Zentralblatt MATH

Publications of (and about) Paul Erdös

Zbl.No:  867.01015
Autor:  Smith, Cedric A.B.
Title:  Did Erdös save western civilization? (In English)
Source:  Graham, Ronald L. (ed.) et al., The mathematics of Paul Erdös. Vol. I. Berlin: Springer, Algorithms Comb. 13, 74-85 (1997).
Review:  In an anecdotal manner the author describes how he became acquainted in the 1930s with a geometric conjecture by Paul Erdös on the dissection of a square into a finite number of smaller squares. As a student in Cambridge (England) he was introduced to the problem by Arthur Stone. They jointly discussed with R. L. Brooks and then chemist William T. Tutte the relation of that conjecture to Kirchhoff's theory of electrical networks. They finally (1940) showed Erdös's conjecture to be incorrect. Tutte, later founding President of the Institute of Combinatorics and Its Applications, became involved into the work at Bletchley Park during World War II, where the German submarine code was broken. Since he had been drawn into mathematics by Erdös's conjecture the author is led to the provoking title of this paper.
Reviewer:  R.Siegmund-Schultze (Berlin)
Classif.:  * 01A60 Mathematics in the 20th century
                   01A70 Biographies, obituaries, personalia, bibliographies
Keywords:  Erdös conjecture on dissection of squares; W. T. Tutte at Bletchley park
Biogr.Ref.:  Erdös, P.

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