Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Fermat's Last Theorem by Simon Singh

Fermat's Last Theorem by Simon Singh
First published by Fourth Estate in 1997. Published in America as Fermat's Enigma.

Where to buy this book:
Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

How I got this book:
Bought from The Children's Society charity shop in Garstang

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was lucky to hear Simon Singh at an Eastbourne Sceptics In The Pub meeting where he discussed his then new book about the Mathematical Secrets Of The Simpsons. Fermat's Last Theorem was also name-dropped during the evening and it has taken me this long to get to reading it! I was put off by feeling that I would probably be unable to understand any of the actual maths, however was pleasantly surprised to discover that my comprehension didn't fail me until over half-way through and the underlying story can be appreciated even if the algebra is skipped!

Fermat's Last Theorem tells the story of this most enigmatic equation both through the mathematical history that led to its solution and through small biographies of the men and women who were fascinated by it. I was delighted to see female names, albeit only a few, but I hadn't expected any. Singh has a talent for presenting the human stories behind scientific and, in this case, mathematical achievements and I found myself getting quite caught up in the excitement. For a moment I even wished I had tried harder in maths at school - until the next bout of equations reminded me why I didn't!

I think those who are versed in maths will probably get more from this book overall, but it was an interesting read even without full understanding and I appreciated the historical context of each separate discovery, layering up until Andrew Wiles' showstopping moment and beyond. As when I read Sophie's World, I doubt many of the names will remain in my memory for long, but I very much enjoyed Singh's writing and would turn to his books again to guide me though similar subjects.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Simon Singh / Science and mathematics / Books from England

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