Fermat's Last Theorem: The Story Of A Riddle That Confounded The World's Greatest Minds For 358 Years Paperback – 6 May 2002
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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.
‘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.’ ExpressSee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Written like a detective story where the answer is known, this book is easy to follow, and leads readers through a maze of ideas, concepts and subtleties that would be a disaster in the hands of a lesser writer. This is absorbing narrative, leading up to the lecture where Andrew Wiles presented his proof of the non-solution of the equation. However, the proof presented on 23rd June 1993 was the beginning of a nightmare for Wiles, as a serious logic error was subsequently discovered that took an all-consuming 15 months to rescue.
The story of how a very gifted mathematician devoted himself for seven secretive years to a question that others had given up on is only half the tale that Singh tells. It is a journey through some of the history of mathematics, with the solution to the amateur mathematician Fermat's problem being an accidental occurrence. Along the way there are very good insights into the differences between mathematical proofs and scientific proofs; the former must be indisputable, whereas scientific proofs are only ever probabilistically true, and do change as knowledge increases.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The book is very interesting and informative about the whole history of mathematics, not just Fermats last theorem. Read morePublished 12 days ago by Amazon Customer
You need not be a mathematician to appreciate this story about how true scholarship requires real work to be done!Published 25 days ago by Lewsyn
Really interesting subject that was written really well. Felt like I was reading a thriller at some stages. Read morePublished 1 month ago by The Reader
This book is my favourite telling of mathematical history because of its colourful and detailed storytelling. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Daniel
The conjecture that there are no whole-number solutions of the relation x^n+y^n = z^n for n greater than 2 was first made around 1637 by the famous mathematician Pierre de Fermat. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Brian R. Martin
For all closet mathematicians who maybe enjoyed O level/GCSE maths and wish they'd done A level - this is a must read!!Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
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