Oxford professor wins Abel Prize for Fermat’s Last Theorem

Mathematics fellow Sir Andrew Wiles wins Abel Prize after solving 300-year-old mystery

Oxford Professor Andrew Wiles has been announced as the 2016 winner of the Abel prize for his proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem. Wiles is a Royal Society Research Professor  at the University of Oxford and will receive the prize from Crown Prince Haakon of Norway at a ceremony in Oslo in May.

The Abel prize is awarded annually by the Norwegian government to an outstanding mathematician. The award was established in 2001 and has been described as the mathematician’s “Nobel prize”, coming with the monetary award of six million Norwegian Kroner (£500,00).

First formulated by the French mathematician Pierre de Fermat in 1637, the theorem has been widely regarded by mathematicians as seemingly intractable. Wiles claims to have become fascinated by the theorem as a ten year old child after coming across a book in a library in Cambridge. In solving Fermat’s Last Theorem, Wiles has developed new tools which have allowed researchers to make significant developments in an effort to unify disparate branches of mathematics.

The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, which presents the Abel Prize, said in its citation, ‘Few results have as rich a mathematical history and as dramatic a proof as Fermat’s Last Theorem.’

Learning of the award today, Andrew Wiles told Cherwell, “I am very honoured to receive the Abel prize. I have been very fortunate to spend my life working on the mathematical problems that I love, and I am doubly fortunate then to be recognized so generously for my work.”

In an email to Mathematics students across the university this morning, Martin R Bridson Head of Department wrote, “I write to share some tremendously exciting news with you: it was announced in Oslo at 11:00 GMT that Sir Andrew Wiles has been awarded the 2016 Abel Prize, the most distinguished prize in mathematics. This is a great day for Andrew and for Oxford Mathematics.”

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Second year Mathematics student Monica Gupta studying at Merton College where Sir Andrew is a fellow, told Cherwell, “Andrew Wiles was a the main reason I started looking into choosing Merton to apply to when application time came around. He is the most ‘famous’ contemporary mathematician. I feel very privileged to have seen him lecture a few times at the Maths Institute. The Abel Prize is regarded as the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in the Maths world, and it is very well deserved by Wiles. Hearing him give an interview after he found out he received the accolade was humbling – he was incredibly modest and mainly focused on the Maths behind his work, rather than the Abel Prize it won him.”

In 2013 the Maths Institute opened their new £70 million Andrew Wiles Building, uniting a department that had previously been spread across three separate locations. The building was named after Andrew Wiles in tribute to his published completed proof in 1995.

Merton College has been approached by Cherwell for comment.