New Delhi: An Oxford University professor has won a 500,000 pounds (Rs 4.7 crores) prize for cracking a 300-year-old mystery mathematical theorem described as an “epochal moment” for academics.
Sir Andrew Wiles has been awarded the Abel Prize by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters for his proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem, which he published in 1994.
First formulated by the French mathematician Pierre de Fermat in 1637, the theorem states: There are no whole number solutions to the equation xn + yn = zn when n is greater than 2. Wiles has been awarded for developing proof for this simple looking yet complex theorem.
According to nature.com, Wiles embarked on a solitary, seven-year quest to solve the problem, working in his attic without telling anyone except for his wife.
“That he solved a problem considered too hard by so many — and yet a problem relatively simple to state — has made Wiles arguably the most celebrated mathematician of the twentieth century”, Martin Bridson, director of Oxford’s Mathematical Institute told nature.com.
The 62-year-old will pick up the award and a cheque for six million Norwegian Krone (495,000 pounds) from Crown Prince Haakon of Norway in Oslo in May, for an achievement that the academy described as “an epochal moment for mathematics”.
“It is a tremendous honour to receive the Abel Prize and to join the previous laureates who have made such outstanding contributions to the field.
“Fermat’s equation was my passion from an early age, and solving it gave me an overwhelming sense of fulfilment,” Sir Andrew, currently a professor at Oxford University’s Mathematical Institute was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.
“It has always been my hope that my solution of this age-old problem would inspire many young people to take up mathematics and to work on the many challenges of this beautiful and fascinating subject.”
The academy said Sir Andrew was awarded the prize “for his stunning proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem by way of the modularity conjecture for semistable elliptic curves, opening a new era in number theory.
Cambridge-born Sir Andrew made his breakthrough while working at Princeton.
“Wiles’ proof was not only the high point of his career -and an epochal moment for mathematics - but also the culmination of a remarkable personal journey that began three decades earlier,” the academy said.
The Abel Prize was created in 2002 and is named after Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel, who died in 1829.