Fermat’s Last Theorem

25 Oct, 2012 510 Mathematics

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Fermat’s Last Theorem. In 1637 the French mathematician Pierre de Fermat scribbled a note in the margin of one of his books. He claimed to have proved a remarkable property of numbers, but gave no clue as to how he’d gone about it. “I have found a wonderful demonstration of this proposition,” he wrote, “which this margin is too narrow to contain”. Fermat’s theorem became one of the most iconic problems in mathematics and for centuries mathematicians struggled in vain to work out what his proof had been. In the 19th century the French Academy of Sciences twice offered prize money and a gold medal to the person who could discover Fermat’s proof; but it was not until 1995 that the puzzle was finally solved by the British mathematician Andrew Wiles.

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  • Marcus du Sautoy 15 episodes
    Professor of Mathematics & Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at the University of Oxford
  • Vicky Neale 2 episodes
    Fellow and Director of Studies in Mathematics at Murray Edwards College at the University of Cambridge
  • Samir Siksek No other episodes
    Professor at the Mathematics Institute at the University of Warwick

Reading list

  • Fermat's Last Theorem: Unlocking the Secret of an Ancient Mathematical Problem
    Amir D. Aczel (Thunder's Mouth Press, 2007) Google Books →
  • The Higher Arithmetic: An Introduction to the Theory of Numbers
    H. Davenport (Cambridge University Press, 2008) Google Books →
  • The Princeton Companion to Mathematics
    Timothy Gowers (ed.) (Princeton University Press, 2008) Google Books →
  • Notes on Fermat's Last Theorem
    Alfred J. van der Poorten (Wiley-Blackwell, 1996) Google Books →
  • Fermat's Last Theorem for Amateurs
    Paulo Ribenboim (Springer, 1999) Google Books →
  • Fermat's Last Theorem
    Simon Singh (Fourth Estate, 1997) Google Books →
  • From Here to Infinity
    Ian Stewart (OUP, 1996) Google Books →

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Programme ID: b01ngn3j

Episode page: bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01ngn3j

Auto-category: 510 (Mathematics)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. On the 23rd of June 1993, at the Isaac Newton Institute in Cambridge, Andrew Wiles announced that after seven years of work, he'd solved the most celebrated problem in mathematics, Fermat's Last Theorem.