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Fermat's Last Theorem

Simon Singh · 3 HN comments
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Amazon Summary
'I have a truly marvellous demonstration of this proposition which this margin is too narrow to contain.' It was with these words, written in the 1630s, that Pierre de Fermat intrigued and infuriated the mathematics community. For over 350 years, proving Fermat's Last Theorem was the most notorious unsolved mathematical problem, a puzzle whose basics most children could grasp but whose solution eluded the greatest minds in the world. In 1993, after years of secret toil, Englishman Andrew Wiles announced to an astounded audience that he had cracked Fermat's Last Theorem. He had no idea of the nightmare that lay ahead. In 'Fermat's Last Theorem' Simon Singh has crafted a remarkable tale of intellectual endeavour spanning three centuries, and a moving testament to the obsession, sacrifice and extraordinary determination of Andrew Wiles: one man against all the odds.
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Hacker News Stories and Comments

All the comments and stories posted to Hacker News that reference this book.
Nov 10, 2014 · eterm on Homer's Last Theorem
The author of this article is also the author of this book on Fermat's Last Theorem:

Given the eventual proof of Fermat's last theorem there's a solid argument that Fermat hadn't successfully proved it (and certainly couldn't have in the way it was eventually done), but it's also far from clear whether he actually believed he had.

And the author of the article is also the author of the book:

"The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets"

Jun 24, 2013 · ibrow on A very old problem turns 20
Here is the book[1] that goes with that documentary. It is a really good read and not too technical at all.


Edit: Just seen nicholassmith posted exactly the same link. Apologies for duplication

The history of the Theorem and the attempts to crack it, and how Wiles finally got there is fantastic, and if you've not come across it in detail then I'd definitely recommend finding out more about it.

If anyone is looking for a good book about the history of Fermat's Last Theorem I can thoroughly recommend Simon Singh's book about it [1], which is both accessible for those without a strong maths background (like myself) and paints a wonderful history of mathematics as well. In places it's more entertaining than fiction.


After reading the book, would I have some understanding of the actual proof, or learn mostly the historical context around it?

Note: I have felt deceived after reading Godel's Proof [1] since the authors claimed in the preface to have given an outline of the complete proof in the last chapter but did not (it was grossly incomplete). I am still indebted to the book though for teaching me how to think about pure mathematics.


A popular science book about Fermat's Last Theorem will certainly not give you any kind of real understanding of the proof. It will give you some historical context.

It is a difficult proof, and some of the underlying basic concepts are already deep in their own right, deeper than will be covered in an advanced undergraduate degree.

There are some attempts at higher level overviews on the web, and they are slowly getting fleshed out.

Great book, no matter your level of math knowledge or interest.

I'm an all round science nerd with a MSc in maths, my wife is an architect with a background in art history and graphic design and a aversion to all things mathematical, yet we both really liked book.

I read the book as a kid (I'm guessing 15), and while I probably understood little of it, I read the whole thing. It was definitely inspiring to learn Wiles' slow persistence/progress, and the never-would've-guessed kind of connections that come up in maths.
Somewhat off topic, but I was somewhat surprised that architect is a viable career for someone with an aversion to all things mathematical. Does she still need math, she just doesn't enjoy it, or does the modeling software these days take care of all the calculations necessary?
The role of the architect in Sweden is very different from the role of the architect in North America. In Sweden an architect deals with the planning and design phase and is not involved with the construction phase and has no practical or legal responsibilities with regards to the actual building process. All that is handled by a construction engineer.
Interesting. I would have thought at least some math would be required during the planning/design phase to ensure the design is physically stable (e.g. load calculations to ensure spans are supported well enough). Thanks for the info.
Most houses are designed with standard, well understood materials and well within industry standard tolerances, so there is no need to do any heavy duty load calculations at every step. 97% of the time plugging some numbers into the standard formulas is plenty enough for a sanity check. If you're doing something really weird you sit down in collaboration with your engineers.
I'd 2nd that. I've read two other of his books, The Code Book and Big Bang, in which he gives cryptography and physics similar treatment.
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