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Fermat's Last Theorem by Simon Singh
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Fermat's Last Theorem (original 1997; edition 1997)

by Simon Singh

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3,777522,002 (4.1)51
Member:tim.dieppe
Title:Fermat's Last Theorem
Authors:Simon Singh
Info:Fourth Estate, Limited (1997), Hardcover, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
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Tags:Mathematics

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Fermat's Last Theorem: The Story of a Riddle That Confounded the World's Greatest Minds for 358 Years by Simon Singh (1997)

Recently added byCallme_L, Spelbreker, CarlosAPerez, private library, btervet, enitharmon, AeroArne, OakNuggins
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English (43)  Spanish (2)  Portuguese (Brazil) (2)  Yiddish (1)  German (1)  Danish (1)  Catalan (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (52)
Showing 1-5 of 43 (next | show all)
Fascinating and compelling tour through some of the history of mathematics and some of the significant developments from the eighteenth century to the publication at the last gasp of the twentieth of something very remarkable indeed: an advanced mathematical proof that captured the public imagination and made a hero of a shy and rather gawky man with a predilection for bad sweaters.

What Andrew Wiles set out in his 1997 paper was not, it turns out, a direct proof of Fermat's Last Theorem but a proof of the Modularity Theorem, a much more abstruse idea with little obvious connection to Fermat's algebraic conundrum, which somebody else had earlier shown to imply Fermat's theorem if true. Such is the interconnectedness of modern mathematics. Such, too, is the interdependency of developments on the work of many individuals. It's long been a contention of mine that great breakthroughs are never the work of individual geniuses working on their own, but the culmination of a process where many minds gradually build up the conditions that make the breakthrough possible. As Isaac Newton (whose role in this story is only a minor cameo) once remarked, "If I have seen further it was only by standing on the shoulders of giants". All credit to Wiles though for his single-minded persistence over many years, during which his work produced spinoffs that were significant developments in themselves and helped to fire the work of others in the mathematical community. Perhaps slightly less creditworthy (because it involved holding back work that would have helped others) but entirely understandable is the way Wiles kept information to himself because he didn't want anybody else building on his work and stealing that ultimate triumph.

It's brave of Simon Singh to put forward a book about maths that is neither out of the reach of a general readership nor too simple to satisfy the more mathematically-minded, but he's done a reasonably good job. He's framed it in such a way as to build suspense, not an easy thing to do with this material and I suspect that the reality was much more mundane. I can live with that. It's in the nature of the subject matter, though, that it's going to be a frustrating experience for the curious. Singh mentions Modular Forms, not unreasonably as they turn out to hold the key to the mystery, and they sounded fascinating involving complex numbers as they do, but he doesn't go into much detail. So I turned to Wikipedia. BIG mistake! My head all but exploded. Hey ho, I was always much too impatient to make much of a mathematician.
( )
  enitharmon | Jan 14, 2019 |
Fascinating and compelling tour through some of the history of mathematics and some of the significant developments from the eighteenth century to the publication at the last gasp of the twentieth of something very remarkable indeed: an advanced mathematical proof that captured the public imagination and made a hero of a shy and rather gawky man with a predilection for bad sweaters.

What Andrew Wiles set out in his 1997 paper was not, it turns out, a direct proof of Fermat's Last Theorem but a proof of the Modularity Theorem, a much more abstruse idea with little obvious connection to Fermat's algebraic conundrum, which somebody else had earlier shown to imply Fermat's theorem if true. Such is the interconnectedness of modern mathematics. Such, too, is the interdependency of developments on the work of many individuals. It's long been a contention of mine that great breakthroughs are never the work of individual geniuses working on their own, but the culmination of a process where many minds gradually build up the conditions that make the breakthrough possible. As Isaac Newton (whose role in this story is only a minor cameo) once remarked, "If I have seen further it was only by standing on the shoulders of giants". All credit to Wiles though for his single-minded persistence over many years, during which his work produced spinoffs that were significant developments in themselves and helped to fire the work of others in the mathematical community. Perhaps slightly less creditworthy (because it involved holding back work that would have helped others) but entirely understandable is the way Wiles kept information to himself because he didn't want anybody else building on his work and stealing that ultimate triumph.

It's brave of Simon Singh to put forward a book about maths that is neither out of the reach of a general readership nor too simple to satisfy the more mathematically-minded, but he's done a reasonably good job. He's framed it in such a way as to build suspense, not an easy thing to do with this material and I suspect that the reality was much more mundane. I can live with that. It's in the nature of the subject matter, though, that it's going to be a frustrating experience for the curious. Singh mentions Modular Forms, not unreasonably as they turn out to hold the key to the mystery, and they sounded fascinating involving complex numbers as they do, but he doesn't go into much detail. So I turned to Wikipedia. BIG mistake! My head all but exploded. Hey ho, I was always much too impatient to make much of a mathematician.
( )
  enitharmon | Jan 14, 2019 |
It's been many years since I read The Code Book by the same author, which I had really enjoyed. Ever since I read that, I had an interest in reading this book as well, but I never did, in part because there was no kindle version until recently. Now I'm glad I did. This one wasn't quite as good as I recall the other one being, but probably only because I was less close to the subject material. What remains true is that he does an excellent job of explaining difficult/technical material in a way that is understandable and doesn't lose (too) much in over-simplification. There were clearly some tangents just to tell other interesting stories in math history that didn't have much real bearing on the subject, but I liked that fact about the book. It also raised fun memories of doing the basic/famous proofs years ago when I learned a bit of basic number theory. ( )
  TravbudJ | Sep 2, 2018 |
Not only is it a how-to-prove-it story, it also tells a marginal story about logicians, mathematicians throughout three centuries, including Leonhard Euler, Sophie Germain, Betrand Russell, Augustin Louis Cauchy, etc. ( )
  duydoan | Aug 8, 2018 |
Science
  stevholt | Nov 19, 2017 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Simon Singhprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lynch, JohnForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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"Fermat's Last Theorem" and "Fermet's Enigma", by Simon Singh, are the same work.

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'Fermat's Last Theorem' is the correct canonical title as listed on the official site of the author. 'Fermat's Enigma' is the altered title of the American edition.
response: I don't think you can call the title "canonical" if there the work is commonly available for sale under two different titles in English, and the history of changes to the field "Canonical title" supports this contention. For the purpose of disambiguation, perhaps we should just leave it at "Fermat's Last Theorem" and "Fermet's Enigma", by Simon Singh, are the same work.
response: In these cases the first edition in the country of the author's origin takes precedent.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0385493622, Paperback)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:42 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

xn + yn = zn, where n represents 3, 4, 5, ...no solution "I have discovered a truly marvelous demonstration of this proposition which this margin is too narrow to contain." With these words, the seventeenth-century French mathematician Pierre de Fermat threw down the gauntlet to future generations. What came to be known as Fermat's Last Theorem looked simple; proving it, however, became the Holy Grail of mathematics, baffling its finest minds for more than 350 years. In Fermat's Enigma--based on the author's award-winning documentary film, which aired on PBS's "Nova"--Simon Singh tells the astonishingly entertaining story of the pursuit of that grail, and the lives that were devoted to, sacrificed for, and saved by it. Here is a mesmerizing tale of heartbreak and mastery that will forever change your feelings about mathematics.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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