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Simon Singh

Fermat's Enigma

Note:This book also has the title Fermat's last theorem in the UK.

Andrew Wiles heard about Fermat's last theorem when he was 10 years old, and decided that he was going to prove it. He finally succeeded 30 years later. Fermat's Enigma by Simon Singh tells the story of this proof. Singh tells of how Fermat claimed to have a proof, and of how in the following centuries many people also thought that they had proved the theorem, only for a fault to be found in their work. The attempts did lead to a lot of interesting mathematics though. Thus Fermat's conjecture became more and more famous, and several prizes were offered for its proof.

Although quite a bit of the book deals with the history of mathematics, it isn't one of those books where the author tries to relate as much material as possible to one topic - Singh's book seemed to keep pretty much to the point. Thus there is a chapter on the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture, and quite a bit of the book describes Wiles and how he set about proving the theorem, as well as how he corrected it when a fault was found. The book doesn't really get into the mathematics. There is a bit of maths in the appendices, but even that is fairly simple. Singh has thus written a very readable book which can be enjoyed by a wide readership. info
Paperback 315 pages  
ISBN: 0385493622
Salesrank: 49463
Published: 1998 Anchor
Amazon price $13.56
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xn + yn = zn, where n represents 3, 4, 5, solution

"I have discovered a truly marvelous demonstration of this proposition which this margin is too narrow to contain."

With these words, 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; proving it, however, became the Holy Grail of mathematics, baffling its finest minds for more than 350 years.  In Fermat's Enigma--based on the author's award-winning documentary film, which aired on PBS's "Nova"--Simon Singh tells the astonishingly entertaining story of the pursuit of that grail, and the lives that were devoted to, sacrificed for, and saved by it.  Here is a mesmerizing tale of heartbreak and mastery that will forever change your feelings about mathematics.