W T Tutte

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William Thomas Tutte (May 14 1917May 2 2002) was a British, later Canadian, codebreaker and mathematician. During World War II he broke a major German code system, which had a significant impact on the Allied invasion of Europe. He also had a number of significant mathematical accomplishments, including foundation work in the fields of combinatorics and graph theory.

Tutte was born in Newmarket in Suffolk, the son of a gardener. At age 18 he studied chemistry at Trinity College, Cambridge University. As a student he worked on the problem of squaring the square.

On the outbreak of World War II, his tutor suggested he join the Government Code and Cipher School, which he did in May 1941. Tutte worked at Bletchley Park as a codebreaker, and in a feat described as "one of the greatest intellectual feats of World War II" he was able to deduce the structure of the German Lorenz SZ 40/42 encryption machine (codenamed Tunny), used for high-level German Army communications, using only a number of intercepted encrypted messages. Using his breakthrough, the British constructed an entire organization (including the famed Colossus computer) to read the messages sent in this system.

In 1948, Tutte received a doctorate in mathematics from Cambridge. From 1948-1962 he taught mathematics at the University of Toronto. A majority of his later work was done at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Canada, which he joined in 1962, and where he stayed until 1985.

His later career concentrated on combinatorics and graph theory, where he is credited as having helped create those fields in their modern form; one colleague described him as "the leading mathematician in combinatorics for three decades". He was editor in chief of The Journal of Combinatorial Theory when it was started, and served on the editorial boards of several other mathematical research journals.

Among other achievements, he disproved Tait's conjecture using the construction known as Tutte's fragment. The eventual proof of the four color theorem made use of his earlier work.

He was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, and of the Royal Society of Canada. In October, 2001 he was inducted as an Officer of the Order of Canada.

See also


  • Brooks, R. L.; Smith, C. A. B.; Stone, A. H.; and Tutte, W. T. "The Dissection of Rectangles into Squares." Duke Math. J. 7, 312-340, 1940

External links

sl:William Thomas Tutte