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on 10 June 2017
This was a really good read. It flows well and provides a good background surrounding mathematics and its geniuses throughout history. I learnt a lot but none of it was too detailed or sophisticated. If I'm honest I was expecting a bit more skullduggery from the staid world of professors (you know, stealing his work and pretending you did it, that kinda thing) but alas, it was not to be. That's probably why it has not been a Hollywood movie in contrast to something like A Beautiful Mind. Still, an interesting story which was well worth the time.
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on 13 June 2016
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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on 27 June 2017
An interesting read, as always by Simon Singh. I would have liked a little more of an insight about how they went about solving Fermat's Last Theorem, as the first third of the book seems to go off on unnecessary tangents about other maths problems, which I feel doesn't really fit. Still a good read though, don't let this put you off.
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on 19 July 2017
Could not put it down
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on 9 March 2017
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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on 3 September 2005
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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on 16 October 2002
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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on 7 May 2002
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. Wiles succeeded in his endeavor, his proof was based on post-Fermat mathematical ideas like the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture, Galois group theory, Iwasawa theory and the Kolyvagin-Flach method. Fermat on the other hand had claimed that he possessed the proof for the theorem which obviously was based on mathematics of his time...
A great read. Recommended for one and all.
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on 11 April 2007
I was fascinated by the simple essence of the problem which has given rise to such an excellent book, that is, how following the natural scientific instinct for generalization, a single equation with an infinite number of solutions "surprisingly" turns into an infinite number of equations... with no solution at all! Maybe this "essential" motivation should fit better to those people with a certain degree of both mathematical background and vocation (or maybe I'm plain crazy), but I just dare say "maybe". However, if this was to be so, the fact that the starting point to this problem is the equation derived from the very well-known Pythagoras's theorem on right-angled triangles (x^2 + y^2 = z^2) may be a more popular attraction to embark on this wonderful account of scientific challenge, long-time failure, passionate dedication, premature celebration, panic attack, and... final triumph? Again, I just dare say "may be".

Simon Singh combines very skilfully intelligent motivation to interest the reader, clear exposition of all the mathematical concepts one needs to follow the story, precise historical development from antiquity to our days, intriguing narrative, inspiring pictures about science business personalities, as well as curious and funny anecdotes. This book is a remarkable contribution to bring mathematics to a wider public and to show how exciting maths can be. To sum up, a highly recommended reading!
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on 6 November 2005
In or around 1637, Pierre de Fermat wrote in the margin of a maths book notes describing what became known as Fermatean Triples. He claimed to have found an equation that was hard to solve. "I have a truly marvellous demonstration of this proposition which this margin is too narrow to contain". That one sentence was to tease mathematicians for centuries. The proposition, known as Fermat's Last Theorem, is simple to describe such that even a child can understand it: that there was no solution to the equation "a**n + b**n = c**n" (where '**' is 'to the power of', a, b, and c are whole numbers greater than 1, and 'n' is greater than 2).
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.
There is no need for a great interest in or knowledge of mathematics to enjoy the story, which itself draws the reader onwards. I k now nothing of the similarities between modular equations and elliptical equations, tied up within what became known as the Taniyama – Shimura conjecture, yet can appreciate the means by which Wiles was able to prove Fermat's theorem by establishing the mathematical truth of the latter.
Simon Singh started by investigating the story of Andrew Wiles and Fermat for a British television program. This book that he subsequently produced set new levels for the history of science as a popular writing genre. At the end, Singh goes further, and raises questions as to whether the discovery was worth it. If Wiles had not been able to rescue his proof, it is suggested that the effort would not have been in vain, as there were significant advances in mathematic knowledge obtained in the trying. Singh also discusses other difficult areas, and muses on whether some of these will be unprovable, or insoluble. Fermat's Last Theorem, having frustrated the best mathematical brains for over 350 years, is now established, and is not one of the 'unknowable truths of mathematics'!

In concluding, it is fitting to use the words with which Andrew Wiles concluded his 1993 lecture: "I think I'll stop here".
Peter Morgan Bath, UK (morganp@supanet.com)
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