Fermat's Enigma

Fermat's Enigma

The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem

Book - 1998
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"I have discovered a truly marvelous proof, which this margin is too narrow to contain."

With these tantalizing word, the seventeenth-century French mathematician Pierre de Fermat threw down the gauntlet to future generations. What came to be known as Fermat's Last Theorem looked simple, yet the finest mathematical minds would be baffled for more than three and half centuries. Fermat's Last Theorem became the Holy Grail of mathematics. Whole and colourful lives were devoted to, and even sacrificed, to finding a solution.

Then, came Princeton Professor Andrew Wiles, who had dreamed of proving Fermat ever since he first read of it as a boy of ten in his local library. In 1993, some 356 years after Fermat's challenge, and after seven years of working in isolation and secrecy, Wiles stunned the world by announcing a proof-though his own journey would be far from over. Fermat's Enigma is the story of the epic quest to solve the greatest math problem of all time. It is a human drama of high dreams, intellectual brilliance, and extraordinary determination.

Publisher: Toronto : Penguin Canada, 1998, c1997
ISBN: 9780140268690
Branch Call Number: 512 .74 SIN
Characteristics: xviii, 315 p. :,ill., ports. ;,18 cm


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Jun 19, 2017

You do not need to know math to enjoy this book. You like to read a good story about how a screamingly trivial math problem keeps driving mathematicians crazy over centuries trying to demonstrate if said problem is true or not? Then read this book.
The author has an engaging way to describe the math involved in the demonstration of Fermat's last theorem. I enjoyed the description of mathematicians, over centuries, getting a little closer to the demonstration, close but not to the final line.
I enjoyed this book, it is a great story of work and some personal drama behind the demonstration of a mathematical theorem eluding the most brilliant math minds trying to demonstrate it.

VaughanPLKasey Nov 09, 2016

I like to describe this book as the biography of a mathematical problem, and of the books listed here, it’s lightest on the actual math. Fermat’s Last Theorem is a seemingly straight-forward claim about a simple formula. The prominent 17th century mathematician Pierre de Fermat claimed in the margins of one of his notebooks to have proven the claim, but never actually wrote the proof down anywhere. Mathematicians tried for generations to find the proof; many people managed to contribute pieces of the puzzle, but the full proof didn’t come together until 1994, almost four centuries after Fermat’s original claim.

Singh’s book is a great story about collaboration, tenacity, and ingenuity, with just a touch of mystery. It brings the math world to life in a way that illustrates its appeal to those who choose to dedicate their life to the field, without requiring the reader to get their own advanced math degree.

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