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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 (Author), John Lynch (Foreword), Andy Bridge (Cover artist), Ashwini M. Jambotkar (Cover designer)

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3,515441,507 (4.11)50
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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Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
Fascinating and gripping read. Part mystery, part tragedy, part celebration of the human spirit. Highly recommend it and no you don't really need to know or understand anything about maths.
( )
  njgriffin | Jan 2, 2017 |
from the foreword:
"it turned out that everyone had been working on Fermat, but separately and without having it as a goal."

While reading this book, I started thinking about the extraordinary coincidence of so many great mathematicians whose surname began with "W" and also contained an "L" and was just one syllable. Namely, Andre Weil, Hermann Weyl and Andrew Wiles.
Also Wolf and the Wolf prize, not to be confused with the Wolfskehl prize. The latter prize was set up to reward anyone who could come up with a verified proof of Fermat's Last Theorem within one hundred years from the time it was set up, so the deadline was in 2009.

The Langlands program called for uniting various math specialties that had, over time, drifted apart. This book tells about how all the different threads from various areas of mathematics had to be pulled together so that Andrew Wiles could meet that deadline. It wasn't the full Langlands program, but a very remarkable example of how fruitful these relinkings can be.

The first part of the book overlapped with other books I have read that discuss history of mathematics. Around the midpoint, I started learning more. I learned something about the Taniyama-Shimuro conjecture. Other books had referred to it, but hadn't given quite enough detail to leave it anything but obscure mystery in my mind.

I've had this book on my personal to-read list for a long time. I'm glad I found this book in the public library. It was every bit as good as I had expected when I first put it on my list.
( )
1 vote CarolJMO | Dec 12, 2016 |
There is much more details of mathematical proofs than in other works of popular mathematics I've read. Still I feel some more could've been added without making it unreadable for the beginner. ( )
  AlienIndie | May 20, 2016 |
Written for a general audience without much mathematics background, and therefore very easy to follow. Those wanting something more in-depth and challenging may want to pass. ( )
  kutsuwamushi | Jan 16, 2016 |
I am blown away by this book. I've read so many nonfiction math and physics books that they were starting to repeat themselves. So, when I picked this one up I thought, "Well, it's probably more of the same, but it's popular enough I should really add it to my repertoire." Way wrong thought. Not only does this book contain even more charming mathematical anecdotes than I'd ever read before, but it also contains better written versions of the stories I'd heard of. For example, I knew about Sophie Germain, but I didn't know she'd saved Gauss' life. I knew all about the burning of Alexandria, but I didn't know it was Mark Antony who attempted to rebuild the great library. I knew Galois died young in a duel, but I never knew the full story.

I read [b:The Code Book|17994|The Code Book The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography|Simon Singh|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1403181687s/17994.jpg|1031975] in high school, and I remember it being good, but in a recreational way. It piqued my interest but I didn't really shelf it with "high literature" like I did with [b:Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid|24113|Gödel, Escher, Bach An Eternal Golden Braid|Douglas R. Hofstadter|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1428732588s/24113.jpg|850076] or [b:Music of the Spheres: The Material Universe From Atom to Quaser, Simply Explained|393653|Music of the Spheres The Material Universe From Atom to Quaser, Simply Explained (Volume II The Microcosm Matter, Atoms, Waves, Radiation, Relativity)|Guy Murchie|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1387716643s/393653.jpg|383216]. It was enough for me, a young geeky teenager, to have a little fun playing with codes, then move on to another book. I am very happy that I returned to Singh, and I can confidently say this is the better of the two I've read. Mathematicians sure are a romantic lot. ( )
1 vote Victor_A_Davis | Sep 18, 2015 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Simon Singhprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lynch, JohnForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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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