Activity 3.2 – Discussion: Pierre de Fermat
Great mathematician: Pierre de Fermat
The French mathematician Pierre de Fermat (1601-1665) was possibly the most productive mathematician of his era, making many contributions, some of which were to calculus, number theory, and the law of refraction. While relatively little is known of Fermat's early education, it is known that he was of Basque origin and received his primary and secondary education at the monastery of Grandsl ve, run by the Cordeliers (Franciscans), in Beaumont-de-Lomagne. For his advanced studies he first attended the University of Toulouse before moving to Bordeaux in the second half of the 1620's. In Bordeaux (1629) Fermat began his first serious mathematical researches, where he gave a copy of his restoration of Appollonius's Plane Loci to one of the mathematicians there. In Bordeaux he contacted Beaugrand and during this time he produced work on maxima and minima. He gave his work to Etienne de'Espagnet, who shared mathematical interests with Fermat. In particular, he is recognized for his discovery of an original method of finding the greatest and the smallest ordinates of curved lines, which is analogous to that of the then unknown differential calculus, and his research into number theory. He made notable contributions to analytic geometry, probability, and optics. He is best known for Fermat's Last Theorem, which he described in a note at the margin of a copy of Diophantus' Arithmetica. Pierre de Fermat was the most brilliant mathematician of his era and, along with Déscartes, one of the most influential. Although mathematics was just his hobby, Fermat practically founded Number Theory, and also played key roles in the discoveries of Analytic Geometry and Calculus. He was also an excellent geometer, discovering a triangle's Fermat point, and in collaboration with Blaise Pascal discovered probability theory. They say fellow geniuses...
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