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Sir Andrew Wiles

Sir Andrew John Wiles
Born 11 April 1953 (1953-04-11) (age 56)
Cambridge, England
Residence United Kingdom
United States
Nationality British
Fields Mathematics
Institutions Princeton University
Alma mater Oxford University
Cambridge University
Doctoral advisor John Coates
Doctoral students Manjul Bhargava
Brian Conrad
Karl Rubin
Chris Skinner
Richard Taylor
Fred Diamond
Luis Navas
Yogi Olivarez
James Parson
Kartik Prasanna
Ravi Ramakrishna
Arash Rastegar
Vinayak Vatsal
Ehud de Shalit
Mirela Ciperiani
Known for Proving the Taniyama-Shimura Conjecture for semistable elliptic curves, and thereby proving Fermat's Last Theorem
Notable awards Fermat Prize (1995)
Wolf Prize (1995/6)
Royal Medal (1996)
IMU Silver Plaque (1998)
Shaw Prize (2005)

Sir Andrew John Wiles KBE FRS (born 11 April 1953)[1] is a British mathematician and a professor at Princeton University, specializing in number theory. He is most famous for proving Fermat's Last Theorem.


Early life and education

Andrew Wiles's father was Maurice Frank Wiles (1923–2005), the Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Oxford[2] and his mother Patricia Wiles (née Mowll). His father worked as the Chaplain at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, for the years 1952-55.

Andrew Wiles was born in Cambridge, England, in 1953, and he attended King's College School, Cambridge, and The Leys School, Cambridge. Wiles discovered Fermat's Last Theorem on his way home from school when he was 10 years old. He stopped by his local library where he found a book about the theorem.[3] Puzzled by the fact that the statement of the theorem was so easy that he, a ten-year old, could understand it, he decided to be the first person to prove it. However, he soon realized that his knowledge of mathematics was too small, he abandoned his childhood dream, until 1986, when he heard that Ribet had proved Serre's ε-conjecture and therefore established a link between Fermat's Last Theorem and the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture.

Wiles earned his bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1974 after his study at Merton College, Oxford, and a Ph.D. in 1980, after his research at Clare College, Cambridge.

After a stay at the Institute for Advanced Study in New Jersey in 1981, Wiles became a professor at Princeton University. In 1985-86, Wiles was a Guggenheim Fellow at the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques near Paris and at the École Normale Supérieure. From 1988 to 1990, Wiles was a Royal Society Research Professor at Oxford University, and then he returned to Princeton.

In October 2009 it was announced that Wiles would once again become a Royal Society Research Professor at Oxford in 2011.[4]

Mathematical career

Wiles's graduate research was guided by John Coates beginning in the summer of 1975. Together they worked on the arithmetic of elliptic curves with complex multiplication by the methods of Iwasawa theory. He further worked with Barry Mazur on the main conjecture of Iwasawa theory over the rational numbers, and soon afterward, he generalized this result to totally real fields.

The proof of Fermat's Last Theorem

Starting in the summer of 1986, based on successive progress of the previous few years of Gerhard Frey, Jean-Pierre Serre and Ken Ribet, Wiles realised that a proof of a limited form of the modularity theorem might then be in reach. He dedicated all of his research time to this problem in relative secrecy. In 1993, he presented his proof to the public for the first time at a conference in Cambridge. In August 1993 however, it turned out that the proof contained a gap. In desperation, Andrew Wiles tried to fill in this gap, but found out that the error he had made was a very fundamental one. According to Wiles, the crucial idea for circumventing, rather than closing this gap, came to him on 19 September 1994. Together with his former student Richard Taylor, he published a second paper which circumvented the gap and thus completed the proof. Both papers were published in 1995 in a special volume of the Annals of Mathematics.

Recognition by the media

His proof of Fermat's Last Theorem has stood up to the scrutiny of the world's mathematical experts. Wiles was interviewed for an episode of the British Broadcasting Corporation's documentary series Horizon that focused on Fermat's Last Theorem. This was renamed "The Proof", and it was made an episode of the Public Broadcasting Service's television science TV series Nova.[5] Since 1994 he has been Eugene Higgins Professor at Princeton and is currently Chair of the Mathematics Department.[6][7] He is a foreign member of the United States National Academy of Sciences since 1996 (he remains a citizen of the United Kingdom).[1]


Wiles is married to Nada Canaan Wiles, who earned her Ph.D. in microbiology from Princeton University in New Jersey, and they have three daughters: Clare, Kate and Olivia.[1]


Wiles has been awarded several major prizes in mathematics and science:

Public Honours


External links



Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

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


  • 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.

External links

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