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Enter the world of the mathematician.
on April 1, 2000
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.