Having lived through a lifetime of math classes where we were always required to show our work there is a certain perverse pleasure in this story. Fermat’s theorem was first conjectured in 1637 in the margin of a copy of a book which he annotated by claiming he had a proof – but it was too large to fit in the margin! No successful proof was published until 1995 – and even then the utility of the proof is somewhat dubious since it exists in the artificial universe of mathematics rather than the real universe where not everything can be quantified. It is always necessary to remember that Newton wrote more on theosophy and alchemy than physics, that Galileo may have been right but his reasoning was wrong and that no one has ever confirmed Darwin’s theory conclusively before we worship at the altar of unrestricted reason.
Fermat’s last theorem: unlocking the secret of an ancient mathematical problem Amir D. Aczel New York : Four Walls Eight Windows, c 1996 Hardcover. 1st ed., later printing. xi, 147 p. : ill., map ; 20 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 139-140) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG
Over three hundred years ago, a French scholar scribbled a simple theorem in the margin of a book. It would become the world’s most baffling mathematical mystery. Simple, elegant, and utterly impossible to prove, Fermat‘s Last Theorem captured the imaginations of amateur and professional mathematicians for over three centuries. For some it became a wonderful passion. For others it was an obsession that led to deceit, intrigue, or insanity.
In a volume filled with the clues, red herrings, and suspense of a mystery novel, Dr. Amir Aczel reveals the previously untold story of the people, the history, and the cultures that lie behind this scientific triumph. From formulas devised for the farmers of ancient Babylonia to the dramatic proof of Fermat’s theorem in 1993, this extraordinary work takes us along on an exhilarating intellectual treasure hunt. Revealing the hidden mathematical order of the natural world in everything from stars to sunflowers, Fermat’s Last Theorem brilliantly combines philosophy and hard science.