Categories
Book review

Four Colours Suffice: How The Map Problem Was Solved

Four Colours Suffice: How The Map Problem Was Solved
Read date: July 2018

Four Colours Suffice: How The Map Problem Was Solved by Robin J. Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is a clear and entertaining account of the long history of the attempts to provr four colour theorem – that any map on can be coloured with at most four colour, such that no countries with a common border have the same colour. Although there are lots of interesting characters and asides, this is not a book for the mathematically faint of heart: in order to understand the approach that finally proved the conjecture, Robin Wilson takes you pretty far into the dense woods. If you enjoy following along, and are prepared (as I was) to skim over the more complex parts, you will still come away with a good appreciation of how it happened. You will also perhaps understand why many mathematicians at the time were skeptical about the proof: it needed over 1000 hours of computer time to complete the proof, and the approach is too complex to check by hand. Does that count as a “proof”? Nowadays, when computers are routinely used by mathematicians to check their own work, people would have fewer doubts, but in the 1970s, many felt this to be a real issue.

View all my reviews

Leave a Reply