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Fermat's Last Theorem: Unlocking the Secret of an Ancient Mathematical Problem

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  1,121 Ratings  ·  58 Reviews
Simple, elegant, and utterly impossible to prove, Fermat's last theorem captured the imaginations of mathematicians for more than three centuries. For some, it became a wonderful passion. For others it was an obsession that led to deceit, intrigue, or insanity. In a volume filled with the clues, red herrings, and suspense of a mystery novel, Amir D. Aczel reveals the previ ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published October 12th 2007 by Basic Books (first published 1996)
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Oct 06, 2009 Erin rated it really liked it
Aczel does a thorough job of describing the problems behind Fermat's Last Theorem including the history of mathematical discoveries that lead to the final solution of the proof in 1993. His history is entertaining and completely readable to the layperson, often including simple examples to illustrate principles and the details hardly ever border on tedious. I also enjoyed Aczel's use of brief anecdotes to add depth to the characters featured in what would otherwise be a mathematical name parade. ...more
Esteban Martos
Aug 09, 2016 Esteban Martos rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excelente! Es todo un paseo histórico de las matemáticas y como se van enlazando a través de los años para lograr resolver el Famoso Teorema de Fermat
Jan 19, 2016 Ahmed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Simple, elegant, and utterly impossible to prove I think that Fermat's last theorem is one of the most interesting theorems ever created. Amir D. Aczel made this great book to show us how such a simple theorem A^n+B^n=C^n if n is greater than 2.I strongly believe that everyone should read this complex and fascinating book. The author has made the theorm so simple and so hard to solve at the same time. I rate this book a 5/5 stars.
Simon Eastman
Oct 23, 2015 Simon Eastman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. If you have curiosity about mathematics and a fond memory of high school geometry this book willt ake you through the history of a fascinating mathematical conumdrum and introduce you to the Alice in Wonderland World of higher mathematics without knotting you up in formulas.
Fermat's question, what happens if you put a cube on the hypothenuse - doesit equal the sum of the cube of the other two sides (Okay I paraphrase her don't lynch me - and the what hap
Dec 28, 2014 Keelan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book provides an broad overview of the mathematical advances in the past ca. 2500 years that influenced Andrew Wiles' proof of Fermat's Last Theorem. Due to its breadth and the fact that the book is quite short, the author devotes only a few short pages to each mathematician in the survey. While this approach is useful for providing the reader with a general overview of the history of mathematics and some interesting trivia, it does not help the reader understand much in the way of the math ...more
Yuekun Liu
Jun 08, 2016 Yuekun Liu rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This portable small book provides the background of Fermat’s Last Theorem in a story-telling mode. Start from the “failure” proof by Andrew Wiles, Aczel then presents a brief history of the world of mathematics. In this part, the author not only provides some biographies of numerous mathematicians, but also helps me understand the definition of theorem in math. Later on, after the development of Shimura-Taniyama conjecture, Wiles finished his proof.

Wiles’ first attempt to prove the theorem fail
Linda I
Jun 10, 2010 Linda I rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science
Interesting read. While Fermat's Last Theorem was a mathematical conundrum for hundreds of years, the author presents the quest to proof the theorem in a concise and engaging manner. I particularly enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look at each mathematicians personality and motivations.
Momshad Alvee
Apr 06, 2015 Momshad Alvee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First book I ever read out of interest at 7th grade. This probably changed my life...maybe
Simon Mcleish
Originally published on my blog here in August 1998.

This book is a popular history of Fermat's Last Theorem, from its original conjecture by Fermat to its solution by Andrew Wiles. As a history, it works quite well, with occasional infelicities (mainly to do with forced, false sounding connections between unrelated parts of the narrative, such as linking mathematicians because they were both interested in some fairly large division of mathematics). From a mathematical point of view, I felt it wa
Jun 29, 2008 Robert rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: those interested in the history but not much detail
A typical general reader math book on the low math content side. Admittedly this particular topic (a proof that runs about 200 pages of terse writing and mathematical symbols) is hard to describe briefly, and this is a very brief book, or with much detail accessible to people who have not acquired the equivalent of a decent graduate level understanding of mathematics. About half of the book is a light survey of very familiar (to the point in some cases of being boiler plate for books likes this) ...more
Jun 10, 2016 Graham rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fantastic little pop-mathematics book that takes a tour through the history of maths along the thread of this intriguing little problem that looks so simple but turns out to require several centuries, many discoveries and a stroke of genius to solve. Very entertaining, and only slightly too technical to follow as it gets towards the end, but not enough to make you feel stupid. A great read, and a great reminder that even problems that look simple can in fact be unimaginably hard to fix.
Jan 04, 2008 Megan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mathematics
This book tried really, really hard to make something long and drawn out and fairly boring seem like the most exciting thing of all time. It is pretty exciting that someone finally solved Fermat's enigma. What isn't that exciting is the way in which it happened. Developing this proof took months of work on the part of the person credited, on top of the years of research and work of numerous people before that. The math in this book is very difficult, and not explained in any great detail, becaus ...more
A tiny little book that covers all the developments leading up to the solving of Fermat's Last Theorem. (The public presentation of the solution is pretty cool too.) Not too heavy on the mathematical concepts until the twentieth century, allowing you to focus more on the history, though Aczel does a good job explaining complicated theories and manipulations. (Don't get stuck if you can't follow the occasional paragraphs on new theories and manipulations after non-Euclidian geometry is introduced ...more
Aug 24, 2016 Skladstaroci rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dobra książka.
Myślę, że wystarczająco przystępnie napisana, żeby zrozumiała ja osoba nie zainteresowana matematyką(nie wiem tylko po co miałaby po nią sięgać).
Skupia się na historiach matematyków, którzy przyłożyli rękę sformułowania dowodu wielkiego twierdzenia Fermata. Nie interesuje się zbytnio życiorysami sławnych ludzi, ale wydaje mi się, że dałoby się znaleźć trochę więcej ciekawych anegdot. Nie jest to lektura w stylu tych, które czyta się do 4 nad ranem ale też nie jest strata czasu.
Aug 27, 2012 Nicholas rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science
It's not essential to have an in depth knowledge of mathmatics to enjoy this, but to give it a five star rating it's pretty much essential.However,the book is mercifully short enough and contains enough potted biographies and related history to remain readble by normal people,as well as those who understand why the omission of the Euler System (without which there is no Class Number Formula) inhibits the Galois representations of elliptic curves against the modular forms thus not establishing t ...more
Oct 04, 2013 Sean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Around 1637, the French mathematician, Pierre de Fermat, scribbled a note in one of his books, indicating that he'd managed to solve a famous problem of mathematics, but that the margin was not large enough for him to write his proof.

Ever since Fermat mentioned that he'd solved the problem, mathematicians all over the world attempted to find a solution, knowing that it must be solvable. It wasn't until 1995 that an American mathematician, with the help of some incredibly advanced number theory w
May 17, 2012 Laurent rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The history of all the mathematics concepts that were involved in the proof of the Fermat's last theorem, is presented in this book. These concepts and the mathematicians who discovered them or defined them are introduced and their story is really interesting. Yes sometimes the concepts are way above our heads but it doesn't matter, the point is to understand how the solution of this theorem was finally found after 300 years.

L'histoire de tous les concepts mathematiques qui sont lies a la demons
Jan 11, 2014 Muhammad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I needed to read a book for school that wasn't on a list and I remember seeing this on a table at the library. It wasn't checked out and nobody was around so I picked it up. When I got to reading it, it was well put together. Since I wasn't looking for a proof for Fermat's Theorem, I was just interested in reading. Aczel's narration is easy to follow. I like his style of writing. The only time I wouldn't recommend this book is when you're looking for straight proof book and not a story like narr ...more
May 07, 2016 Sambasivan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mathematical history at its best. A little bit technical but I think it was unavoidable. Andrew Wiles' achievement is monumental. Worth a read for any math aficianado!
Apr 29, 2015 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
That was a deeply satisfying read-the author travels from Babylon to early 1990s Cambridge following Fermat's conjecture. I haven't enjoyed a book so much in ages.
Short history of the proof of Fermat's Last Theorem, all the underlying mathematical topics that
were needed to prove this. Algebraic Geometry, other areas.
Feb 03, 2009 Colin rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fermat's Last Theorem runs into the same problem quite a few mathematical narratives I've come across run into - Aczel is tasked with explaining extraordinarily abstract and complex mathematical concepts in ordinary terms.

He does a better-than-average job of making the narrative thread interesting (a better job than Prime Obsession did with the Riemann Hypothesis, for instance) but in 136 pages one shouldn't expect to come away from a book with a greater mathematical understanding of the soluti
May 09, 2015 Cameron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book, yet I think my "nerd" phase of reading has come an end for this year. I think I enjoyed the history of all the steps it took to solve the theorem more then when they actually proved it. amazing that it took so long, about 300 years, and that who proved it discovered it when he was a child and it was his dream to solve it. lucky he was born when he was.
Aug 25, 2009 melydia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Earlier this year I read a book by the same title by Simon Singh, and unfortunately it is the superior read. Both are about the steps leading to Andrew Wile's 1993 solution to Fermat's Last Theorem, from ancient Greece on. At less than 140 pages, this tiny volume does not do the story justice. I have a decent math background, but I found myself getting lost in places, and the intrigue simply didn't grab me like it did in Singh's book. If you're in a hurry and just want a bare bones account of th ...more
Robert Heckner
Aug 13, 2016 Robert Heckner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Amazing and amazingly well written. Thorough, insightful, and totally engrossing.
Rasmus Keis
Aug 07, 2016 Rasmus Keis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Vældigt interessant bog om matematikkens store spørgsmål og dets løsning.
Aug 11, 2011 Tolga rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an awesome book telling the history of a particular branch of mathematics. It starts from Bronze age in the fertile crescent, moves on to Diophantus, Phytagoreans, Gauss, Galois, Fermat, and all the way to Andrew Wiles, with so many in between who contributed in one way or another to the representation and proof of Fermat's last theorem.

You don't need to be fluent in mathematics to enjoy this book. But, you must have a basic understanding of algebra and, more importantly, you must have a
Nov 02, 2011 Michaela rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful! Made me see math in a whole new light- now I appreciate the history behind math, this theorem, and all the mathematicians- both named and unnamed that have changed this world. Math seems so complex, and this book really highlighted it, yet at the same time makes even a hater of math see how beautiful it can be. Covering history from Babylonians, the wedge-shaped writing called cuneiform, as well Greeks, Pythagoras, secret societies, Archimedes, as well as theorems, diagrams, postulate ...more
Apr 03, 2016 Leah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-reads
read for a book challenge with my work buddies!
Jean-marc Krikorian
I very much enjoyed the historical references in this book, especially those stories about the various mathematicians through the ages. Those stories have piqued my interest in learning more about their biographies. The book could have been structured better to show the connections that led to the solving of Fermat's Last Theorem. Also, it's been a while since college so my understanding of some of the mathematical principles presented in the book were a little hard to understand. A more layman ...more
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