the solution to a 350 year old mathematical problem South East, 1990

Andrew Wiles. The Royal Society.

Prime number theory and Fermat’s last theorem are today essential for modern cryptography and computer security, helping to keep our online transactions and private data safe.

This theorem was first suggested by Pierre de Fermat in 1637, who wrote it in the margin of a book, claiming he had a proof that was too large to fit in the margin. No successful proof was published until British mathematician Andrew Wiles (1953- ) solved it in 1995.

The proof of this theorem required over 350 years of accumulated mathematical work but the crucial innovation came from Wiles, assisted by Richard Taylor. Wiles started his work at Oxford before moving to the US to complete it. The proof took him 7 years to conquer and takes over 100 pages to write down. Wiles was Knighted in 2000.