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Book Review: Fermat’s Last Theorem

★★★★☆ (4 / 5)

I really enjoyed this deep dive into the saga around Pierre de Fermat’s Last Theorem. You can tell that the author, Simon Singh, has a lot of reverence for the work of mathematicians and academics in general.

The book does a good job of explaining necessary mathematical concepts in layman’s terms. Those more mathematically inclined can jump to appendices for a deeper dive; this is a great structure to make the book approachable and enjoyable for all sorts of people. I would have personally liked even more detailed appendices, at the risk of not understanding them myself! Still, what’s there is more than sufficient to understand the complexity of the challenge that Andrew Wiles and his predecessors attempted over the last 300 years.

My only gripe is that sometimes Singh plays a little fast and loose with historical details to make a good story. For example, the anecdote of Euler’s proof of the existence of God to Diderot is told as a historical fact, even though it is most likely apocryphal. But these instances are few and far between, and never hurt the book’s main goal.

A must read for anyone interested in the history of mathematics!

Fact Sheet

  • Author(s): Simon Singh
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial
  • ISBN: 978-0007453061