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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The story of the solving of a puzzle that has confounded mathematicians since the 17th century. The solution of Fermat's Last Theorem is the most important mathematical development of the 20th century. In 1963, a schoolboy browsing in his local library stumbled across the world's greatest mathematical problem: Fermat's Last Theorem, a puzzle that every child can understand but which has baffled mathematicians for over 300 years. Aged just ten, Andrew Wiles dreamed that he would crack it. Wiles's lifelong obsession with a seemingly simple challenge set by a long-dead Frenchman is an emotional tale of sacrifice and extraordinary determination. In the end, Wiles was forced to work in secrecy and isolation for seven years, harnessing all the power of modern maths to achieve his childhood dream. Many before him had tried and failed, including a 18-century philanderer who was killed in a duel. An 18-century Frenchwoman made a major breakthrough in solving the riddle, but she had to attend maths lectures at the Ecole Polytechnique disguised as a man since women were forbidden entry to the school.See all Product description
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Fermat's last theorem remained unsolved for 358 years and the path to its proof was paved by the creation of new forms of mathematics, distressing stories of persecution and suicides and a lot of perseverance.
Most of the maths was over my head but the fascinating world of mathematics and its rigorous proofs means that I was left desperately wanting to improve my maths to a higher level, it makes me wonder at how much of a shame it is that a lifetime isn't long enough to truly engage in all the great fields of knowledge.
I cannot recommend this book enough, it should be read by all those children who are on the verge of dropping maths before taking A level.
As for Wiles's proof. If Fermat had a proof it was not the same as Wiles produced. For one thing he did not have a computer to prove the last few difficult cases. For another he claimed that his proof was "elegant". Wiles's proof may be correct, and it is a mathematical tour de force, but it is anything but elegant.
However, I hold the irreverent and politically incorrect belief that Fermat did not actually have a proof, but that his intuition told him that his conjecture was true.
For the mathematicians out there this is a great book to use as a show of interest towards mathematics when applying for universities, do not write it as an academic read.
If I had to recommend one book to a friend (whether a mathematician or a layman), this has to be it!
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