Fermats Enigma Hardcover – Oct 15 1997
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When Andrew Wiles of Princeton University announced a solution of Fermat's last theorem in 1993, it electrified the world of mathematics. After a flaw was discovered in the proof, Wiles had to work for another year--he had already labored in solitude for seven years--to establish that he had solved the 350-year-old problem. Simon Singh's book is a lively, comprehensible explanation of Wiles's work and of the star-, trauma-, and wacko-studded history of Fermat's last theorem. Fermat's Enigma contains some problems that offer a taste of the math, but it also includes limericks to give a feeling for the goofy side of mathematicians. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
From School Library Journal
YAAThe riveting story of a mathematical problem that sprang from the study of the Pythagorean theorem developed in ancient Greece. The book follows mathematicians and scientists throughout history as they searched for new mathematical truths. In the 17th century, a French judicial assistant and amateur mathematician, Pierre De Fermat, produced many brilliant ideas in the field of number theory. The Greeks were aware of many whole number solutions to the Pythagorean theorem, where the sum of two perfect squares is a perfect square. Fermat stated that no whole number solutions exist if higher powers replace the squares in this equation. He left a message in the margin of a notebook that he had a proof, but that there was insufficient space there to write it down. His note was found posthumously, but the solution remained a mystery for 350 years. Finally, after working in isolation for eight years, Andrew Wiles, a young British mathematician at Princeton University, published a proof in 1995. Although this famous question has been resolved, many more remain unsolved, and new problems continually arise to challenge modern minds. This vivid account is fascinating reading for anyone interested in mathematics, its history, and the passionate quest for solutions to unsolved riddles. The book includes 19 black-and-white photos of mathematicians and occasional sketches of ancient mathematicians as well as diagrams of formulas. The illustrations help to humanize the subject and add to the readability.APenny Stevens, Centreville Regional Library, Centreville, VA
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Singh's book chronicles the development of mathematics from ancient Greece to the 1990s.
Singh begins with a discussion of Pythagoras and his famous theorem for calculating right triangles. It is the Pythagorean formula that is the basis for Fermat's equation.
Singh then discusses the many famous mathematicians that had attempted to reproduce Fermat's proof. Although they were able to prove the formula's validity for specific values of n, no one had succeeded in proving it for infinite values of n. Without this proof of universality, there had existed the possibility that some value will disprove Fermat's assertion.
Singh then focuses his attention on Andrew Wiles, the man who would succeed where others had failed. After studying the futile attempts of his predecessors, Wiles decides to employ twentieth century mathematics. With developments from other colleagues in other areas of mathematics, Wiles embarks on a personal and secretive mission to resolve this enduring problem and a contemporary mathematical challenge.
Fermat's Enigma is a nontechnical exploration of the mathematics and mathematicians from ancient Greece to the twentieth century. It requires knowledge of only high school mathematics.
Throughout the book, the reader is exposed to various mathematical objects that mostly form part of number theory, as well as mathematical techniques that have been developed over time. Because the mathematics is so masterfully described, this book should be accessible to a wide audience.
This amazing book should appeal especially to mathematics/science enthusiasts but any interested general reader could follow it quite easily and enjoy it tremendously.
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.Read more ›
"Mathematical theorems rely on a logical process and once proven are true until the end of time," says Simon Singh, on page 21 of this impressive exposition of scientific method and the history of mathematics.
The author points out, under the rubric "Absolute Proof," that there is a difference between the "hard science" of mathematics and the guesswork, maybe, and make-believe of the "pseudo-sciences" (sociology, anthropology, linguistics, psychology and others). Singh goes on to say that the proofs acceptable in these pseudo-sciences "rely on observation and perception, both of which are fallible and provide only approximations to the truth."
Simon Singh has a Ph.D. in particle physics from Cambridge University. He worked for the BBC where he co-produced and directed their documentary film Fermat's Last Theorem, which is at the heart of the PBS/BBC/NOVA production The Proof, outlining Princeton professor Andrew Wiles' solution to Fermat's 400 year old problem. (I tried to purchase Fermat's Last Theorem directly from the BBC, when I could not get it from Amazon.com, but BBC prices are too steep for a poor "Yank")
Fermat's Enigma is the story of Frenchman, Pierre de Fermat, who happens to be one of the greatest mathematicians of all time. It is the story of the world's 400-year-long effort to solve a problem he discussed, later to become the "Holy Grail of Mathematics." The dust jacket says it is a "human drama of high dreams, intellectual brilliance, and extraordinary determination, it will bring the history and culture of mathematics into exciting focus for all who read it.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Way fun! I love math and reading about math history and puzzles, and this book had everything, including being very readable.Published 9 months ago by Anita Flegg
A great book on an important, if obscure, moment in the history of mathematics. The greatest talent Simon Singh has is to present complex concepts and an easy way to understand.Published 15 months ago by Spaceweasels
This is the best book I had read about mathematics in last few years. It's beautiful.Published on Jan. 10 2006 by Hong Gao
Simon Singh never fails. This is a great book like all of his others. You really can't go wrong.Published on May 2 2004 by Bosco
Singh writes with great skill of suspense, with minimal of math equations to help readers navigate the path to solving the ultimate math riddle of all time by a lone... Read morePublished on June 20 2003 by -
Never thought I would use the words "Romance" "Suspense" "Thriller" and the History of Mathematics in the same sentence. Great book and worth reading. Read morePublished on Dec 19 2002 by A. Vasudevan
I read Singh's FERMAT'S ENIGMA after reading Singh's CODE BOOK. Unfortunately, the latter is by far the better book. Read morePublished on May 28 2002 by Random Joys
I know what you are thinking... a book about mathematics and its practitioners is probably as exciting as watching paint dry. But you would be wrong in this assumption. Read morePublished on May 25 2002 by Amazon Customer