Event Detail

Event Type: 
Lonseth Lecture
Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - 09:00
LaSells Stewart Center C&E Hall

Speaker Info

New Mexico State University

Sophie Germain (1776-1831) is the first woman known to have created important new mathematical research.  She is best known in number theory for the first general result aimed at proving Fermat's Last Theorem, finally proven only 20 years ago.  However, unpublished manuscripts, and a letter to Gauss, reveal that for her this result was only minor fallout from a multifaceted grand plan she pursued for proving the theorem outright, emphasizing new theoretical techniques of broad applicability. The scope of Germain's attempt remained unequaled for half a century, until her path was unknowingly trodden again by others. We will explore her grand plan and its side thrusts, including remarkable lower bounds on the size of possible solutions to Fermat's equation.  Her work has likely lain unread for nigh 200 years. We argue for a substantial elevation of her stature as a number theorist.