"I have discovered a truly marvelous proof, 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, yet proving it would baffle the finest minds for more than 350 years. Geniuses love a challenge, and Fermat's Last Theorem became the Holy Grail of mathematics. In FERMAT'S ENIGMA, Simon Singh tells the extraordinarily compelling story of the pursuit of that grail, and the lives that were devoted to, sacrificed for, and saved by it. Leonhard Euler, the greatest mathematician of the eighteenth century, had to admit defeat. In the nineteenth century, the now legendary French mathematician and physicist Sophie Germain pretended to be a man in order to pursue her studies, and proceeded to make one of the greatest breakthroughs toward proving the theorem. The unscrupulous Evariste Galois madly scribbled the results of his research on Fermat during his last desperate night before venturing out to die in a duel in 1832. Yutaka Taniyama, whose conjecture would ultimately lead to the solution, killed himself in 1958, before his contribution could be recognized. German industrialist Paul Wolfskehl, however, claimed that Fermat's theorem saved him from suicide, and established a monetary prize for the first person to succeed in proving it. Then came Princeton professor Andrew Wiles, obsessed with Fermat since age 10. Thirty years later, in 1993, Wiles would stunningly announce to the world that he had proved the theorem, only to learn upon closer inspection that he had overlooked a major hole. That hole would take him yet another anguished year to fill. FERMAT'S ENIGMA is a mesmerizing tale of heartbreak and triumph, and one which will entirely change your feelings about math.
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Simon Singh received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Cambridge. A BBC producer, he directed and coproduced an award-winning documentary film on Fermat's Last Theorem that aired on PBS's "Nova" series. He is also the author of the bestselling The Code Book: The Science of Secrecy from Ancient Egypt to Quantum Cryptography. He lives in London, England.