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An Oxford professor has won €637,000 for solving a 300-year-old mathematical mystery

Sir Andrew Wiles is a pretty smart dude.

Sir Andrew Wiles
Sir Andrew Wiles
Image: Wikicommons

OXFORD UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR Sir Andrew Wiles has been awarded the prestigious Abel Prize for his “stunning proof” of Fermat’s Last Theorem.

Wiles life has been dedicated to the three-century-old theorem which has been his “passion from an early age” after he read The Last Problem by ET Bell.

His proof was first published in 1994 while working at Princeton University in New Jersey — he will collect the award 22 years later at a ceremony in Oslo in May.

The theorem, created in 1637 by French mathematician Pierre de Fermant, says that there are no solutions in integers — or whole numbers — to the equation  xn + yn = zn when n is greater than two.

Shaping mathematics

Wiles’ work isn’t merely a solution to the theory – his findings have shaped mathematics and the entire approach to the field, and were originally submitted as a 200-page file.

The Abel Prize is awarded by the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters and is widely regarded as the most prestigious award in its field. As well as a trophy, winners of the award also take home six million Norwegian Krone (€637,000).

When asked what it feels like to solve a puzzle that has mystified mathematicians for centuries, he said:

It’s thrilling. It’s the experience we live for, this insight, that suddenly you see everything clearly before you that’s been so obscure and so frustrating for so long.

photo Source: AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

The Norwegian academy lauded the professor’s groundbreaking work, saying:

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“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.”

This isn’t the first time Wiles has been recognised for his contributions to mathematics. He was knighted in 2000, and also won the US National Academy of Science’s Award in Mathematics, the Wolf Prize, and the Royal Medal of the Royal Society.

The Abel Prize was created in honour of Niels Henrik Abel, a Norwegian mathematician who died in 1829. It was created in 2001 and first awarded a year later. Previous winners include economist John F Nash Jr, who was the subject of the film “A Beautiful Mind,” and Sir Michael Atiyah for his work on the Atiyah-Singer theorem.

Read: Take a break and try to figure out this frog riddle

Also: MATHS WEEK: Take our final puzzle of the week

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