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The Fermat Diary
C. J. Mozzochi, Princeton, NJ
cover
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2000; 196 pp; hardcover
Reprint/Revision History:
reprinted 2001
ISBN-10: 0-8218-2670-0
ISBN-13: 978-0-8218-2670-6
List Price: US$34
Member Price: US$27.20
Order Code: FERMATD
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This book concentrates on the final chapter of the story of perhaps the most famous mathematics problem of our time: Fermat's Last Theorem. The full story begins in 1637, with Pierre de Fermat's enigmatic marginal note in his copy of Diophantus's Arithmetica. It ends with the spectacular solution by Andrew Wiles some 350 years later. The Fermat Diary provides a record in pictures and words of the dramatic time from June 1993 to August 1995, including the period when Wiles completed the last stages of the proof and concluding with the mathematical world's celebration of Wiles' result at Boston University.

This diary takes us through the process of discovery as reported by those who worked on the great puzzle: Gerhard Frey who conjectured that Shimura-Taniyama implies Fermat; Ken Ribet who followed a difficult and speculative plan of attack suggested by Jean-Pierre Serre and established the statement by Frey; and Andrew Wiles who announced a proof of enough of the Shimura-Taniyama conjecture to settle Fermat's Last Theorem, only to announce months later that there was a gap in the proof. Finally, we are brought to the historic event on September 19, 1994, when Wiles, with the collaboration of Richard Taylor, dramatically closed the gap. The book follows the much-in-demand Wiles through his travels and lectures, finishing with the Instructional Conference on Number Theory and Arithmetic Geometry at Boston University.

There are many important names in the recent history of Fermat's Last Theorem. This book puts faces and personalities to those names. Mozzochi also uncovers the details of certain key pieces of the story. For instance, we learn in Frey's own words the story of his conjecture, about his informal discussion and later lecture at Oberwolfach and his letter containing the actual statement. We learn from Faltings about his crucial role in the weeks before Wiles made his final announcement. An appendix contains the Introduction of Wiles' Annals paper in which he describes the evolution of his solution and gives a broad overview of his methods. Shimura explains his position concerning the evolution of the Shimura-Taniyama conjecture. Mozzochi also conveys the atmosphere of the mathematical community--and the Princeton Mathematics Department in particular--during this important period in mathematics.

This eyewitness account and wonderful collection of photographs capture the marvel and unfolding drama of this great mathematical and human story.

Readership

Mathematicians and the general public interested in Fermat's Last Theorem and the mathematicians and mathematics involved in solving the puzzle.

Reviews

"Written in a lively style and is easy to read and as such, it can be recommended to those of us who were not lucky enough to have an opportunity to follow these events personally. With its many interesting facts, often unattainable to those not directly engaged in the story, its many personal quotations, and pictures of personalities involved, the book will certainly be an important source for historical details surrounding the proof for contemporaries and those born later."

-- European Mathematical Society Newsletter

"A carefully crafted diary ... a careful and well-controlled attempt to explain the context of the proof and the contribution of its principal participants. Moreover, the author is a photographer who took on himself the task of portraying the participants in the events he reports. As a result one is rewarded with a fine rogues' gallery of the contributors ... This is a strait-laced and calm version of the story, but one well worth reading. In brief: Should you buy the book for a friend? I say, Yes."

-- Zentralblatt MATH

"How many of us would like to have been `present at the creation', hanging around Princeton, attending teas and gossiping with inside figures, listening to explanatory lectures and attending celebratory conferences? The book under review is a diary-style recounting of the author's experience ... Mozzochi is a mathematician ... [who] was well positioned to talk to important figures in the Fermat story and be a recipient of grapevine information ...

"Mozzochi's Diary, written by a mathematician for mathematicians, gives much more detail about the mathematics and the research process. There is also a lot of detail about the people involved, not just Wiles. Through this diary the reader gets to meet almost every major player in the story. A wonderful addition to the text is the inclusion of 62 photographs ... We are given a rare description of the functioning and collegiality of an extensive community of research mathematicians ...

"In addition to being an interesting account of the activity surrounding Wiles' work on the Fermat problem, Mozzochi's book provides historical documentation as well ... This book will undoubtedly be extremely useful to future historians of mathematics. It is very enjoyable to read as well ... it is possible to read and enjoy the book just for the stories about the people involved and to get a taste of the excitement in the number theory community at the time ...

"This book can make us feel closer to the way in which Wiles' work was received and is being assimilated by the mathematical world. I recommended it as an addition to both personal and institutional libraries."

-- MAA Online

"The author provides a splendid eyewitness account of the drama surrounding the proof of Fermat's Last Theorem by Andrew Wiles ... The text provides compulsive reading ... this is in general a book affording the most pleasure to specialists; however, it should be said that there are still many aspects of interest for the general mathematician ... I cannot imagine anyone directly involved with the events leading up to the proof of Fermat's Last Theorem not wanting a copy of this lovely book. And for others, the book provides an entertaining and marvelous record of a landmark in mathematical history."

-- Mathematical Reviews

"Mozzochi provides us with a great deal of valuable primary data. The photographs, in particular, will be of great value to future historians."

-- American Scientist

Table of Contents

  • February 10, 1994
  • September 19, 1994
  • August 9, 1995
  • Cast of characters
  • List of photographs
  • Acknowledgements and notes
  • Appendix A: An excerpt from the Introduction to Wiles's Annals of Mathematics paper
  • Appendix B: List of speakers, Cambridge University, June 1993
  • Appendix C: List of speakers, Boston University, August 1995
  • Murty's review
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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