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Pierre de Fermat and the Method of Infinite Descent
Peter Schumer, Middlebury College

Pierre de Fermat (1601 – 1665) is known as the “prince of amateurs” for his many important independent contributions to mathematics including his creation of analytic geometry, the beginnings of probability theory, and many key concepts and techniques that led to the development of calculus. We will discuss some of his imaginative number-theoretic observations and suggest how he may have discovered them. In particular, we will focus mainly on his method of infinite descent.

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