The Four Color Theorem: archival documentation and outreach

Faculty Member

Jeremy Tyson, Chris Prom and Bethany Anderson

Project Image

In 1977, two faculty members at the University of Illinois, Ken Appel and Wolfgang Haken, published a proof of the Four Color Theorem, a 125 year old mathematical problem in combinatorics and planar topology. Appel and Haken’s proof of the Four Color Theorem was one of the first mathematical proofs which relied extensively on the use of computing technology. This project has two components. First, we will work together with staff in the University Archives to analyze and catalog unprocessed material of Ken Appel’s donated to the Archives by his wife Carole Appel in 2013. Students in the project will learn basic principles of archival documentation and analysis and will curate an exhibition on this material to be displayed in the Library and the Math Department during our upcoming celebration of the Four Color Theorem in November 2017. Second, students will develop engaging outreach material related to the Four Color Theorem including activities for students and interested parties of all ages and mathematical skill levels. Chris Prom and Bethany Anderson of the University Archives are faculty co-mentors on this project.

Team Meetings

weekly at first, then periodically

Project Difficulty


Undergrad Prerequisites

Completion of Calculus 3