Pierre de Fermat – One of the greatest mathematicians of all times

Pierre de Fermat
(17 August, 1601 (or 1608), Beaumont-de-Lomagne, France -12 January 1665, Castres, France)
Nationality: France
Category: Scientists
Occupation: Lawyers, Mathematics
Unique distinction: One of the greatest mathematicians of all times, he first great mathematician of the new Europe, the founder of the modern number theory.
Gender: Male

Quotes: 1. I am more exempt and more distant than any man in the world. 2. And perhaps, posterity will thank me for having shown that the ancients did not know everything. 3. I have found a very great number of exceedingly beautiful theorems. 4. But it is impossible to divide a cube into two cubes, or a fourth power into fourth powers, or generally any power beyond the square into like powers; of this I have found a remarkable demonstration. This margin is too narrow to contain it. 5.To divide a cube into two other cubes, a fourth power, or in general any power whatever into two powers of the same denomination above the second is impossible, and I have assuredly found an admirable proof of this, but the margin is too narrow to contain it. (Fermat’s Last Theorem).


Social and professional position: Pierre de Fermat  was a great French mathematician. A jurist by profession, he was a lawyer at the Parlement of Toulouse, France, and an amateur mathematician.
The main contribution to (what is known): Fermat made notable contributions to analytic geometry, mathematical analysis,  probability, optics and especially the theory of numbers.
The analytic geometry. A contemporary of René Descartes, he independently came up with a three-dimensional geometry, but did not publish his work, and the field became known as Cartesian geometry.
The number theory. His brilliant research entitled him to rank as the founder of the modern number theory.
He stated the  Fermat’s Last Theorem (1637) as well as “Fermat’s little theorem”( 1640), and developed the inductive “infinite descent method”, which was  the first general proof of diophantine questions. He made some discoveries in regard to the properties of numbers, on which he afterwards built his method of calculating probabilities.
Mathematical analysis. He discovered  an original method for determining maxima, minima, and tangents to various curves that was equivalent to differential calculus. He obtained a technique for finding the centers of gravity of various plane and solid figures, which led to his further work in quadrature.
The resulting formula was helpful to Newton, and then Leibniz, when they independently developed the fundamental theorem of calculus.
The theory of probability. In 1654, Blaise Pascal wrote a letter asking about Fermat’s views on probability. Their series of correspondences became the foundation of probability theory.
In 1660 he planned to meet with Pascal, but meeting not held due to ill of both scientists.
Optics. He discovered the least time principle which states that light will travel through an optical system in such a way as to pass from starting to ending point in the least amount of time Fermat’s principle of least time  was the first variational principle enunciated in physics. In this way, Fermat is recognized as a key figure in the historical development of the fundamental principle of least action in physics. The term «Fermat functional» was named in recognition of this role.
Major works: “Ad Locos Planos et Solidos Isagoge”(Introduction to Plane and Solid Loci)(1636, publ,. 1679),  “The method of finding of the maximum and minimum values“ Methodus ad disquirendam maximam et minima” (publ,. 1679), “De tangentibus linearum curvarum”. Issued in the book “The different mathematical works” (“Varia opera mathematica”, Tolosae, 1679)


Origin: Fermat was born in Beaumont-de-Lomagne,  near Montauban. France. He was the son of Dominique Fermat, a rich leather merchant, later  second consul of Beaumont-de-Lomagne and Claire de Long. He was of Basque origin. His mother, Claire de Long was a teacher of mathematics.
Education: There is little evidence concerning his school education, but it may have been at the local Franciscan monastery. He attended the University of Toulouse where studied law and developed interests in foreign languages, Classical literature, ancient science, and mathematics.
Career highlights: In the second half of the 1620s. he moved to Bordeaux where he began his first serious mathematical researches. From Bordeaux Fermat went to Orléans where he studied law at the University. He became a councillor at the parliament in 1631 and receved the title of councillor at the High Court of Judicature in Toulouse, which he held for the rest of his life.
In 1648 he was promoted to king’s counselor in the Parliament of Toulouse. He quickly moved up the ranks and in 1652, he became the chief magistrate of the criminal court. His work allowed to spend large amounts of time in isolation.
It was during this time, he obeying his passion for mathematics developed the fundamental theorem and theories.
Personal life: In 1631 he married his mother’s cousin, Louise de Long; they had three sons and two daughters. Contemporaries described him as an honest, accurate, balanced and genial man, a brilliantly erudite in mathematics and in the humanities, a connoisseur of many ancient and living languages, in which he wrote good poetry.
He died on January 12, 1665 in Castres, France.
Zest: There is some doubt as to the precise date of his birth. He is said to have been baptized on Aug. 20, 1601, but his tombstone puts his birth as 1608, and others have stated 1595. He was  a professional lawyer who pursued mathematics in his spare time. Fluent in Latin, Greek, Italian, and Spanish, Fermat was praised for his written verse in several languages, and his advice was eagerly sought regarding the emendation of Greek texts. Sir Isaac Newton said that his invention of calculus was based a large part on Fermat’s method of tangents. He is best known for legend Fermat’s Last Theorem (1637),  which states that for natural numbers x, y, and z there is no natural number n greater than 2 for which xn + yn = zn is true. He died without revealing his proof and it was not until 1994 that the English mathematician Andrew enough to contain.” A lunar crater and a street in Paris are named after him.
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