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.
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.
3.Read more ›
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.
Most recent customer reviews
This is a non-fiction mathematical detective story. Very intriguing. I didn't find the book completely evenly paced all the way through. Read morePublished 5 months ago by D Glover
It's a great literature for anyone wishing to know more about the history and evolution of mathematics. Well done research.Published 5 months ago by Telstar-man
Way fun! I love math and reading about math history and puzzles, and this book had everything, including being very readable.Published 15 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 20 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