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Fermats Enigma Hardcover – Oct 15 1997

4.7 out of 5 stars 187 customer reviews

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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
--This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 315 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Canada (AHC) (Oct. 15 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670877565
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670877560
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 3.2 x 19.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars 187 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #460,402 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

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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Format: Hardcover
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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Format: Paperback
I may have to apologize for not as raving as other reviewers on this book by Simon Singh. To be fair to the book and thus the author, I do find a fairly fluent narration on the mathematicians who attempted or contributed to solve the Fermat's Last Theorem. Meanwhile, I personally don't find the writing style and the organization of the materials to be particularly appealing.
We never hold any slightest hope that a 285-page book (the paperback edition) would offer us a clear understanding on how the proof, that incorporates so much of the techniques in the modern number theory, is devised. The book basically steers itself all clear from the mathematics.
These below are what significantly push my rating of this book to a low range:
1. Too much on who the mathematicians were rather what they did to the proof. Approximately two-thirds of the book is on stories behind those mathematicians who one way or the other got involved in the Last Theorem. Those may be interesting from a historical perspective but are simply irrelevant to how we came to the proof.
2. The author starts quite early in the book to tout mathematical proof as an "absolute proof" that "[m]athematical theorems rely on this logical process and once proven are true until the end of time. Mathematical proofs are absolute." By contrast, "... the scientific theory can never be proved to the same absolute level of a mathematical theorem ... So-called scientific proof relies on observation and perception." An account on the differences between the two is beyond the scope here. Apparently, the author either doesn't know those are apples and oranges or, worse, attempts to elevate mathematical proof to an "absolute" level it might not need at all.
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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Hardcover
Simon Singh sets out to convey the drama, excitement and genuine suspense surrounding the solving of one of the greatest problems in math - the proof of Fermat's Last Theorem. Singh's challenge is in both conveying the historical significance of the problem, and in boiling down complex math for those, like me, who are not particularly knowledgeable in math. Sadly, Singh fails in both counts. FERMAT'S ENIGMA moves slowly through the history of number theory, while leaving the meaning math's meaning impregnable. Although this book is short, after a while I was wondering what the use was in going on. I suspect that those who know more about math than I could enjoy this book. Sadly, I could not - it was just over my head.
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Format: 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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