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Fermat's Enigma

Fermat's Enigma Cover

Fermat's Enigma

The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem

By Simon Singh

Walker & Company, Hardcover, 9780802713315, 288pp.

Publication Date: November 1, 1997

"I have discovered a truly marvelous proof, which this margin is too narrow to contain". With these tantalizing 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, yet the finest mathematical minds would be baffled for more than three and a half centuries.

Fermat's Last Theorem became the Holy Grail of mathematics. Whole and colorful lives were devoted, and even sacrificed, to finding a solution. Leonhard Euler, the greatest mathematician of the 18th century, had to admit defeat. Sophie Germain had to take on the identity of a man to do research in a field forbidden to females, and made the most significant breakthrough of the 19th century. The clashing Evariste Galois scribbled down the results of his research deep into the night before venturing out to die in a duel in 1832. Yutaka Taniyama, whose insights would lead directly to the ultimate solution to Fermat, tragically killed himself in despair. On the other hand, Paul Wolfskehl, a famous German industrialist, claimed Fermat had saved him from suicide, and established a rich prize for the first person to prove the theorem.

And then came Princeton Professor Andrew Wiles, who had dreamed of proving Fermat ever since he first read of it as a boy of ten in his local library. In 1993, some 356 years after Fermat's challenge, and after seven years of working in isolation and secrecy, Wiles stunned the world by announcing a proof -- though his own journey would be far from over.

"Fermat's Enigma" is the story of the epic quest to solve the greatest math problem of all time. Written by the award-winningfilm-maker who has had more access to Andrew Wiles than any other journalist, it is a human drama of high dreams, intellectual brilliance, and extraordinary determination.