|Born||June 21, 1928|
|Alma mater||Kiel University|
|Known for||Solving the four-color theorem|
Wolfgang Haken (born June 21, 1928) is a German mathematician who specializes in topology, in particular 3-manifolds.
Haken was born in Berlin, Germany. His father was Werner Haken, a physicist who had Max Planck as a doctoral thesis advisor.In 1953, Haken earned a Ph.D. degree in mathematics from Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel (Kiel University) and married Anna-Irmgard von Bredow, who earned a Ph.D. degree in mathematics from the same university in 1959. In 1962, they left Germany so he could accept a position as visiting professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He became a full professor in 1965, retiring in 1998.
In 1976, together with colleague Kenneth Appel at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Haken solved the four-color theorem. They proved that any two-dimensional map, with certain limitations, can be filled in with four colors without any adjacent “countries” sharing the same color. Haken has introduced several ideas, including Haken manifolds, Kneser-Haken finiteness, and an expansion of the work of Kneser into a theory of normal surfaces. Much of his work has an algorithmic aspect, and he is a figure in algorithmic topology. One of his key contributions to this field is an algorithm to detect if a knot is unknotted.
Haken's eldest son, Armin, proved that there exist propositional tautologies that require resolution proofs of exponential size.Haken's eldest daughter, Dorothea Blostein, is a professor of computer science, known for her discovery of the master theorem for divide-and-conquer recurrences. Another of Haken’s sons, Lippold, is the inventor of the Continuum Fingerboard. Wolfgang is the cousin of Hermann Haken, a physicist known for laser theory and synergetics.
In 1978, Haken delivered an invited address at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Helsinki.He was a recipient of the 1979 Fulkerson Prize of the American Mathematical Society for his solution with Appel of the four-color theorem.
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