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Fermat's Last Theorem: Unlocking the Secret of an Ancient Mathematical Problem Paperback – September 8, 1997
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Born in 1601, Pierre de Fermat lived a quiet life as a civil servant in Toulouse, France. In his spare time, however, Fermat dabbled in mathematics, and somehow managed to become one of the great mathematical theorists of his century. Around 1637 he scribbled a marginal note in one of his books. In it, he stated that he had solved a celebrated number theory problem: "I have discovered a truly marvelous proof of this, which, however, the margin is not large enough to contain."
If only the margin had been wider! For more than 300 years, mathematicians labored to crack the secret of Fermat's Last Theorem, without any success. Finally, in 1995, a Princeton-based mathematician named Andrew Wiles solved the riddle. Amir Aczel's account of this brainteaser and its solution is an irresistible read. And for mathematical dolts--like myself, for instance--it includes a concise, profusely illustrated history of mathematical theory from the Bronze Age to our own fin-de-siecle. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
It is extremely unusual for an advance in pure mathematics to draw the attention of the press worldwide. However, there was a great furor in 1993 when Andrew Wiles announced he had derived a proof of Fermat's Last Theorem, which had defeated mathematicians for more than 300 years. This brief book, written by a statistician rather than a number theorist, presents for the general public the long historical background, the awkward temporary retraction by Wiles, and his final triumph in 1995. The human drama is well presented, but the discussion of the mathematics itself is less successful. The author makes a good start in dealing with the fundamentals but leaps too quickly for lay readers into more complex ideas laden with jargon that is only partially explained. The book might have worked better if the author had taken several dozen additional pages to work through the mathematical concepts in more detail. For larger math collections.?Jack W. Weigel, Univ. of Michigan Lib., Ann Arbor
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
If you have some interest in the topic, the book might be OK. The mathematician will not find it deep enough, nor will the reader looking for an entertaining read. Instead, it is a superficial look at what may be one of the great achievements of 20th century mathematics.
This is one of Amir Aczel's better books. A balanced book that succeeds in giving the reader a general idea of the mathematics involved. Mr. Aczel's explanation of a difficult field of math are very good, and keeps the reader's interest. This author in many of his other works usually expands his text to the point where the story does not agree with the title or purpose of the book, This time he got it right. A short book, fast paced, occasional tidbits of interesting facts to setup a historical background of the problem and its solution. It finishes with the trials and tribulations and eventual success of Andrew Wiles, a mathematician turned into a recluse being consumed and driven to solve this secret.
What tickled me as a teenager is that Fermat added that he had found a marvelous proof of it but he did not have enough space to write it in the margin of the book. You would think that soon after he wrote this, around 1637, somebody would discover what that marvelous proof was, but nobody did. It tickled me: the formula is simple enough. For over three centuries, it tickled a lot of people, mathematicians who tried to find the proof and couldn't. The proof was found in 1995 by mathematician Andrew Wiles. It is very long and complex and involves 20th century mathematics.
Because it had tickled many people like me, it made news in all the press. I don't know if it is important, but it certainly is satisfying.
What the book tries to do is to tell us what kind of math is needed to solve this pesky problem, so Aczel briefly introduces a series of mathematicians and mathematical concepts, starting with Pythagoras and the square of the hypotenuse. There is nothing complex in the book, it has warmth throughout, which is very rare for a book on math. We are carried very smoothly towards the kind of mind we would need to find a solution. On the way, we are introduced to the usual conflicts about who did what. It is all fairly decent.
I enjoyed the book. It is written by a friendly person who takes us by the hand and says : come on, this so much fun, let me show you how it was done."
I have no desire to know more than this, so the book is perfect for me. Most of the 2 stars come from people who wanted something else.