Andrew Wiles is an illustrious English mathematician and currently a research professor at the University of Oxford. He is known for his contribution to number theory. Similar to other mathematician he had made great development in the theory. Moreover his popularity is linked to proving the Fermat’s Last Theorem. He is awarded the 2016 Abel Prize for that distinguished work.
Andrew John Wiles was born on 11 April 1953 in Cambridge, England. His father, Maurice Frank Wiles was a chaplain at Ridley Hall, Cambridge. Wiles received his education from The Leys School and King’s College School Cambridge. He claims that when he was 10, he came across Fermat’s Last Theorem on his way back home. He understood the theorem at such a young age but found it highly fascinating that no one has proven it yet. Hence, he decided to be the first one to do it. However, he came to a disheartening realization that his knowledge is quite limited to make such an attempt. Dejected, he gave up his childhood dream. Despite abandoning the dream, he finally received the chance to make it come true in his adulthood.
Wiles went to Merton College, Oxford to study mathematics and finally earned his Bachelor’s Degree in mathematics in 1947. Subsequently, he attended Clare College, Cambridge, where he was awarded a PhD. He became a professor at Princeton following a stay in New Jersey at the Institute for Advanced Study in 1981. Four years later he was offered fellowship at the Institut des Hautes Études Scientifiques near Paris. During the late 1980s the University of Oxford has appointed him a Royal Society Research Professor. He went back to Princeton afterwards, but returned to Oxford in 2011.
In 1970s, Andrew Wiles collaborated with John Coates to explore the arithmetic of elliptic curves. Another colleague that he worked with was Barry Mazur on the idea of Iwasawa theory. In 1986, successive attempts were made to prove the Fermat’s Last Theorem by mathematicians like Ken Ribet, Gerhard Frey and Jean-Pierre Serre. It was found out that the theorem can only be proven as a corollary of a limited form of the modularity theorem. Wiles former supervisor claimed that it was impossible to prove it that way. Once again Wiles decided to fulfill his childhood dream by making an attempt with his newly gained and experienced knowledge. He devoted all his energy and time at solving the problem at the expense of his other research work. Wiles dedicated six years of his life in that attempt and was highly secretive of his work. He covered up his tracks by releasing prior researches in fragments and confided exclusively in his wife about his progress.
He finally went on record about the proof at a conference in Cambridge in the June of 1993. Wiles colleagues commented that he didn’t even hint about proving the Fermat’s Last Theorem and just announced that as an afterthought at the end of his lecture. The following month, a flaw was discovered in one of the areas, rendering Wiles to spend another year trying to come up with a solution to the problem. Just when he was about to abandon the whole thing, his former student Richard Taylor lent a helping hand and they finally circumvented the problem. With this new development Andrew Wiles finally proved the Fermat’s Last Theorem.