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Fermat's Last Theorem: The Story Of A Riddle That Confounded The World's Greatest Minds For 358 Years Paperback – 6 May 2002

4.7 out of 5 stars 250 customer reviews

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  • Fermat's Last Theorem: The Story Of A Riddle That Confounded The World's Greatest Minds For 358 Years
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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Fourth Estate Ltd; New Ed edition (6 May 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1841157910
  • ISBN-13: 978-1841157917
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.5 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (250 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 8,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Amazon Review

When Cambridge mathematician Andrew Wiles announced a solution for Fermat's last theorem in 1993, it electrified the world of mathematics. After a flaw was discovered in the proof, Wiles had to work for another year--he had already laboured in solitude for seven years--to establish that he had solved the 350-year-old problem. Simon Singh's book is a lively, comprehensible explanation of Wiles's work and of the colourful history that has build up around Fermat's last theorem over the years. The book contains some problems that offer a taste for the maths, but it also includes limericks to give a feeling for the quirkier side of mathematicians. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

‘If you enjoyed Dava Sobel’s “Longitude” you will enjoy this.’ Evening Standard

‘This is probably the best popular account of a scientific topic I have ever read.’ Irish Times

‘Reads like the chronicle of an obsessive love affair. It has the classic ingredients that Hollywood would recognise.’ Daily Mail

‘To read it is to realise that there is a world of beauty and intellectual challenge that is denied to 99.9 per cent of us who are not high-level mathematicians.’ The Times

‘This tale has all the elements of a most exciting story: an impenetrable riddle; the ambition and frustration of generations of hopefuls; and the genius who worked for years in secrecy to realise his childhood dream.’ Express

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is my favourite telling of mathematical history because of its colourful and detailed storytelling. The author captures the readers attention with interesting stories and pictures. There is a great breadth to the contents, as it doesn't just stick to the immediate story surrounding Fermat.

A great feature of the book is the appendix. They cover a great range of interesting mathematics like induction which will be appealing to anyone with an interest in maths.

This is certainly a leisurely read and will be understandable by anyone, even without a maths education.
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This is wonderful writing, easy, light and connecting the cast topic of mathematics beautifully. I must say this has the essence of suspense like thriller plot yet being scientific. Great job Simon Singh.
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Format: Paperback
My only reservation about this superb book is that it forces the reader to read it too quickly and therefore does not represent value for money in terms of time! The problem had fascinated maths enthusiasts for a few centuries but Singh begins his tale way back in the 6th century B.C. It may seem inconcievable that a 2500 year long story can be told in 300 or so pages but Singh manages it brilliantly.
In 1637 Pierre de Fermat, a French 'amateur' mathematician stated that there were no solutions to a pythagorean type expression using powers above the value of two. Tantalisingly he wrote in the margin that he had a 'marvellous demonstration' which the margin was too narrow to contain. This was to torment mathematicians for over three hundred years. Did Fermat have a proof? Could he possibly have had a proof? What was the proof?
Andrew wiles was a young boy when he encountered Fermat's riddle and decided there and then that he would be the one who would solve it. Singh takes us on this journey and we become embroiled in the riddle ourselves. The appendices demonstrate mathematical techniques so eloquently and succinctly that the reader suddenly thinks that he, the reader, must have immense, hitherto undiscovered mathematical talent. Not so. The talent is that of Simon Singh, a talent that kept me totally enthralled for several hours, untol the book was finished. I felt disappointed that it did not go on longer, but the story was told and the ending was sensational. Not to worry, I have just ordered 'The code book' and 'The big bang' both by Simon Singh, I know I will not be disappointed.
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OK, I'll admit it, as a mathematician I've been acquainted with - and fascinated by - Fermat's last theorem for decades. I bought this book for holiday reading, and was not disappointed. The book goes into the history of mathematics, including Pierre de Fermat's intriguing background, and shows how Andrew Wiles drew on centuries of knowledge and discoveries in order - finally - to nail a proof for Fermat's Last Theorem. The whole "story" is remarkably pacey but wonderfully clear.
I admit I did already know some of the details given in this book, but the history and the description of the characters in the world of mathematics added an extra dimension (no pun intended!) and made it all the more fascinating. Names like Euler, Dirichlet, Cauchy, LaGrange ... before I read the book they had merely been names of equations, polynomials, boundary conditions and the like, but the author gave us some fascinating details of their lives, what type of people they were (I've gone off Cauchy now, and I so loved his polynomials) and even the interactions that went on among some of these famous names.
And I loved the description of Wiles's "Eureka" moment when he realises he's finally got the proof ... it must have been like solving the world's most difficult crossword clue!
I don't know whether to go straight back and read the whole thing again, or lend it to a friend and share the experience.
On reflection, my friends can buy their own copy.
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Format: Paperback
This is a superb book. It has moved my understanding of the way maths works on by light years. It is both an engaging history of the characters and schools that have shaped mathematics, and a real insight into what, exactly, it is that maths does. I borrowed this from the library, but am fed up with paying overdue fines, so am buying my own copy. It is a book both to read right through and to dip into, and I know I shall continue going back to sections again and again. This book has engaged a mathematical curiousity in my brain that I scarcely knew I had - in addition, it is a stunningly good read. Buy it.
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Format: Paperback
This is a remarkable and engrossing human story about the search for the proof to the age old Fermat's last theorem. A story which tells the tale of one man's unflinching determination and single minded devotion to the cause of this proof. The events which unfold and the riveting account of Andrew Wiles journey to glory are told in this gripping tale by Simon Singh. Singh's master storytelling abilities are very well exemplified and will be appreciated by one and all. Those not inclined mathematically will also gain insights and concepts of mathematics and also get a peek at the lives of the mathematicians who are featured in this book.
Andrew Wiles read about this theorem when he was barely ten year old in a library while flipping through one of E.T. Bell's book. The rest as we know is history because this particular moment became a turning point in young Wiles life. This would force him to take a career in mathematics and lead a rigorous life in mathematics. Later he would be shutting and isolating himself from the outside world so that he could devote his complete attention to the task at hand - to solve this 17th century conjecture devised by the great Pierre Fermat. History saw this theorem remaining unsolved for 350 years, which eluded mathematicians like Euler, Sophie Germain, Lame, Kummer, Cauchy et al. but who nevertheless had their own bit of contribution to the proof in particular and mathematics in general.
Andrew Wiles mathematical proof of the century was not without its share of pitfalls. After announcing the proof of Fermat's Last Theorem in June 1993 with much fanfare and publicity, Wiles didn't have the wildest idea about what was in store for him... something which will almost make him accept defeat...
Though Prof.
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