LivMS Event:

Simon Singh https://simonsingh.net/ , best-selling author of “Fermat’s Last Theorem”, talks about the most notorious problem in the history of mathematics.

Rarely can a scribbled note in a margin have provoked so much mathematical curiosity as Pierre de Fermat's infamous conjecture, discovered after his death, that no three positive whole numbers $a,$ $b,$ and $c$ satisfy the equation $a^n$ + $b^n$ = $c^n$ for any whole-number value of $n$ greater than 2.

Fermat claimed to have a proof, but left no record of it, stating only that the margin was too small to contain it. This unproven result became known as Fermat's Last Theorem. Generations of mathematicians tried and failed across more than three centuries to prove the general case, though it was proved for numerous particular values of $n$ (even by Fermat for $n$ = 4). Finally in 1994, Andrew (later Sir Andrew) Wiles announced to the world that the problem was solved, though there were some gaps which were filled by Wiles and his former student Richard Taylor.

Simon Singh made an award-winning documentary about this achievement and also wrote a best-selling book. In this lecture, he will talk us through the history of Fermat's Last Theorem and give us an idea of how it was eventually proved using ground-breaking new mathematics.

The following is excerpted from the Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Singh/ You will also find "boring" and "colourful" biographies on Simon's website https://simonsingh.net/

Simon Lehna Singh MBE is a British popular science author, theoretical and particle physicist whose works largely contain a strong mathematical element. His written works include Fermat's Last Theorem, The Code Book (about cryptography and its history), Big Bang (about the Big Bang theory and the origins of the universe), Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial (about complementary and alternative medicine, co-written by Edzard Ernst) and The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets (about mathematical ideas and theorems hidden in episodes of The Simpsons and Futurama). In 2012 Singh founded the Good Thinking Society, through which he created the website "Parallel" to help students learn mathematics. Singh has also produced documentaries and works for television to accompany his books, is a trustee of the National Museum of Science and Industry, a patron of Humanists UK, founder of the Good Thinking Society, and co-founder of the Undergraduate Ambassadors Scheme.