Extensive archive concerning the founding and early administration of the Wolfskehl Prize: Fermat, ... Extensive archive concerning the founding and early administration of the Wolfskehl Prize: Fermat, ...

Extensive archive concerning the founding and early administration of the Wolfskehl Prize

Fermat, Pierre de / Wolfskehl Prize

Publication Date: 1906
Soft cover
From Jeremy Norman's historyofscience (Novato, CA, U.S.A.)

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[Fermat, Pierre de (1601-65).] Wolfskehl Prize. Extensive archive consisting of 35 manuscript and 5 printed documents concerning the founding and early administration of the Prize, established by a bequest left by Paul Wolfskehl (1856-1906), to be awarded to the first person to solve Fermat's Last Theorem of 1637. Ca. 140pp. Göttingen and Darmstadt, 1906-14. Various sizes. Very good to fine. The documents include numerous signatures and signed statements of famous Göttingen mathematicians David Hilbert, Felix Klein, Hermann Minkowski, Carl Runge and Edmund Landau, among others (see list below for details). From the library of historian of physics Jagdish Mehra (1931-2008). The Original Mathematical-Scientific Archive Relating to the Most Celebrated Problem in Number Theory, Fermat's Last Theorem. The Wolfskehl Prize, intended for the first person to publish a complete proof of Fermat's Last Theorem, was established in 1907 by the Göttingen Academy of Sciences; it was awarded 90 years later to British mathematician Andrew Wiles, who published his proof in 1995. The worldwide fame of Fermat's Last Theorem in the last century is due in no small part to the Wolfskehl Prize; as Alf van der Poorten, author of Notes on Fermat's Last Theorem (1996), remarked, "It's the romance, and size, of this prize that gave the FLT its popularity and notoriety" (quoted in Barner, p. 1301). The story of Fermat's celebrated "Last Theorem" is among the most famous in the history of mathematics: Fermat owned a copy of the 1621 Arithmetica of Diophantus, edited by Claude Bachet, and was in the habit of noting his own number theory propositions in the margins of the book. In 1637 Fermat made a marginal note next to one of the problems put forth by Diophantus, stating, in essence, that equations of the form xn + yn = zn have no whole-number solutions when n is greater than 2. In his note Fermat stated that he had found a truly marvelous proof (demonstratio mirabilis), which would not fit into the narrow margin of the book. Fermat died in 1665 without revealing his proof, and today some scholars doubt that he actually achieved it. In 1670 Fermat's son published a second edition of Bachet's Diophantus that incorporated all of Fermat's marginal notes and propositions. Most of Fermat's propositions were proved during the 18th century, but the Last Theorem remained a stumbling block for succeeding generations of mathematicians, and by the early 19th century it had gained a reputation as perhaps the world's most baffling mathematical mystery. "Simple, elegant, and [seemingly] impossible to prove, Fermat's Last Theorem captured the imaginations of amateur and professional mathematicians for over three centuries. For some it became a wonderful passion. For others it was an obsession that led to deceit, intrigue, or insanity" (Aczel). Among the many mathematicians, professional and amateur, who came under the spell of the Last Theorem was Paul Wolfskehl, a Darmstadt physician from a wealthy family who took up the study of mathematics in the 1880s after he began exhibiting symptoms of multiple sclerosis. In January 1905, about a year and a half before his death, Wolfskehl altered his will to include a bequest of 100,000 gold marks to the Göttingen Academy of Sciences (Königliche Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften) for the establishment of the Wolfskehl Prize, to be awarded to the first person either to solve Fermat's Last Theorem or to supply a valid counterexample. The bequest originally amounted to about $1.5 million in today's money, but was reduced by inflation and currency devaluation to $50,000, the amount that Wiles was awarded in 1997. Upon receiving notice of Wolfskehl's bequest, the Göttingen Academy appointed a commission, consisting of mathematicians Ernst Ehlers, David Hilbert, Felix Klein, Hermann Minkowski and Carl Runge, and began working on formulating the rules and conditions of the prize. The archive we are offering documents this process in detail. Bookseller Inventory # 42283

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Title: Extensive archive concerning the founding ...

Publication Date: 1906

Binding: Soft cover

Signed: Signed by Author(s)

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