Talk:Pierre de Fermat

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
          This article is of interest to the following WikiProjects:
WikiProject Mathematics (Rated C-class, High-importance)
WikiProject Mathematics
This article is within the scope of WikiProject Mathematics, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Mathematics on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
Mathematics rating:
C Class
High Importance
 Field: Mathematicians
A vital article.
One of the 500 most frequently viewed mathematics articles.
WikiProject Biography / Science and Academia (Rated C-class)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Biography, a collaborative effort to create, develop and organize Wikipedia's articles about people. All interested editors are invited to join the project and contribute to the discussion. For instructions on how to use this banner, please refer to the documentation.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Core  This article is listed on the project's core biographies page.
Taskforce icon
This article is supported by the science and academia work group (marked as Top-importance).
WikiProject France (Rated C-class, Top-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject France, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of France on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Top  This article has been rated as Top-importance on the project's importance scale.
Wikipedia Version 1.0 Editorial Team
WikiProject icon This article has been reviewed by the Version 1.0 Editorial Team.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the quality scale.


Basque origin is confirmed in the most recent EB but not the 1911 EB. VivaEmilyDavies 18:58, 13 Apr 2005 (UTC)

The claim needs to be substantiated. I am removing it for now. Fermat does not sound like a Basque name at all. Besides, Pierre Fermat was born in Lomagne, an area in the very north of Gascony far away from the Basque Country. If it is, say, his great-grand-father that came from the Basque Country, it's a bit far fetched to present Fermat as a mathematician of Basque origin. In Southwest France, he's always presented as a celebrity of Languedoc (even though he was actually born in Lomagne, at the border of Languedoc, but he served all his life as a lawyer in Languedoc). Hardouin 20:29, 21 July 2005 (UTC)

One of Fermat's forefathers immigrated around 1500 to the North of Gascony most probably from Catalonia. The Cistercian monastary of Grand Selve (which had founded Fermat's birthplace Beaumont-de-Lomagne in 13th century) had excellent relations to Catalonia (daughter monastaries) and invited families from Catalonia to come to Beaumont, one of those numerous bastides (fortified villages with market right) which were founded in the South of France after the Albigensian wars to repopulate the depopulated country. Klaus Barner 10:31 10 November 2006


"Fermat's date of birth is usually given as 1601; recently it has been suggested that the correct date is 1607." The preceding two statements appears on page 3 of the February 2005 issue of Mathematics Magazine.

The birthdate on this page (August 20th) is not consistent with the Wikipedia births page for August 17th.

Recently, an anonymous contributor ( has changed the birthdate from August 17 to August 20, with only a nonspecific comment "incorrect date of birth". He has not given any source for the claim and all sources I am able to check right now (i.e. internet only) give August 17. So I have reverted the change. If someone has a specific source, feel free to change it back, and cite the source. --Mormegil 13:57, 19 October 2005 (UTC)
There is strong evidence that Fermat was born in 1607:
Barner, Klaus: How old did Fermat become? (English)
[J] NTM (N.S.) 9, No.4, 209-228 (2001). [ISSN 0036-6978]
reviewed in:
There is a nice paragraph on this in the german wikipedia. If there is interest, I can translate.
Simon Singh's "Fermat's Last Theorem" book says he was born on August 20th, 1601. Yet, I'm not confident about its validity in comparison to the other sources, so I didn't update the term. AilaG 22:33, 8 February 2006 (UTC)
Please observe that Simon Singh wrote his book in 1997. The work of Barner is younger and hence was not known when Singh wrote his book. The link above gives the explanation that the Pierre Fermat that had been baptised on 20 August 1601 is an elder brother who died prematurely. Also fr:Pierre de Fermat agrees that the year of birth is not sure. --NeoUrfahraner (talk) 08:58, 26 February 2008 (UTC)

The lead sentence (currently) states Fermat's birthdate as "17 August 1601 or 1607/8", but no explanation is given anywhere in the article on why two dates are shown. Could someone please provide some explanatory text (perhaps in the "Life and Work" section)? Also, the link in the citation following the "1607/8" date (ref 1) is dead and should probably be replaced. — Loadmaster (talk) 17:33, 22 September 2009 (UTC)

Last theorem...[edit]

It is my understanding that it is now widely acccepted that Fermat did not have a proof of his so called last theorem. Any one have anything to say about that?

Yet, it has not been proven as a fact. If you have any proof that the claim is serious (i.e. that there is a serious debate about it) I think you can add it, along with the names and titles of those who raised the claim. It is common for people to just guess that he didn't have the proof, and I personally agree with that guess, but Wikipedia's about facts, not smart guesses. AilaG 22:26, 8 February 2006 (UTC)

Fermat's Enigma is also known as Fermat's last theorem, correct? Evil Deep Blue 00:04, 31 May 2006 (UTC)

Cultural depictions of Pierre de Fermat[edit]

I've started an approach that may apply to Wikipedia's Core Biography articles: creating a branching list page based on in popular culture information. I started that last year while I raised Joan of Arc to featured article when I created Cultural depictions of Joan of Arc, which has become a featured list. Recently I also created Cultural depictions of Alexander the Great out of material that had been deleted from the biography article. Since cultural references sometimes get deleted without discussion, I'd like to suggest this approach as a model for the editors here. Regards, Durova 16:00, 18 October 2006 (UTC)


It would be nice if there were a note in the beginning about how to pronounce "Fermat." Since he was from France, I'm fairly confident it's not "fur-mat", but I'm not actually sure how it's pronounced. Ketsuekigata 21:57, 26 April 2007 (UTC)

It's pronounced 'Fer-mar' or at least that's how it was said in several documentaries.

It's always nice to have the IPA, but in this case it is lacking an indication for the accented syllable (either first or last, evidently) of Pierre's surname.AtomAnt (talk) 20:09, 13 October 2014 (UTC)

Possible plagiarism (brought up by[edit] believes that the content from this page has been copied from [1], can anyone verify this? —Preceding unsigned comment added by Teh roflmaoer (talkcontribs) 14:50, 4 November 2007 (UTC)

A lot too late, but the 1911 Britannica is in the public domain now. But yes, it should have been acknowledged. Lanthanum-138 (talk) 10:44, 23 June 2011 (UTC)


I am tempted to remove the text Fermat was ... a recluse. His only contact with the wider mathematical community aside from a brief exchange of letters with Blaise Pascal, was Marin Mersenne. from the Life and work section (I agree that he was secretive). Although this section is sourced, Singh is not a particularly reliable source here. For example, Fermat carried on correspondence with Roberval, Frenicle, Carcavi, Digby, Gassendi, and Huygens. Any objections to its removal? — Myasuda (talk) 03:54, 26 February 2008 (UTC)

Occitan and Basque[edit]


At the top of this talk page there's a little discussion about Fermat's Basque origin. This indeed appears in the current article about him in Britannica online.

It is nevertheless rather unusual, because his last name sounds much more Occitan or Catalan than Basque or French. Indeed, Occitan and Catalan Wikipedias call him "an Occitan mathematician", although without a clear reference, and this article here in English includes him in the category of Occitan people, again without a clear reference.

He is, of course, best known as a French mathematician, but if the information about his Basque or Occitan origin is true, the article may say that he is "a French mathematician of Basque and Occitan origin". --Amir E. Aharoni (talk) 07:45, 18 August 2009 (UTC)

Fermat's Last Theorem[edit]

Someone has removed the link Fermat's Last Theorem. This theorem is famous: many people will come to the page looking for it. That is the reason why Fermat is famous currently. The person who deleted it says it is referred to in the text, but I cannot see where on a quick reading. Deleting FLT would be like deleting Newton's theory of gravity.

If anything ought to be deleted it is "Fermat's Room" which is a 2007 Spanish film that has a character in it called Fermat. I think I will delete it. (talk) 23:43, 6 December 2010 (UTC)

See WP:ALSO. The "see also" section is not supposed to list all topics related to the article, it is only for additional links that are not already included in the text in a more informative way. There are at least four links to Fermat's Last Theorem in the article (which probably violates WP:OVERLINK anyway), so you obviously did not read it.—Emil J. 14:13, 7 December 2010 (UTC)
And no, Newton's law of universal gravitation is not included in the "see also" section of the Isaac Newton article, for the very same reason.—Emil J. 14:21, 7 December 2010 (UTC)

Totally agree with you, if you want to be pedantic. But if you want to be helpful to the average reader, then you are completely wrong. If pedantry results in a worst service to the reader, then pedantry is wrong. I would replace the missing links but I expect the owner of this article would rapidly change them back again. (talk) 21:01, 29 December 2010 (UTC)

Featured as Google Doodle, 17th (or is it 16th?) Aug 2011[edit]

Title says it all. --Dr DBW (talk) 03:17, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

Aug 17th, See Pierre de Fermat's 410th Birthday --Spatical (talk) 23:00, 29 April 2012 (UTC)
Pierre Fermat had an older half-brother of the same name Pierre who died prematurely. He was the son of Dominique Fermat's first wife Francoise Cazeneuve. This Pierre was baptized 20. August 1601. The mathematician Pierre de Fermat was the son of his father's second wife Claire de Long and was born in 1607. I found strong evidence that he was born in November 1607. Klaus Barner (talk) 10:29, 6 February 2013 (UTC) (talk) 09:07, 6 February 2013 (UTC)

Math error[edit]

Fermat is credited with carrying out the first ever rigorous probability calculation. In it, he was asked by a professional gambler why if he bet on rolling at least one six in four throws of a die he won in the long term, whereas betting on throwing at least one double-six in 24 throws of two dice resulted in him losing. Fermat subsequently proved why this was the case mathematically.[9]

There is an error in this section. At least one double-six in 24 throws is a winning bet. The article references Eves, Howard. An Introduction to the History of Mathematics, Saunders College Publishing, Fort Worth, Texas, 1990. Could someone who owns this book check what it says?

Mmesser314 (talk) 15:38, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

At least one double-six in 24 throws has (I reckon) a probability < 0.5. The reasoning: at least one is the same as anything other than zero, and the chances of getting zero double sixes is (35/36)24. The chances of at least on is therefore 1 - (35/36)24 = 0.491404... --catslash (talk) 15:59, 17 August 2011 (UTC)

Fermat as a Catholic[edit]

Pierre de Fermat was born in November 1607 in Beaumont-de-Lomagne near Toulouse in France. His father had a prosperous business in wheat and cattle, and his mother Claire de Long was member of an Huguenot family from Montauban. At the beginning Fermat took lessons at home, later he received a classical secondary education at the Reformed (!) Collège de Navarre in Montauban (1617-1623). He studied law at the University of Orléans (1623-1626) and obtained the degree of Bachelor of Civil Law from the University of Orléans in July 1626. On May 14, 1631, he was sworn in as a conseiller of the Parlement de Toulouse and so he became entitled to change his name from Pierre Fermat to Pierre de Fermat. ["He was very humble and dutiful. To protect himself against corruption, he lived a pull backed live. So he had lots of time to practice his hobbies: classical languages and pure maths."] This is completely wrong, see my papers: Barner, Klaus: Pierre de Fermat (1601?-1665), His life beside mathematics. Newsletter of the European Mathematical Society, December 2001, p. 12-16, and Pierre Fermat: Sa vie privée et professionelle. Annales de la Faculté des Sciences Toulouse 18, no. Spécial, 2009, pp. 119-135, where I report the contrary in great detail. He got married on the first of June1631 and had five children. He was an enlightened and tolerant Catholic who had several true friends among the Huguenots. His children were devout Catholics. That‘s why his younger son became a priest and two of his daughters went to the convent. Klaus Barner (talk) 10:10, 6 February 2013 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:54, 18 August 2011 (UTC)

Besides this, he had some literary writings which today are very little known. He wrote a poem un latin, entitled “Cede Deo, Seu Christus Moriens” (in French: “Soumets-toi a Dieu ou l'agonie du Christ"; in English "Submit yourself to God or Christ's agony"). The thematic is about the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, exploring both His human and divine nature. See Œuvres de Fermat. He dedicated the poem to his countryman believer Balzac.--Goose friend (talk) 17:43, 10 January 2014 (UTC)

son Samuel[edit]

Fermat's son Samuel sat on a court that sentenced 18 marranos in absentia to burn at the stake, but they fled to The Netherlands in time. One might want to include this information. Tkuvho (talk) 09:27, 26 February 2012 (UTC)

See: Jacques Blamont: Le Lion et le Moucheron. Histoire des Marranes de Toulouse. Paris 2000. (talk) 10:21, 6 February 2013 (UTC)

There is also an article by Barner that details Samuel's case specifically. Tkuvho (talk) 09:14, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

He was born in[edit]

1607. That was found in 2001 and made a big news among mathematicians. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:28, 18 November 2012 (UTC)

His BROTHER (died soon after birth) was born in 1601. Already established. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 11:45, 19 November 2012 (UTC)

Who "established" this exactly? Tkuvho (talk) 09:11, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

1601 or 1607/8?[edit]

The French version of the page has some detailed footnotes seemingly written by an expert in the field, the conclusion being that the debate about the birthdate has not been resolved conclusively. I therefore modified the text accordingly. Tkuvho (talk) 09:10, 29 May 2013 (UTC)

"...the ancients did not know everything..."[edit]

I believe that his quote about why he did mathematics was to show that "the ancients did not know everything" is important (I am not sure of the wording or where this quotation is to be found.)

The idea that in his time people in the west at least felt they were still trying to catch up to what was known in ancient Greece and Rome is sort of striking since in our time this is not generally the case. Anyhow, I think it could be added to the article but I am not sure where.--Jrm2007 (talk) 10:53, 10 March 2014 (UTC)

Not yet a knight[edit]

"It was not proved until 1994 by Sir Andrew Wiles" isn't quite true: Wiles wasn't Sir Andrew when he proved FLT. (talk) 00:29, 4 November 2014 (UTC)

Use of term amateur[edit]

The discussion of Fermat's being an amateur or not is currently taking place in the form of an edit pre-war. I personally don't think there is universal agreement as to describing Fermat as an amateur mathematician, even with the proviso that this merely means that by profession he was a lawyer. By this criterion Newton and Leibniz will also be amateurs. Tkuvho (talk) 10:21, 1 March 2015 (UTC)

Sorry about that. I was on the "amateur" side, because he so clearly fits the definition in the technical sense: he was never paid to do math. However, I just asked Google Books for "fermat was a mathematician" and "fermat was an amateur mathematician"; both queries primarily showed RS math books, but the first gave 151 hits and the second 17. So unless someone can come up with a counterargument, I guess he should be called a mathematician tout simple, with clarification elsewhere that he earned his sous lawyering. FourViolas (talk) 11:47, 1 March 2015 (UTC)
The lawyer business is already mentioned in the first line of the page. Tkuvho (talk) 12:22, 1 March 2015 (UTC)
Though I did revert one of the anonymous editor's repeated deletions of the word amateur, I think the intro sentence reads better without it. But I don't think there's any reason not to discuss his amateur status later in the article. If it is mentioned, I'd say there should be some context given regarding how many 17th-century scientists and mathematicians could have been considered professionals. My non-expert impression is that in those days, not many people were getting paid to make discoveries or advancements in scientific knowledge. Eric talk 00:30, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
My personal impression is the following. I emphasize that this is my personal impression and therefore is not for inclusion in the page as that would constitute WP:OR. There was a bitter dispute between Fermat and Descartes starting in the 1630s. One of the accusations leveled by Descartes against Fermat was his amateurishness and absence of explanation of his (Fermat's) procedures. This theme has been picked up by a number of historians in spite of much evidence to the contrary. As Eric points out, most scientists in the 17th century were not paid for their scientific work. Thus Newton was employed at the Royal Mint if I recall correctly. Leibniz was paid for writing histories, and surprise, extensive lawyering. So if certain historians insist on mentioning that Fermat was an amateur this could well be a sorry legacy of the quarrel with Descartes. Tkuvho (talk) 08:38, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
My impression is that the word amateur itself, as attached to Fermat's legacy, has much to do with the outsized influence of E.T. Bell's Men of Mathematics (and perhaps this does owe something to Descartes, but that's unclear). Bell's publication, while full of inaccuracies and embellishments, did make an impression upon many future mathematicians and historians of previous generations. I'm no fan of Bell's scholarship, so I am fine with omitting the word amateur as that appears to be the consensus. But I do want to point out that the word is a familiar association to Fermat for a not insignificant number of readers of a certain generation.
Regarding Newton's work at the mint, note that he had largely retired from research when he accepted that position. During his most productive years, he held the position of Lucasian Chair of Mathematics and so could well be characterized as a professional scientific researcher (of natural philosophy, as it was referred to back then). — Myasuda (talk) 14:10, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
Good point, thanks. Tkuvho (talk) 16:02, 2 March 2015 (UTC)
In light of his dispute with Descartes, it may well be worth including some discussion of the term amateur in the pejorative sense in which Descartes apparently applied it to Fermat--if Descartes was calling him unprofessional for not demonstrating how he derived his theorems. That sense of the word, as opposed to the idea of mathematics not being Fermat's profession, would merit discussion if it was or is a view held by other mathematicians. @Tkuvho, do we have some original French quote from Descartes? I'd be curious to see the original context. I took a quick look in Google Books, but nothing popped out at me. Eric talk 20:12, 7 March 2015 (UTC)
I don't have time to look this up now but if you look at Mahoney's book on Fermat for sure you will find something in this direction. Tkuvho (talk) 10:19, 8 March 2015 (UTC)