Biography of Percy John Heawood

Essay by jaimie1977College, UndergraduateB+, July 2007

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Percy John Heawood was a very boring man. He spent most of his entire life working on math theories. Math was his passion. He did have one infatuation other than math, it was the Durham Castle. The land on which the castle was built, was falling out from beneath it. Heawood worked for many years raising money to help save the castle. Without his hard work and efforts, the castle would not be there today. He received an award called the O.B.E. (Order of the British Empire) in 1939 for all of his hard work.

Besides the castle, Heawood was best recognized for his work on the four color map theorem. He worked extensively on this over his life, approximately 60 years. He published his first workings on this theory when he found an error made by Alfred Bray Kempe. The four color theorem states that any map of regions on a plane or sphere can be colored with at most four colors in such a method that regions sharing a boundary are colored in a different way.

Even though the outcome was guessed as early as 1852 its proof was not concluded until 1976.

Heawood also wrote about continued fractions (in which a0 is some integer and all the other numbers an are positive integers), the approximation theory (how functions can best be estimated with simpler functions), and the quadratic residues. He also wrote for the Mathematical Gazette and five major papers.

Another major thing he worked on was the Heawood graph. It is an undirected graph with 14 vertices and 21 edges. This graph was named after him in 1890 when it confirmed that all sections can be colored by seven colors at the most. This graph is a toroidal graph (can be set in the torus). Heawood...