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Sir Alfred Bray Kempe D.C.L. F.R.S. (6 July 1849, Kensington, London – 21 April 1922, London) was a mathematician best known for his work on linkages and the four color theorem.

Kempe studied at Trinity College, Cambridge where Arthur Cayley was one of his teachers. He graduated BA (22nd wrangler) in 1872.[1] Despite his interest in mathematics he became a barrister, specializing in the ecclesiastical law. He was knighted in 1913, the same year he become the Chancellor for the Diocese of London. He received the honorary degree D.C.L. from the University of Durham.

In 1877 Kempe discovered new straight line linkages and published his influential lectures on the subject. In 1879 he wrote his famous "proof" of the four color theorem, shown incorrect by Percy Heawood in 1890. Much later, his work led to fundamental concepts such as the Kempe chain and unavoidable sets.

Kempe (1886) revealed a rather marked philosophical bent, and much influenced Charles Sanders Peirce. Kempe also discovered what are now called multisets, although this fact was not noted until long after his death.

Kempe was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1881. He was a president of the London Mathematical Society from 1892 to 1894. He was also a mountain climber, mostly in Switzerland.


1. ^ Kempe, Alfred Bray in Venn, J. & J. A., Alumni Cantabrigienses, Cambridge University Press, 10 vols, 1922–1958.


* Ivor Grattan-Guinness (2000) The Search for Mathematical Roots 1870-1940. Princeton Univ. Press.
* Kempe, A. B. (1886) "A memoir on the theory of mathematical form," Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 177: 1-70.

External links

* O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Alfred Kempe", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews, .
* A. B. Kempe (1877) How to Draw a Straight Line. London: Macmillan and Co.


Mathematics Encyclopedia

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