(Doubleday, Paperback, 1997, read: November 99)
""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, however, became the Holy Grail of mathematics, baffling its finest minds for more than 350 years. In Fermat's Enigma - based on the author's award winning documentary film, which aired on PBS's 'Nova' - Simon Singh tells the astonishingly entertaining story of the pursuit of that grail, and the lives that were devoted to, sacrificed for, and saved by it. Here is a mesmerizing tale of heartbreak and mastery that will forever change your feelings about mathematics. "
Fermats Theorem says that there's no solution for "xn + yn = zn" where n represents 3, 4, 5, .... That sounds relatively easy to believe even if you don't know much about mathematics. All that was missing was a proof. Fermat claimed that he had one but maybe he had no time or was to lazy to write it down. 350 years went by until mathematician Andrew Wiles found the solution to this puzzle. And he devoted seven years of his life to it.
The book describes the history of mathematics, the theories Wiles' needed and the path he took in a very interesting way. But most of all the author Simon Singh describes the individuals behind these theories. The most brilliant minds in mathematics occupied themselves with Fermat and failed. The human destinies of these geniuses are so interesting, its almost a thriller. And don't be afraid of the mathematics. The author only uses few equations and the examples are explained very well. An adventure story of a different kind.
[Dorothée Büttgen, December 99]