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sci.math FAQ: History of FLT

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Archive-Name: sci-math-faq/FLT/history
Last-modified: December 8, 1994
Version: 6.2

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History of Fermat's Last Theorem

   Pierre de Fermat (1601-1665) was a lawyer and amateur mathematician.
   In about 1637, he annotated his copy (now lost) of Bachet's
   translation of Diophantus' Arithmetika with the following statement:

     Cubem autem in duos cubos, aut quadratoquadratum in duos
     quadratoquadratos, et generaliter nullam in infinitum ultra
     quadratum potestatem in duos ejusdem nominis fas est dividere:
     cujus rei demonstrationem mirabilem sane detexi. Hanc marginis
     exiguitas non caparet.

   In English, and using modern terminology, the paragraph above reads

     There are no positive integers such that x^n + y^n = z^n for n > 2 .
     I've found a remarkable proof of this fact, but there is not enough
     space in the margin [of the book] to write it.

   Fermat never published a proof of this statement. It became to be
   known as Fermat's Last Theorem (FLT) not because it was his last piece
   of work, but because it is the last remaining statement in the
   post-humous list of Fermat's works that needed to be proven or
   independently verified. All others have either been shown to be true
   or disproven long ago.
    Tue Apr 04 17:26:57 EDT 1995

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