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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enter the world of the mathematician.
Pierre de Fermat, a seventeenth century French mathematician, challenged his colleagues and perhaps future generations of mathematicians to prove the following formula: a^n + b^n = c^n will be false for n > 2. Fermat wrote in the margins of his notebook that he had proven the assertion, but he did not outline it.
Singh's book chronicles the development of...
Published on April 1 2000 by Walter Chang

versus
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An Enigma still Not Understood
I read Singh's FERMAT'S ENIGMA after reading Singh's CODE BOOK. Unfortunately, the latter is by far the better book. Although the CODE BOOK manages to cover both the personal and the quantitative side of the recent revolutions in cryptography, FERMAT'S ENIGMA does not attempt to break into the actual mathematical proofs at all. The result feels like one of those NBC human...
Published on May 28 2002 by Random Joys


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Mathematical Saga, June 11 2002
By 
D. Kapoor (Australia) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Singh and Lynch have successfully presented one of the most abstract subjects in a simple to understand language. For those who put down a Maths book by looking at the complex equations: Fear Not, this one does not go too deep into equations and relies more on plain English to convey the point. I think that Appendixes could have been a bit more descriptive. Overall it was a fun read. I highly recommend this one for Mathematics appetite of Not-So-Mathematical.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enter the world of the mathematician., April 1 2000
By 
Walter Chang (Anaheim, Ca USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Pierre de Fermat, a seventeenth century French mathematician, challenged his colleagues and perhaps future generations of mathematicians to prove the following formula: a^n + b^n = c^n will be false for n > 2. Fermat wrote in the margins of his notebook that he had proven the assertion, but he did not outline it.
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Gripping Mathematical Page-Turner, Dec 4 2013
By 
G. Poirier (Orleans, ON, Canada) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Fermat's Enigma (Paperback)
I could not put this book down! In clear, lively, captivating prose the author recounts the story of Fermat's Last Theorem and its elusive mathematical proof. The period covered is essentially from the days of Fermat until the theorem's proof by Andrew Wiles in the mid 1990s. Along the way, the reader is treated to the various valiant efforts by brilliant mathematicians through the centuries towards establishing such a solid proof - all in vain before Dr. Wiles. The ups and downs in the history of this seemingly intangible proof are particularly well illustrated.

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.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars An Enigma still Not Understood, May 28 2002
I read Singh's FERMAT'S ENIGMA after reading Singh's CODE BOOK. Unfortunately, the latter is by far the better book. Although the CODE BOOK manages to cover both the personal and the quantitative side of the recent revolutions in cryptography, FERMAT'S ENIGMA does not attempt to break into the actual mathematical proofs at all. The result feels like one of those NBC human interest stories that take up airtime from the Olympic Games. The essence is in the math, but we hear instead about the innovators' daily lives.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A human drama unfolds ... in a mathematical world!, May 7 2002
This is a remarkable and engrossing human story about the search for the proof to the age old Fermat's last theorem. A story which tells the tale of one man's unflinching determination and single minded devotion to the cause of this proof. The events which unfold and the riveting account of Andrew Wiles journey to glory are told in this gripping tale by Simon Singh. Singh's master storytelling abilities are very well exemplified and will be appreciated by one and all. Those not inclined mathematically will also gain insights and concepts of mathematics and also get a peek at the lives of the mathematicians who are featured in this book.
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. Wiles succeeded in his endeavor, his proof was based on post-Fermat mathematical ideas like the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture, Galois group theory, Iwasawa theory and the Kolyvagin-Flach method. Fermat on the other hand had claimed that he possessed the proof for the theorem which obviously was based on mathematics of his time...
A great read. Recommended for one and all.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Safe Way for the Average Person to Return to Math, April 25 2002
By 
Patrick Whalen (Dover Plains, NY USA) - See all my reviews
The reader cannot avoid admiring the determination of Andrew Wiles, who becomes the role model (and inspiration) for the nonmathematician. This book discusses several important mathematical topics without assuming a mathematical background. The descriptions of what life is like for modern mathematicians are a good way to present the human side of math.
For anyone who wants to return to math but is afraid to do so, here is a good way to start. The more difficult topics of the book are explained in general terms throughout the book itself, and are then discussed more thoroughly in an appendix. This strategy makes the readers aware that they can return to those topics when feeling better prepared or more confident.
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5.0 out of 5 stars MATHEMATICAL PROOFS ARE ABSOLUTE, March 24 2002
By 
M. A. Treu (Bordentown, NJ USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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"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."
Every innocent school child, with an IQ greater that his shoe-size, is familiar with the Pythagorean theorem, which states that, in a right-triangle, the square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides. The mystery of Fermat's last theorem is directly rooted in Pythagoras and ancient Greece.
Here's the problem under consideration by Fermat: x(to the power "n") + y(to the power "n") = z(to the power "n") where "n" is any number greater than 2. Can it be proved?
The equation represents an infinite series of equations each with a different value for "n". An infinite number of equations can never be solved, therefore it has always been impossible to prove that the underlying equation has no solution; i.e. there is no value for "n" which would make the equation balance.
This is exactly what the genius Frenchman, Pierre de Fermat, claimed to have done, almost 400 years ago, when he noted in the margins of Diophantus' Arithmetica: "I have discovered a truly marvelous proof which this margin is too narrow to contain." Thus was created a mystery and a problem not solved until Andrew Wiles came along.
"Wiles proof of the Last Theorem is not the same as Fermat's," Singh says on page 283. Fermat noted in the margin of his Arithmetica that his proof could not fit in the space available. "Wiles 100 pages of dense mathematics certainly fulfills this criteria," Singh continues, "but, surely the Frenchman did not invent modular forms, the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture, Galois groups and the Kolyvagin-Flach method centuries before anyone else.
So, if Fermat did not use Wiles' method and the tools available to Wiles, what did the Frenchman use? What was Fermat's actual proof and how did he arrive at his result? Wiles arrived at his own proof, his own way, and officially, Wiles has solved Fermat's Last Theorem.
While it appears that nobody knows for sure, exactly what Fermat did, or how he did it, I believe that [one person] knows, but remains incommunicado, like Lawrence of Arabia and Gordon of Khartoum. Fermat's mystery will have to wait just a little longer.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A fabulous, must-read book, Feb. 1 2002
By A Customer
I can't think of enough reasons to recommend this wonderful book. Pierre Fermat proposed this deceptively simple problem back in the mid-1600s, yet it eluded the greatest mathematical minds of the ages, including Euler, one of the founders of modern mathematics.
While not shirking in any way on detail regarding the Theorem, number theory, and the immense difficulties in solving it, Singh manages to make this a very human story. Germain, Galois, Wolfskehl-- these remarkable minds are made flesh-and-blood, and Galois' story in particular is just heart-rending! We are finally brought to the mind-bending proof of Andrew Wiles in the 1990s, and are able to grasp why the Theorem's solution remained so elusive; as simple as it seems at first glance, it requires the ultimate back-door attack and some of the most advanced, specialized mathematics available to tackle it. Kudos to Wiles as always for his achievement, and kudos to Singh for his wonderful book discussing it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A book to read, not study, Jan. 26 2002
By 
J. Mack "reviewer2" (Pacific, USA) - See all my reviews
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Simon Singh has written an interesting story that unfolds in narrative style, about the solution of a timeless mathematical riddle. Fermat was a judge in 17th century France who dabbled in mathematics. He conjectured that the Pythagorean theorem (a squared + b squared = c squared) is never true for any other whole number power (e.g. a cubed + b cubed would never equal c cubed in any case). Maddeningly to later mathematicians, Fermat boasted in the margin of a paper that he had the proof for his conjecture.
Singh briefly reviews some history of mathematics, backtracking to Pythagorus himself and then unfolds through the ages developments in the quest for mathematical proofs. The human face of the mathematicians adds drama--the book is essentially about real people and their intellectual pursuits, challenges and failures or successes.
In the early chapters, the story is easily comprehended. Later chapters delve a bit more into the math itself, but for the purpose of unfolding the basic story, not to teach the reader "how to".
The book trumpets the final success in proving Fermat's conjecture by Andrew Wiles, which was front page news at the New York Times. That any man succeeded is truly a marvel and this account allows each of us to appreciate and share in human nature which struggles and strives for answers.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Quite a nice book..., Dec 20 2001
By A Customer
It's quite nice book, even though it took me a while to read(not because of it's content, but because of school). The way it leads you to the solving of the problem makes it extremely interesting. It really isn't a book about math, it's more of a book about the history of math, which makes it much easier to read. I'd recommend it to anyone who has an open mind on the subject of math. As i said before, it's quite a nice book.
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Fermat's Enigma
Fermat's Enigma by Simon Singh (Paperback - Sept. 14 1998)
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