Paul Wernicke, the eponym of Wernicke's Theorem , discovered during his investigations into the Four Color Theorem.

I understand he was born somewhere in the German sphere of influence (i.e. could have been what is now Poland, for example), and sometime after that moved to the US.

There are also a few citations I have found concerning his 1904 paper in Mathematische Annalen (vol 58 no 3 pp 413-426), and some indication that he also published on the subject in 1897 -- but I can find very little else. He is mentioned in Robin Wilson's 2002 "Four Colours Suffice", but he also includes nothing beyond the above information.

Is there a resource anywhere which provides any further information: dates of birth and death, locations of such, where he studied, what he did for a living, and so on?

  • $\begingroup$ P. Wernicke, "Über den kartographischen Vierfarbensatz." Mathematische Annalen, Vol. 58, No. 3, pp. 413-426 (scan online) As the article indicates, Wernicke was in Göttingen at the time. $\endgroup$
    – njuffa
    Feb 19, 2022 at 7:50
  • $\begingroup$ P. Wernicke, "Das Problem der 36 Offiziere." Jahresbericht der Deutschen Mathematiker-Vereinigung, Vol. 19 (1910), pp. 264-267 (scan online) If this is by the same author, this places him in Lawrence, Kansas. $\endgroup$
    – njuffa
    Feb 19, 2022 at 8:07
  • $\begingroup$ P. Wernicke, "Die Zahl der ordinären Kollineationstypen." Jahresbericht der Deutschen Mathematiker-Vereinigung, Vol. 18 (1909), pp. 397-398 (scan online) $\endgroup$
    – njuffa
    Feb 19, 2022 at 8:14
  • $\begingroup$ From Robin Wilson's book: "The first attempts to do this were made by Paul Wernicke , a German mathematician who received a doctoral degree from Gottingen University and then crossed the Atlantic to take up a professorship at the University of Kentucky." So Wernicke showing up in Kansas a few years later seems plausible. $\endgroup$
    – njuffa
    Feb 19, 2022 at 8:17
  • $\begingroup$ Paul Wernicke, "Ueber die Analysis situs mehrdimensionaler Räume." Dissertation, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, 1904. On the title page, the author is described as: Professor of Modern Languages am State College of Kentucky zu Lexington, Kentucky, U.S.A. The Math Genealogy site says his advisor was Hermann Minkowski. $\endgroup$
    – njuffa
    Feb 19, 2022 at 8:27

1 Answer 1


Ludwig August Paul Wernicke was born in Leipzig on January 9, 1866 1. His father appears to have been the Lutheran pastor August Wernicke, who became embassy chaplain in Lisbon in 1873 1. Prior to that he was pastor of the German Lutheran parish in Helsingfors (modern-day Helsinki) from 1870 to 1873 2. In Lisbon, the embassy chaplain also served as pastor of the German Protestant parish 3. Indications are that August Wernicke held this position until 1883 4.

Paul Wernicke was home schooled until he entered high school in 1882, boarding at the prestigious school in Pforta 1. This school for gifted students was established in a former monastery in 1543 by the rulers of Saxony. The vast majority of the students belonged to the Lutheran denomination. Wernicke graduated Easter 1885 1. After his compulsory one-year military service he studied mathematics and natural sciences at the University of Berlin 1. He moved to the US in 1892 and became a college professor 1 at Agricultural & Mechanical College in Lexington, Kentucky in 1894 5, teaching German and French 6. In 1898 Wernicke became a naturalized citizen of the United States 1.

He seems to have retained an interest in mathematics, presenting a paper on the map-coloring problem at the summer meeting of the American Mathematical Society in Toronto in 1897. As head of the department of modern languages of A. & M. College he took a 1½-year leave of absence 1 around 1903 7 to pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics at the Georg August University in Göttingen. His thesis advisor there was Hermann Minkowski 8. His dissertation "Ueber die Analysis situs mehrdimensionaler Räume." (Analysis situs in higher dimensions) was published in 1904; the Ph.D. defense took place on August 1, 1904.

In 1906 Wernicke became an additional instructor in mathematics at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri 9. The following year he was upgraded to full instructor 10. Between 1908 and 1910 there are references to him as a professor of mathematics at the University of Kansas in Lawrence 11. Wernicke did some work as a translator 12, and in 1919 he was listed as a translator at the patent office in Washington, D.C. 13. From 1921 to 1924 he taught courses in mathematics at Research University in Washington, D.C. 14. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, he appears to have been active in the "Problems and Solutions" section of The American Mathematical Monthly. His last mention in this context is in 1932 15.

I have not been able to establish a date of death. I cannot find Paul Wernicke in what is available of the 1940 US census free of cost; you may want to check one of the commercial genealogical databases for that data.


F. N. Cole. "The fourth summer meeting of the American Mathematical Society." Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 4 (1897), pp. 1-11. (scan online) with a short abstract of Wernicke's paper (the paper itself seems no longer extant):

Professor P. WERNICKE: "On the solution of the map-color problem."

Paul Wernicke, "Ueber die Analysis situs mehrdimensionaler Räume." Dissertation, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, 1904. (Google scan)

P. Wernicke, "Über den kartographischen Vierfarbensatz." Mathematische Annalen, Vol. 58, No. 3, Sept. 1904, pp. 413-426 (scan online)

P. Wernicke, "Die Zahl der ordinären Kollineationstypen." Jahresbericht der Deutschen Mathematiker-Vereinigung, Vol. 18 (1909), pp. 397-398 (scan online)

P. Wernicke, "Das Problem der 36 Offiziere." Jahresbericht der Deutschen Mathematiker-Vereinigung, Vol. 19 (1910), pp. 264-267 (scan online)

Paul Wernicke, "The theorems of Ceva and Menelaus and their extension." The American Mathematical Monthly, Vol. 34, No. 9, Nov. 1927, pp. 468-472 (partial scan online)

Paul Wernicke, "The Rectangular Hexagon." The American Mathematical Monthly, Vol. 37, No. 2, Feb. 1930, pp. 59-63 (partial scan online)

B. F. Finkel, Otto Dunkel, and H. L. Olson (eds.), "Problems and Solutions." The American Mathematical Monthly, Vol. 38, No. 6, Jun.-Jul. 1931, p. 339 (scan online):

  1. Proposed by Paul Wernicke, Washington, D.C.

1 "Lebenslauf" (curriculum vitae) at the back of Wernicke's 1904 dissertation

2 John Nicholas Lenker, "Die Lutherische Kirche Der Welt, Band 1", Sunbury, Pennsylvania, 1901, p.236:

Die deutsche evangelisch-lutherische Gemeinde in Helsingfors besteht seit 1858 [...] Auch das innere Gemeindeleben hat sich, gepflegt von tüchtigen und treuen Pastoren (Andreas Schröder 1858-70, August Wernicke, 1870-73 [...]) gedeihlich entfaltet.

3 Franz Otto Stichart (ed.), Allgemeine Kirchliche Chronik", Vol. 24. Hamburg: Haendcke & Lehmkuhl 1878 p. 23

Infolge dieser Bestimmungen besteht in Lissabon eine englische und eine deutsch-evangelische Gemeinde mit besonderer Kapellem Friedhöfen und Schulen. Pfarrer der deutschen Gemeinde ist der jeweilige Gesandtschaftsprediger [...]

4 https://www.dekl.org/angebote/dekl-shop/

Pfr. Wilhelm Rothe / Pfr. Eduard Meyer / Pfr. August Wernicke: „Chronik der Deutsch-evangelischen Gemeinde zu Lissabon“, 1865 – 1883

5 "The Kentuckian" (college yearbook), Lexington, Kentucky, 1906, p. 26

Paul Wernicke, Graduate of Gymnasium of Schulpforta, Germany, 1885; University of Berlin, 1889; Ph.D., University of Göttingen, 1903; American Mathematical Society; American Association for Advancement of Science; Modern Language Association of America; "Analysis Situs in Higher Dimensions;" Professor of Modern Languages, Kentucky State College, since 1894

6 "Catalogue of Kentucky University, Lexington, Ky., 1892-1893." Lexington, Ky.: Transylvania Printing 1893, p. 27:

The Agricultural and Mechanical College of Kentucky is established in the old City Park grounds of the City of Lexington [...] Faculty [...] Paul Wernicke Professor of French, German, and Spanish

7"Biennial Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction of Kentucky". Louisville, Ky.: Geo. G Fetter Publishing 1903, p. 72

Lexington, September 30, 1903. President James K. Patterson, Dear Sir: - Upon request, I have the honor to submit the following report of the condition of the department of modern languages during the collegiate year 1902-1903. As I was abroad on leave of absence, instruction was given by Messrs. Winston, assistant in the academy, and T. T. Jones, a graduate student, in those branches only [...]

8 See dissertation. Also Mathematics Genealogy Project:

Paul August Ludwig Wernicke; Dr. phil. Georg-August-Universität Göttingen 1904 Germany; Dissertation: Über die Analysis situs mehrdimensionaler Räume; Advisor: Hermann Minkowski

9 The Washington University Record, Vol. 2, No. 1, St. Louis, Mo., October 1906, p. 2:

Mr. Paul Wernicke, Ph.D., additional instructor in Mathematics. Dr. Wernicke studied in the Universities of Berlin and Goettingen, taking his Ph.D. in Mathematics from the latter institution. For the last ten years he has been at the head of the department of Modern Languages in the University of Kentucky, and now returns to his former work in Mathematics.

10 "The Bulletin of the Washington University Association," Vol. 5 (1907), p. 213:

To be instructor in Mathematics, Paul Wernicke, Ph.D. (Göttingen, 1904); student of the Instituto Industrial e Commercial, Lisbon, Portugal; graduate of the Gymnasium "Fürstenschule Pforta;", student in Mathematics and in Romanic and English Philosophy, University of Berlin; professor of Modern Languages, State College, Lexington, Kentucky, 1894-1906; member of A.A.A.S, Amer. Math. Soc. [...]

11 "Bulletin of the University of Kansas. General Catalogue 1908-'09", Lawrence, Kansas, April 1909, p. 23:

Officers of Instruction
Paul Wernicke, Ph.D., 1903, (Göttingen) Instructor in Mathematics, 1908.

Forty-Forth Annual Catalogue of the University of Kansas, for the year 1909-'10, Lawrence, Kansas, April 1910, p. 114:

Paul Wernicke, Ph.D., Instructor in Mathematics

12 Paul T. Passalskij, "On the distribution of magnetism over the earth's surface. II" Translated by Paul Wernicke, Terrestrial Magnetism and Atmospheric Electricity, Vol. 13, No. 4, December 1908, pp. 161-174

13 "Official Register of the United States 1919, Directory.". Washington 1920, p.87:

Department of the Interior
Patent Office
Paul Wernicke Translator

14 "Hearing before the subcommittee on judiciary of the committee on the District of Columbia; House of Representatives; Seventieth Congress; First Session on H.R. 7951; March 23, 24, April 2, 3,and 5, 1928", p.138:

Paul Wernicke, Ph.D., 3600 South Dakota Avenue, Washington, D.C. "My connection with Research University, with regards to the standing of which you are inquiring, has been limited to teaching in their evening classes during the years 1921 to 1924. My classes were small ones in analytic geometry and calculus. They were put through regular collegiate examinations and graded according to standards of recognized schools, e.g. the engineering department of Washington University, St. Louis, where I formerly taught. [..]"

This appears to have been a hearing regarding a bill against so-called "degree mills".

15 Paul Wernicke and Wm B. Campbell. "3493." American Mathematical Monthly June 1932, pp. 366-367.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm a little curious about "Research University". What's its story? $\endgroup$ Feb 20, 2022 at 2:22
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @kimchilover After putting in eight hours of work for this answer, I wasn't going to spend more time following that up. With a name like that, Googling for it would be an exercises in frustration. The president (and, one might assume, founder) of Research University in Washington was Dr. Louis Win Rapeer. It seems there were accusations that Research University was a diploma mill, and also accusations of misconduct against Dr. Rapeer personally. The congressional record contains quite a bit of testimony from students, faculty, and trustees of Research University. You might want to start there. $\endgroup$
    – njuffa
    Feb 20, 2022 at 2:47
  • $\begingroup$ If only I could upvote this multiple times. $\endgroup$ Feb 20, 2022 at 8:07
  • $\begingroup$ @njuffa Thanks! The congressional record is a scream. $\endgroup$ Feb 20, 2022 at 18:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.