On 410th Birthday, Pierre de Fermat Gets His Own Doodle

More

The mathematician is known as the father of modern number theory even though he spent most of his time working as a lawyer

pierre_de_fermat-2011-hp.jpg

Those who were never fond of math should probably avoid the Google homepage today as the search giant has turned its logo into a complex formula in celebration of what would have been the 410th birthday of Pierre de Fermat.

Born in France in 1601 (probably -- various biographies place his year of birth anywhere from 1590 to 1608), Fermat studied at the University of Toulouse before earning a law degree from the University of Law at Orleans. Though he worked as a government official and lawyer, Fermat is known as the father of modern number theory.

The formula tweaked by Google's Doodle team, x^n + y^n = z^n, is known around the world as Fermat's Last Theorem. It was discovered in the margins of Fermat's copy of the ancient Greek text Arithmetica, where he noted that the proof was too large to accompany it there. But did Fermat ever actually solve the problem? There's some debate about that as the proof is so complex it took more than 350 years to uncover. Mathematicians struggled with Fermat's Last Theorem for centuries, proving it true for many sets of values for n but always missing out on a general case until Andrew Wiles stepped forward in 1995. The British mathematician spent years working on the problem in secrecy until he completed his proof.

Google's pokes fun at Fermat's marginalia. Mousing over the Doodle pulls up a message: "I have discovered a truly marvelous proof of this theorem, which this Doodle is too small to contain."

Image: Google.

Jump to comments
Presented by

Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Is Technology Shifting Our Moral Compass?

"The experience of taking another human life becomes much more trivial."


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Juice Cleanses: The Worst Diet

A doctor tries the ever-popular Master Cleanse. Sort of.

Video

Why Did I Study Physics?

Using hand-drawn cartoons to explain an academic passion

Video

What If Emoji Lived Among Us?

A whimsical ad imagines what life would be like if emoji were real.

Video

Living Alone on a Sailboat

"If you think I'm a dirtbag, then you don't understand the lifestyle."

Feature

The Future of Iced Coffee

Are artisan businesses like Blue Bottle doomed to fail when they go mainstream?

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

Just In