Andrew Wiles and Fermat’s Last Theorem

I saw this headline this morning:

Professor Who Solved Fermat’s Last Theorem Wins Math’s Abel Prize

I’m not a mathematician (more of a mathephobe) but this is a fascinating story and years ago PBS’s Nova repackaged a BBC documentary on Andrew Wiles in a piece called “The Proof” which I have on VHS tape but which, no doubt because of licensing issues with BBS, never got transferred to DVD and sold through the PBS web site.

The entire video is embedded below and it’s simply amazing, watch it even if you’re not into mathematics, it’s just a fantastic story with great characters.

I love the interview with the Japanese mathematician Goro Shimura where he describes his late friend and partner, Yutaka Taniyama (around 11:15 in):

“Taniyama was not a very careful person as a mathematician. He made a lot of mistakes, but… he made mistakes in a good direction, so eventually he got right answers. I tried to imitate him but I found out it is very difficult to make good mistakes.”

This video is a treasure and I hope Nova and BBC make it available as a remastered DVD and/or a downloadable video.