Mathematician:Pierre de Fermat

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French lawyer, also an amateur mathematician famous for lots of things. Especially:

Although he claimed to have found proofs of many theorems, few of these have survived.

It has been suggested, with some justification, that it was Fermat, not Descartes, who was the true inventor of analytic geometry.

It has also been suggested that he shared the creation of the discipline of probability theory with Blaise Pascal.

He rarely published, and most of his output was in the form of letters, mainly through the correspondence he started with Marin Mersenne in $1636$.

Father of Clément-Samuel Fermat, who became his scientific executor.

A member of the informal Académie Parisienne.




  • Born: 17 August 1601 or 1607/8 (exact date unknown), Beaumont-de-Lomagne, France
  • Died: 12 January 1665, Castres, France

Theorems and Definitions

  • Claimed to have found a proof for what became known as Fermat's Last Theorem, but it has since been doubted that this is in fact the case (he may have been mistaken).

Results named for Pierre de Fermat can be found here.

Definitions of concepts named for Pierre de Fermat can be found here.


Notable Quotes

The equation $x^n + y^n = z^n$ has no integral solutions when $n > 2$. I have discovered a perfectly marvellous proof, but this margin is not big enough to hold it.

Critical View

A master of masters.
-- Eric Temple Bell

le premier homme du monde (the foremost man of the world)
-- Blaise Pascal

Look elsewhere for someone who can follow you in your researches about numbers. For my part, I confess that they are far beyond me, and I am competent only to admire them.
-- Blaise Pascal, in a letter to Fermat

[ Fermat ] invented analytic geometry in 1629 and described his ideas in a short work entitled Introduction to Plane and Solid Loci, which circulated in manuscript form from early 1637 on but was not published during his lifetime. ... nothing that we would recognize as analytic geometry can be found in Descartes' essay, except perhaps the idea of using algebra as a language for discussing geometric problems. Fermat had the same idea, but did something important with it: He introduced perpendicular axes and found the general equations of straight lines and circles and the simplest equations of parabolas, ellipses, and hyperbolas ... it may be surmised that much of what [ Descartes ] knew he learned from Fermat.
-- 1992: George F. Simmons: Calculus Gems