Math Professor Wins $700,000 for Solving 300-Year-Old Theorem

March 17, 2016 Updated: March 17, 2016
FONT BFONT SText size

British mathematician Sir Andrew J. Wiles has won the Abel Prize in math for cracking a centuries-old hypothesis.

The Abel Prize comes with a $710,000 reward. 

Norway’s Academy of Science and Letters said Tuesday he was given the annual award “for his stunning proof of (French mathematician Pierre de) Fermat’s Last Theorem by way of the modularity conjecture for semi-stable elliptic curves, opening a new era in number theory.”

[It was] the most famous, and long-running, unsolved problem in the subject’s history.

Fermat’s Last Theorem states that no three numbers a, b, and c satisfy the equation an + bn = cn when n>2. An example of three numbers satisfying the equation are 3, 4, and 5, when n = 2. 

3^2 (9) + 4^2 (16) = 5^2 (25)

Wiles proved that no set of three integers can satisfy that equation if n is 3 or above. 

In 1994, the 62-year-old cracked the theorem, which was “the most famous, and long-running, unsolved problem in the subject’s history.” It was first conjectured by de Fermat in 1637.

Wiles, who has honorary degrees from a string of British and American universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, Columbia and Yale, will receive the reward money at a ceremony on May 24 in Oslo.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.