The Mathematical Career of Pierre de Fermat, 1601-1665

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Princeton University Press, 1994 - Biography & Autobiography - 432 pages
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Hailed as one of the greatest mathematical results of the twentieth century, the recent proof of Fermat's Last Theorem by Andrew Wiles brought to public attention the enigmatic problem-solver Pierre de Fermat, who centuries ago stated his famous conjecture in a margin of a book, writing that he did not have enough room to show his "truly marvelous demonstration". Along with formulating this proposition - x(superscript n) + y(superscript n) = z(superscript n) has no rational solution for n > 2 - Fermat, an inventor of analytic geometry, also laid the foundations of differential and integral calculus, established, together with Pascal, the conceptual guidelines of the theory of probability, and created modern number theory. In one of the first full-length investigations of Fermat's life and work, Michael Sean Mahoney provides rare insight into the mathematical genius of a hobbyist who never sought to publish his work, yet who ranked with his contemporaries Pascal and Descartes in shaping the course of modern mathematics.
  

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Contents

The Personal Touch
1
Nullum Non Problema Solvere Vietes Analytic Program And Its Influence On Fermat
26
The Royal Road
72
Fashioning Ones Own Luck
143
Archimedes and the Theory of Equations
214
Between Traditions
283
Fermat in Retrospect
361
Sidelights on a Mathematical Career
368
Bibliographical Essay and Chronological Conspectus of Fermats Works
411
INDEX
425
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About the author (1994)

Michael Sean Mahoney was Professor of History and History of Science at Princeton University.

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