For over 300 years following the discovery of Pierre de Fermat’s conjecture (famously found scribbled in a copy of Diophantus’ Arithmetica after his death) that:
an + bn ≠ cn for n > 2
the world was fascinated and confounded by this mathematical problem. The most tantalizing aspect to the problem was that Fermat included in his scribbled entry that he had proven this assertion but that the proof was too large to fit in the margins. Reproducing this alleged proof became the fascination of professional and amateur mathematicians for centuries until it was finally solved in 1995.
On September 22nd Ken Ribet of University of California, Berkeley explored the solution of Fermat’s Last Theorem for the Cecil T. and Marion C. Holmes Mathematics Lecture sponsored by the Bowdoin College Mathematics Department. Professor Ribet has a direct connection with the solving of Fermat’s famous theorem as his work in 1986 confirmed a connection between the Taniyama–Shimura-Weil conjecture and Fermat’s Last Theorem. Hearing of this development, Andrew Wiles, an English mathematician long-fascinated with Fermat’s elusive proof began working in secret on proving the Taniyama-Shimura-Weil conjecture as a way of solving the 300 year old mystery.
Ribet is a member of the editorial boards of several book series and research journals. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1997 and the National Academy of Sciences in 2000. He was awarded the Fermat Prize in 1989 and received an honorary PhD from Brown University in 1998. Ribet was inducted as a Vigneron d’honneur by the Jurade de Saint Emilion in 1988. He received his department’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 1985.