The Story of Fermat’s Last Theorem

I first learned of Fermat’s Last Theorem from a professor in an undergraduate calculus class at the University of Washington and have been interested in it ever since, partly because the problem appears so simple to prove and partly because of the mystery surrounding its origin. Fermat is alleged to have scribbled its formulation in the margin of his copy of Arithmetica, stating that he had found a wonderful little proof, but that it couldn’t fit in the space provided by the margin. That was in 1637. It wasn’t until 1995 that mathematician Andrew Wiles — after having spent 7 years working on the problem in secret — was finally able to come up with a complete proof — 358 years after its conjecture. Mathematicians now believe Fermat was mistaken in his method of proving the problem because the techniques finally used to crack it weren’t even invented until hundreds of years after Fermat’s death. Fermat’s last theorem is similar in form to the Pythagorean Theorem. In particular it posits that  a^n +b^n = c^n cannot be satisfied for any integer ‘n’ greater than two.

Because I have been interested in the problem for some time I was happy to find this documentary by Simon Singh, which I found quite entertaining and moving:


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