THE
FIFTEEN SCHOOLGIRLS
DICK TAHTA
A famous
problem found in books on mathematical
recreations was first proposed in an annual in1850 by a vicar
and amateur mathematician, Thomas Kirkman. Fifteen
schoolgirls walk out three abreast for seven days. It
was
required to arrange each day’s walk so that any pair
of girls
were only once in the same row during the week.
The puzzle arose from Kirkman’s work on a more general
mathematical problem which he was to explore in a number
of published articles over the next few years. Much of his
work was ignored at the time, but it involved various combinatorial
ideas that have now become of some interest and importance.
He was also interested in a range of other mathematics, such
as the theory of polyhedra, the newly developing theory of
groups, and the classification of knots. He was respected
by many of his professionals and was elected a Fellow of
the Royal Society.
This book presents a brief account of the original problem
and some of the ways it has been generalised and eventually
solved. It also surveys in a not too technical way, some
of the other work of a remarkable nineteenthcentury polymath.
(Read
an xcerpt
on the life of Thomas
Penyngton Kirkman >>>)
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