One of the simplest problems to state, one of the hardest to solve, which took a century for mathematicians to prove. This book introduces the mathematicians behind the mathematics, among them a bishop, an astronomer, a botanist, an obsessive golfer and a bridegroom who spend his honeymoon colouring more

Product details

  • Paperback | 288 pages
  • 129 x 199 x 22mm | 271g
  • Penguin Books Ltd
  • London, United Kingdom
  • New edition
  • b&w illustrations
  • 014100908X
  • 9780141009087
  • 1,416,098

Author information

Robin Wilson is Senior Lecturer in Mathematics at the Open University and Fellow of Keble College, more

Review Text

On the face of it this book would seem to have all the elements of a popular science classic in the making: a puzzle, academic controversy, a swathe of curious characters, a hoaxer and a race against time. The problem - perhaps - is the problem. Robin Wilson's tale begins in 1852, when the then Professor of Mathematics of the University of London, Augustus De Morgan, was posed a question by a student. The question seemed simple enough: why, when a map is divided into countries and each country coloured differently from each of its neighbours, are only four colours needed for the whole map? The student, Francis Guthrie, had stumbled on this 'fact' while colouring a map of England and, apparently, had proof that what he said was true. As with all such tales, however, the proof was lost and one of the great mathematical conundrums - the four colour problem - was born. As an intellectual challenge, the four colour problem fascinated and frustrated mathematicians for over a century as they competed to be the first to prove or disprove Guthrie's theorem. Yet Wilson's book on the subject strangely fails to inspire, although he works hard to bring his subject matter alive. The text is thoroughly researched, peppered with anecdotes and well supported with diagrams, formulae and easy-to-follow examples. But for all that this is no Longitude. The 'problem' is simply too exclusive. This is ultimately a volume for mathematicians and puzzle-lovers only. (Kirkus UK)show more

Rating details

175 ratings
3.64 out of 5 stars
5 16% (28)
4 42% (73)
3 33% (58)
2 9% (15)
1 1% (1)
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