For three and a half centuries, the world’s greatest minds in the field of mathematics remained puzzled in a bid to solve Fermat’s last mathematical theorem. Until recently, a University of Oxford professor Andrew Wiles proved the centuries old theorem.
Wiles’ achievement, which was first made public in 1994, earned him this year’s Abel Prize given by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters and considered by many as the Nobel Prize for Mathematics. The award was conferred to Wiles on March 15 together with a cash prize equivalent to US$700,000, the Nature reports.
According to Nature, Wiles did not expect the award adding that it caught him in surprise. The theorem, which postulates that “there cannot be any positive whole numbers x, y and z such that xn + yn = zn, if n is greater than 2”, earned him the distinction as one of the most celebrated mathematicians in the recent history.
Martin Bridson, Oxford’s Mathematical Institute director told the Nature that despite Wiles achievements and brilliance as a mathematician, the latter remained humble and a source of inspiration to his students.
Unknown to many was the fact that Wiles solved the three centuries old mathematical mystery in his attic during his seven-year self-imposed solitude. The Nature recounts that while Wiles was spending countless hours in his attic, no one knows what was he up to during the entire time, except of course, his wife.
“It was very, very intense. Unfortunately as human beings we succeed by trial and error. It’s the people who overcome the setbacks who succeed,” Wiles was quoted as saying by the Nature.
After a year of trial and error and countless computations, Wiles announced his findings in hometown Cambridge in 1993. But one of his colleagues said that his work contains a major error, which prompted him to embark on a new quest to fine-tune his study with the help of his former student Richard Taylor. Soon after, their collaboration resulted in the publication of the Annals of Mathematics 1 and 2, the Nature reports.