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Fermat's Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem

4.19 of 5 stars 4.19  ·  rating details  ·  14,966 ratings  ·  591 reviews
xn + yn = zn, where n represents 3, 4, 5, solution

"I have discovered a truly marvelous demonstration of this proposition which this margin is too narrow to contain."

With these words, the seventeenth-century French mathematician Pierre de Fermat threw down the gauntlet to future generations.What came to be known as Fermat's Last Theorem looked simple; proving it, howe
Paperback, 315 pages
Published September 8th 1998 by Anchor (first published 1997)
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Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas R. HofstadterFermat's Enigma by Simon SinghFlatland by Edwin A. AbbottThe Code Book by Simon SinghZero by Charles Seife
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2nd out of 216 books — 368 voters
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Community Reviews

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Oct 07, 2014 David rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to David by: Krishna
Shelves: history, mathematics
Simon Singh has the ability to present a story about a mathematics problem, and tell it like a detective story. He makes the subject exciting, even though the outcome is well known. Singh intersperses history with discussions about the mathematics, and makes it quite understandable.

Singh starts with the roots of the famous Fermat's Last Theorem, by recounting the stories and mathematics of Pythagoras, Euclid, and Euler. Other, less well-known mathematicians are also given credit, for example So
Muhammad Shakhawat Hossain
“সমকোণী তরিভুজের অতিভুজের ওপর অঙকিত বরগকষেতরের কষেতরফল অপর দুই বাহুর ওপর অঙকিত বরগকষেতরদবয়ের কষেতরফলের সমষটির সমান”-বাংলা মধযম শিকষা বযবসথার ছাতর-ছাতরীরা বিজঞান, বযবসা, মানবিক ইতযাদি ‘শরেণীগত পারথকয’ভেদে সকলেই নবম শরেণীতে ‘পীথাগোরাসের উপপাদয’ নামে পরিচিত উপপাদয- পড়ে এসেছেন।

চিতরের সমকোণী তরিভুজের (অরথাৎ যে তরিভুজের একটি বাহু অপর বাহুর সাথে ডিগরী কোণে অবসথিত) অতিভুজ c, লমব a এবং ভূমি b। পীথাগোরাসের উপপাদয অনুসারে a^2 + b^2 = c^2। a, b এবং c এর কিছু মান বসিয়ে সমীকরণের দু পাশ সমান করে ফেলা যায়, সবচ
Riku Sayuj
Dec 03, 2011 Riku Sayuj rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Riku by: Japesh Jayadevan
Simon converts what could have been a dry chronicle of proofs into an ode full of excitement, inspiration and intrigue worthy of a gothic love affair. Full review to follow.
Cassandra Kay Silva
This is the kind of book that we non mathematical minds can easily digest and love. It gives you an epic scope of the number of minds that it takes to build new ideas. I doubt if Fermat had actually solved this theorem correctly, but this is impossible to prove. Fermat's theorem however was not impossible to prove! It was solved! Thanks to the efforts of many men (and women!) over many lifetimes and one final man who had the determination and persistence to finish the unthinkable. This book has ...more
Apr 03, 2009 Bruce rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone from high schoolers on up
What a fun book this was (thanks, Trevor, for the recommendation)! There are many reasons I think I like (good) nonfiction -- a sense of direct relevance, gravitas, frequent insights into the workings of the universe (and people), but mostly for knowledge narcs -- high levels of information density served up into an intriguing package by someone else who has undertaken the heavy lifting (research, organization, thinking). So, here in Singh's work I get a solid lay understanding not only of the p ...more
Milica Chotra
Nov 04, 2012 Milica Chotra rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Milica by: Mladen
Vodeći nas kroz istoriju matematike i teorije brojeva, Singh pripoveda uzbudljivu priču o problemu koji je mučio matematičare od 17. veka, pa sve do oktobra 1994. godine, kada je Andrew Wiles konačno kompletirao svoj dokaz pretpostavke koju je formulisao Pierre de Fermat 1637. godine.

Ovaj "princ svih amatera", koji je radio izolovan od matematičke zajednice, uživao je u rešavanju problema, ali nije se trudio da ponudi potpunija objašnjenja, često izazivajući kolege da ih dokažu i pokažu da su do
I guess the author does a reasonable job. But when I reached the end, I still didn't feel I understood at all how the proof worked. Probably that's just because it's so bloody hard. I got a lot more though out of Prime Obsession, Derbyshire's book on the Riemann Hypothesis, where the author opens up the box and shows you some of the actual math...
A fantastically entertaining and educational book about the quest to solve the oldest math problem: Fermat's Last Theorem. The intrigue, mystery, and drama surrounding the famous theorem without a proof (but that Fermat had said he had a proof for, just not enough space to write it in the margins) is exciting enough. All the math greats who have attempted to solve it but come up a little short, or a lot short.

But it's much more than that, since the final proof of Fermat's Theorem involves so man
Campbell Mcaulay
If you buy the latest Jilly Cooper instead of this you WILL go to hell!

This one languished on my bookshelf for the best part of a year as I was too scared to pick it up & start it. What held me back is what will probably put a lot of other potential readers off trying it - the boring old "I'm no good at maths" argument. Although my maths education is probably little above average (a good O Level and a terrible A Level, after which I rallied somewhat to obtain a reasonable HNC maths module) i
This book is as interesting as a detective story while being about quite advanced mathematics - as such it is quite a book showing the remarkable skill of its writer to explain complex ideas in ways that are always readable and enjoyable.

A mathematician finds a simple proof to what seems like a deceptively simple problem of mathematics - that pythagoras's theorem only works if the terms are squared, and not if they are any other power up to infinity. Sounds dull. Except that the mathematician jo
Simon Singh gives an excellent account of the quest for the solution to Fermat's puzzle. Starting off with ancient Greeks and arriving at the proof using modern mathematics, he explains the struggles of generations of mathematicians. The author never tries to overwhelm us with the mathematics, but tells us about the people who were involved in proving the theorem. Having said that, all the mathematics in the book can be understood with a background in high school mathematics.

This book is a grea
"My butter, garcon, is writ large in!"
a diner was heard to be chargin'.
"I HAD to write there,"
exclaimed waiter Pierre,
"I couldn't find room in the margarine."

Ever since I recently stumbled upon the documentary called 'The Proof' I've become extremely interested (almost obsessed) in Wiles's proof of Fermat's last Theorem and have been searching for a good book that would provide me with a real, mathematical explanation of it (mainly the connection between modular forms and elliptic curves), becau

In a way this book “Fermat’s Last Theorem” is a fantasy come true. To be able to read about complex Mathematics in a story book style is something that was possible only in this book by Simon Singh. Before I picked up this book I had no idea about Fermat’s last theorem or its significance. I just read the summary on the back page and felt like picking up the book and once I started reading it, there was no stopping it, though I did skipped over complex mathematical
Math was one of my favorite subjects in school. I loved learning algebra and I enjoyed calculus in high school and college. I also take pleasure in doing logic puzzles now and then. But I can't imagine myself doing it for a living, filling my brain with numbers day in and day out.

So it's fascinating for me to read about people throughout history who did do this, who devoted their lives in search of mathematical truths. The author explains clearly why figuring out absolute mathematical proof is i
Absolutely fantastic.

The descriptions of all the maths and discoveries in this book are nothing short of joyful, and I felt so excited to be reading all of it. The book explains and shows why math is so amazing, how it is a divine language that describes something (i.e., number properties and their relationships) that exists outside of the physical world, how mathematicians are then often more in search of a truth in the real sense of the word than in search of a practical application or an expl
I'm not a maths person. I pretty much hated it at school, and pulled myself through somehow. So I was reading this as I was much more interested in the story of solving a problem that confounded the finest minds in maths for 300 years. It's based on the comment in the margins of a text from 17th century maths-genius/possibly most frustrating man in history Pierre de Fermat. A concept so simple even I could understand it (I can't do formula, here or anywhere but An +Bn =Cn can never be a whole n ...more
Lyle Regenwetter
Fermat's Enigma is the first nonfiction book I have read in a while, and it exceeded my initially non-optimistic expectations in several ways. This book discusses Fermat's Last Theorem, one of the most famous mathematical problems ever known to man. x^2+y^2=z^2 is a very familiar problem, appears frequently in mathematics, including in the Pythagorean Theorem for the relationship of Side Lengths of Right triangles. x^3+y^3=z^3 is a very similar problem, except for the fact that there are no real ...more
A tantalizing tale of how the holy grail of mathematics, Fermat's Last Theorem, was finally proved by Andrew Wiles in 1993, after it has confounded the world's best mathematicians for 358 years.
Victor Davis
I am blown away by this book. I've read so many nonfiction math and physics books that they were starting to repeat themselves. So, when I picked this one up I thought, "Well, it's probably more of the same, but it's popular enough I should really add it to my repertoire." Way wrong thought. Not only does this book contain even more charming mathematical anecdotes than I'd ever read before, but it also contains better written versions of the stories I'd heard of. For example, I knew about Sophie ...more
Oct 12, 2015 Tim rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: science
More first-rate science writing from Simon Singh. In this case he seems to have got in on the ground floor of the biggest mathematical discovery of the century -- the proof of Fermat's Last Theorem by Andrew Wiles in 1994. Were it only for the reporting alone it would be worth a read, but Singh also does a creditable job of actually, you know, explaining the math. Unintimidated by Stephen Hawking's dictum that each equation reduces your sales by half, he succeeds by going big, delving as deep as ...more
Fermat's Last Theorem is simple enough that anyone who understands Pythagorus' technique for finding the longest side of a right-angled triangle, can understand the conjecture that Fermat provides:

a^n + b^n = c^n has no solutions in positive integers, if n is an integer greater than 2

What is not easily understood is the story of how it was proved some 350 years later, but Simon Singh turns this story, over three-hundred years of mathematics, into a manageable and thrilling (yes thrilling!) read.
I remember sitting in an office with a friend and downloading his proof when it was published. I had a small background in abstract algebra and I was able to get through a few pages, but then became utterly lost. I was still enthralled and flipped through it like it was a gift for my birthday! Based on recommendations from two people, I jumped into Simon Singh’s book on Fermat’s Last Theorem.

Singh is a fantastic writer. His writing is lucid and fluid: never too many words, but also never too few
Nidhi Gupta
What an incredibly inspiring book!! My husband gifted this book to me in 2008, with a note "We'll let our dreams guide us forever". Though his note kept beckoning me to read the book, the book's rather heavy title kept me away from picking it up (even though my favorite subject in high-school was Math). Now that I've read the book, I realize how misguided my apprehension was.

Simon Singh weaves such a wonderful tale of intrigue, passion, gossip, heartbreak, and persistence that surrounded the pr
Reading this book I caught a glimpse of the rarefied atmosphere of mathematicians and their processes of discovery. I don't do mathematics and haven't studied anything beyond the bare minimum required for a Bachelor's degree, but I find something wonderful about the pursuits of people like Andrew Wiles and the number theorists who spend years of their lives working on a set of problems. Wiles's obsessive mindset and solitary quest reminded of Ron Carlson's short story "Towel Season" and I wonder ...more
Sol  Gonzalez
Lectura en 2012

Este año tomé nuevamente el libro del Enigma de Fermat, símplemente porque me gustó bastante

Las matemáticas fueron una de esas cosas con las que siempre tuve un romance eterno. Leyendo nuevamente pude recordar esos episodios en clases en que el maestro en turno llegó un día y anotó este mismo teorema en la pizarra. Nos dejó toda la clase tratando de solucionarlo y obviamente al final nos informó que el mismo no estaba resuelto (o al menos eso recuerdo, porque en ese año ya debería
This book is about the history of mathematicians trying to find a proof for Fermat's theorem, formulated 350 years ago. Pierre de Fermat, the great French mathematician, postulates that

x^n + y^n = z^n

has no non-zero integer solutions for x, y and z when n > 2. Fermat also wrote that he has discovered a truly remarkable proof which his notebook margin was too small to contain.
That set the mathematical community to find the 'elegant' proof that Fermat talked about. After almost 150 years, th
Vivi Vocat
The book is a quick read. There is just enough information in it for a layman to know sufficiently about the Fermat's Last Theorem and its proof to be able to boast at a coffee table discussion with friends. And that's all.

While a good portion of the story covers a wide span in history, much of the story is a limited biography of Andrew Wiles, the mathematician responsible for the poof of Fermat's Last Theorem. However, as with any retelling of historical events, Singh offers a subjective view t
Susan Wood
This is a fun read: a slice of mathematics history from Pythagoras to current day. Pierre de Fermat held 'amateur' status as a mathematician but is credited with advancing number theory among other things. As an amateur he rarely, if ever, submitted proofs of his work. Many of his contributions became known after his death when his son gathered his papers and published them. Among these works was a scribble made in the margin of a book in which he asserted that there is no integer solution for t ...more
Fermat's Last Theorem by Simon Singh is a very captivating read. The book describes the origin of the theorem, and the consequent journey towards the proof. The proof was released in 1994 by Andrew Wiles, after 358 years of effort by mathematicians! However, this apparently innocuous theorem stimulated the development of number theory in mathematics. And it all started with Fermat's famous margin note "I have a truly marvelous demonstration of this proposition which this margin is too narrow to ...more
A genuinely thrilling book about mathematics. I was actually holding my breath at the climax of the book. Singh makes the complicated and esoteric mathematics comprehensible (by and large) even for the dullest of laymen eg me. Gives a clear idea of why people can spend their lives fascinated by maths.
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Simon Lehna Singh, MBE (born 1 January 1964) is a British author who has specialised in writing about mathematical and scientific topics in an accessible manner. He is the maiden winner of the Lilavati Award.

His written works include Fermat's Last Theorem (in the United States titled Fermat's Enigma: The Epic Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem), The Code Book (about cryptogra
More about Simon Singh...

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