pierre de fermat 17 august 1601 or 1607/8–12 january 1665 lived & died
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- Pierre de Fermat
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- 17 August 1601 or 1607/812 January 1665 Lived & Died
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- was a French lawyer at the Parlement of Toulouse, France, and an amateur mathematician who is given credit for early developments that led to infinitesimal calculus, including his adequality. 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
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- Together with Ren Descartes, Fermat was one of the two leading mathematicians of the first half of the 17th century. According to Peter L. Bernstein, in his book Against the Gods, Fermat "was a mathematician of rare power. He was an independent inventor of analytic geometry, he contributed to the early development of calculus, he did research on the weight of the earth, and he worked on light refraction and optics. In the course of what turned out to be an extended correspondence with Pascal, he made a significant contribution to the theory of probability. But Fermat's crowning achievement was in the theory of numbers." Regarding Fermat's work in analysis, Isaac Newton wrote that his own early ideas about calculus came directly from "Fermat's way of drawing tangents."
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- The great 20th-century mathematician Andr Weil wrote that "... what we possess of his methods for dealing with curves of genus 1 is remarkably coherent; it is still the foundation for the modern theory of such curves. It naturally falls into two parts; the first one... may conveniently be termed a method of ascent, in contrast with the descent which is rightly regarded as Fermat's own." Regarding Fermat's use of ascent, Weil continued "The novelty consisted in the vastly extended use which Fermat made of it, giving him at least a partial equivalent of what we would obtain by the systematic use of the group theoretical properties of the rational points on a standard cubic." With his gift for number relations and his ability to find proofs for many of his theorems, Fermat essentially created the modern theory of numbers.
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- Fermat was born in Beaumont- de-Lomagne, Tarn-et-Garonne, France; the late 15th century mansion where Fermat was born is now a museum. He was of Basque origin. Fermat's father was a wealthy leather merchant and second consul of Beaumont-de-Lomagne. Pierre had a brother and two sisters and was almost certainly brought up in the town of his birth. There is little evidence concerning his school education, but it may have been at the local Franciscan monastery.
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- He attended the University of Toulouse before moving to Bordeaux in the second half of the 1620s. In Bordeaux he began his first serious mathematical researches and in 1629 he gave a copy of his restoration of Apollonius's De Locis Planis to one of the mathematicians there. Certainly in Bordeaux he was in contact with Beaugrand and during this time he produced important work on maxima and minima which he gave to tienne d'Espagnet who clearly shared mathematical interests with Fermat. There he became much influenced by the work of Franois Vite. From Bordeaux, Fermat went to Orlans where he studied law at the University. He received a degree in civil law before, in 1631, receiving the title of councillor at the High Court of Judicature in Toulouse, which he held for the rest of his life. Due to the office he now held he became entitled to change his name from Pierre Fermat to Pierre de Fermat. Fluent in Latin, Basque, classical Greek, Italian, and Spanish, Fermat was praised for his written verse in several languages, and his advice was eagerly sought regarding the emendation of Greek texts. He communicated most of his work in letters to friends, often with little or no proof of his theorems. This allowed him to preserve his status as an "amateur" while gaining the recognition he desired. This naturally led to priority disputes with contemporaries such as Descartes and Wallis. He developed a close relationship with Blaise Pascal. Anders Hald writes that, "The basis of Fermat's mathematics was the classical Greek treatises combined with Vieta's new algebraic methods."
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