Over three hundred years ago, a French scholar scribbled a simple theorem in the margin of a book. It would become the world's most baffling mathematical mystery.
Simple, elegant, and utterly impossible to prove, Fermat's Last Theorem captured the imaginations of amateur and professional mathematicians for over three centuries. For some it became a wonderful passion. For others it was an obsession that led to deceit, intrigue, or insanity. In a volume filled with the clues, red herrings, and suspense of a mystery novel, Dr. Amir Aczel reveals the previously untold story of the people, the history, and the cultures that lie behind this scientific triumph.
From formulas devised for the farmers of ancient Babylonia to the dramatic proof of Fermat's theorem in 1993, this extraordinary work takes us along on an exhilarating intellectual treasure hunt. Revealing the hidden mathematical order of the natural world in everything from stars to sunflowers, Fermat's Last Theorem brilliantly combines philosophy and hard science with investigative journalism. The result: a real-life detective story of the intellect, at once intriguing, thought-provoking, and impossible to put down.
Amazon.com Review 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.