Archive for History of Exact Sciences

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 219–236 | Cite as

The background of Kummer's proof of Fermat's last theorem for regular primes

  • Harold M. Edwards


This article contains a brief review of the circumstances which surrounded Kummer's proof of Fermat's Last Theorem for “regular” prime exponents. The often-told story that this proof developed out of an earlier proof which was fallacious is questioned, and a new document, an unknown letter from Liouville to Dirichlet which is related to this history, is presented. Also presented is the little-known fact that Kummer's theory of “ideal complex numbers”, which was the basis of the proof, contained a serious flaw which went uncorrected for ten years.


Complex Number Fermat Ideal Complex Early Proof Prime Exponent 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harold M. Edwards
    • 1
  1. 1.New York University

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