Review of 'Fermat's Last Theorem'

Fermat's Last Theorem by Simon Singh

fermats_last_theorem.jpg Fermat's Last Theorem tells the story of the theorem, and those who have attempted to prove it over the years as well as the story of the man who eventually did: Andrew Wiles.

The theorem itself, is quite simple. It states that there is no solution for:

xn + yn = z n

Where “n” is a whole number greater than 2 (solutions for n being 1 and 2 are trivial).

The theorem was posited by Pierre de Fermat with a scribbled note in the margin of his notes suggesting a proof but for about 400 years mathematicians have struggled to conclusively prove it, often with the search for a solution ridiculed as hopeless and a fool's errand. But time and time again they have attempted to prove the theorem with Wiles being but the latest. Wiles became fascinated with the theorem from a young age then after university locked himself up for several years to work on the problem. It is this sheer devotion to this mystery of mathematics that eventually resulted in a solution.

This book has a lot less math than you might think with Singh often illustrating the various aspects of mathematics using visuals rather than resorting to obscure mathematical symbols or constructs. I would suggest the average careful reader should have no problems keeping up with the ideas expressed here which importantly lead to an understanding of the principles behind the last theorem solution. There are several appendices covering solutions to other problems that are also patiently explained in accessible language. It might be helpful to remember a bit of your high school math but this is more a story of the people who devoted their lives to solving the theorem, their lives, the politics, the false alleys they visited and the eventual alignment of fate to the eventual solution. It is a book of perseverance against ridicule and the odds to solving a mystery 400 years in the making.

An interesting and accessible book about the solving of one of mathematics' greatest riddles. Sure, perhaps a bit heavy for a summer beach holiday but worth a read for anyone with even a passing interest in the subject.

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2023-10-01

Genre: Non-Fiction

Publisher: Fourth Estate

Publication Date: 1997

ISBN: 1857026691