Andrew Wiles

English mathematician (1953–)

Sir Andrew John Wiles (born 11 April 1953) is an English mathematician at Oxford University in number theory. He is most famous for finally proving Fermat's Last Theorem.

Sir Andrew Wiles in 2005


  • I think I'll stop here.
    • After finishing writing the proof to Fermat's Last Thereom (June 23, 1993), as quoted by Simon Singh (1997). Fermat's Enigma: The Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem. Viking. p. 33. ISBN 0-670-87756-5. 

Nova Interview


Nova has an online interview transcript called: Solving Fermat: Andrew Wiles

  • I grew up in Cambridge in England, and my love of mathematics dates from those early childhood days.
  • I loved doing problems in school. I'd take them home and make up new ones of my own.
  • But the best problem I ever found, I found in my local public library. I was just browsing through the section of math books and I found this one book, which was all about one particular problem -- Fermat's Last Theorem.
  • Here was a problem, that I, a ten year old, could understand and I knew from that moment that I would never let it go. I had to solve it.
  • I realized that anything to do with Fermat's Last Theorem generates too much interest.
  • I really believed that I was on the right track, but that did not mean that I would necessarily reach my goal.
  • Young children simply aren't interested in Fermat. They just want to hear a story and they're not going to let you do anything else.
  • Fermat couldn't possibly have had this proof.
  • I don't believe Fermat had a proof. I think he fooled himself into thinking he had a proof.
  • But what has made this problem special for amateurs is that there's a tiny possibility that there does exist an elegant 17th-century proof.
  • Fermat was my childhood passion.
  • I hope that seeing the excitement of solving this problem will make young mathematicians realize that there are lots and lots of other problems in mathematics which are going to be just as challenging in the future.
  • But perhaps that's always the way with math problems, and we just have to find new ones to capture our attention.
  • Certainly one thing that I've learned is that it is important to pick a problem based on how much you care about it.
  • However impenetrable it seems, if you don't try it, then you can never do it.
  • Always try the problem that matters most to you.
  • I had this rare privilege of being able to pursue in my adult life, what had been my childhood dream.
  • I know it's a rare privilege, but if one can really tackle something in adult life that means that much to you, then it's more rewarding than anything I can imagine.

Quotes about Wiles

  • Originally the Kolyvagin-Flach method only worked under particularly constrained circumstances, but Wiles believed he had adapted and strengthened it sufficiently to work for all his needs. According to Katz this was not necessarily the case, and the effects were dramatic and devastating. The error did not necessarily mean that Wiles's work was beyond salvation, but it did mean that he would have to strengthen his proof. The absolutism of mathematics demanded that Wiles demonstrate beyond all doubt that his method worked for every element of every E-series and M-series.
    • Simon Singh in: Fermat's Enigma: The Quest to Solve the World's Greatest Mathematical Problem. Viking. 1997. p. 280. ISBN 0-670-87756-5. 
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