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Fermat's Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the…

Fermat's Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical… (original 1997; edition 1998)

by Simon Singh, John Lynch (Foreword), Andy Bridge (Cover artist), Ashwini M. Jambotkar (Cover designer)

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3,305401,647 (4.1)43
Title:Fermat's Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem
Authors:Simon Singh (Author)
Other authors:John Lynch (Foreword), Andy Bridge (Cover artist), Ashwini M. Jambotkar (Cover designer)
Info:New York : Anchor Books, 1998, c1997. 300p.
Collections:Your library, Physical books, Individual books
Tags:math, nonfiction, history, fermat, paperback, f:1990s, british author, two, ~qc, acquired 2011, read 2012, 12 in 12

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Fermat's Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem by Simon Singh (1997)


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English (33)  Spanish (2)  German (1)  Yiddish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  Danish (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (40)
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
I love this book - it reads like a mystery full of obsessive people trying to solve a problem. I liked the math, and while the author, while not a mathematician, manages to simplify it to the point where a non-math person might understand the underlying logic.

The story is full of odd characters, many of them obsessive. Most of them not likeable (which adds to the story). The story of Andrew Wiles, the man who finally cracked Fermat's Last Theorem, is quite good, and is the reason this book was written, but is really only a small part of this tale. It is written as part of the overall history, not just a major part of it.

While the book is about the path to Fermat's Last Theorem, but because so many new ideas came about from the path of solving it, this book can be seen as a brief history of math. Highly recommended if you like pop-science type books and mathmatics, but without all the hard stuff. ( )
  TheDivineOomba | Jan 18, 2015 |
Bisogna riconoscere 'pathos' alla narrazione, anche se tratta di una materia che ricorda piu' gli esami di riparazione che non gare, intrighi, lotte, seminari, delusioni e premi.
In realtà è l'avventura di una scoperta a cui Indiana Jones non ci aveva abituato, ed è la scoperta intellettuale. Non è la pietra filosofale, ma un materiale ancora più prezioso: la storia di uomini che per secoli cercano la verita', trasformando i limiti in confini, superandoli, trascinando tutta l'umanita' con loro, un passo più in la'.
Affascinante. ( )
  bobparr | Dec 14, 2014 |
Fermat's Last Theorem begins with Pythagoras, goes through Fermat's positing of his theorem, the attempts by Euler and others to solve it, and culminates with Andrew Wiles's solution. It is generally entertaining and has the occasional equation, with a few more in the Appendix. But most of the relatively light analytical machinery in the book is devoted to ancillary problems or general illustrations, Singh does not even go beyond an extremely superficial description of the main feature of Fermat's proof in the case of n=4. Instead a lot of the space is filled with detours that are often found in these sorts of books, from the role of women in French mathematics in the 19th Century to the puzzle fad in the early 20th Century. In that way this book fell short of Singh's Big Bang which felt more focused and a little more thorough in trying to describe how scientists discovered what they did about the big bang. ( )
  nosajeel | Jun 21, 2014 |
Very entertaining story about the 358-year quest to solve Fermat's Last Theorem. Even an interested layperson should have no difficulties with the maths in this book. Highly recommended. ( )
  Akubra | Nov 19, 2013 |
A fantastically entertaining and educational book about the quest to solve the oldest math problem: Fermat's Last Theorem. The intrigue, mystery, and drama surrounding the famous theorem without a proof (but that Fermat had said he had a proof for, just not enough space to write it in the margins) is exciting enough. All the math greats who have attempted to solve it but come up a little short, or a lot short.

But it's much more than that, since the final proof of Fermat's Theorem involves so many other math concepts. This book starts and ends with Fermat, but in the middle it is more like a grand tour of all the mathematical developments that make the proof even possible. It's interesting to read about all the different dead ends and other productive findings (that had tangentially made it a little more possible to solve Fermat, but whose main contribution was in some other area). Also, reading about Galois's amazing life always makes me giddy. I mean, I've read about him before, but his story is just so crazy--math genius turned revolutionary thrown in jail involved in affair ends in duel, scribbles out his last thoughts the night before he dies... amazing.

But don't expect to understand how the proof actually works by the end. The proof itself is over 100 pages, so there is no way a normal non-math genius can understand it. But you will get a general idea of the approach/trajectory/style of the final beast. Also, some of the math concepts leading up to it are quite easily comprehensible. I wouldn't recommend this book to a math whiz... it's more of a fun read for the layperson.

It would ultimately be more satisfying if the proof were a short elegant thing that didn't involve latest groundbreaking discoveries in math. But maybe the bright side is that we can still wonder about Fermat's original (alleged) proof that was never written down. It had to be different from Andrew Wile's proof; does it exist? Or was Fermat bluffing? Or did he make an error in his proof? ( )
  JimmyChanga | Sep 11, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (25 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Simon Singhprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lynch, JohnForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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In memory of Pakhar Singh
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It was the most important mathematics lecture of the century.
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"Fermat's Last Theorem" and "Fermet's Enigma", by Simon Singh, are the same work.

Earlier notice and response:
'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.
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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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