British professor wins 'Nobel for math' for solving 300-year-old equation


British mathematician Andrew Wiles, who solved a 350-year-old mathematics problem, was named winner of the Abel Prize for mathematics Tuesday, the Norwegian Academy of Sciences said in a statement.

The academy chose Wiles "for his stunning proof of Fermat's Last Theorem" in 1994, which opened "a new era in number theory."

The theorem is named after French amateur mathematician Pierre de Fermat, who around 1637 noted it down in the margin of a book.

Wiles, a 62-year-old Royal Society Research Professor at Oxford since 2011, said he felt challenged to solve the problem as a young boy in Cambridge, England.

He worked in secret for several years using different fields of mathematics, including modular forms and elliptic curves, to write the proof.

The 6-million-kroner (700,000-dollar) prize, which is dubbed "the Nobel for mathematics," is due to be presented May 24.

Wiles earned his doctorate in 1980 at Clare College, Cambridge. His academic career has included posts at the Institute for Advanced Study in New Jersey, Princeton University, and the Institut des Hautes Etudes Scientifiques near Paris.

He was knighted in 2000.

The Abel Prize, which was first awarded in 2003, was created to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Niels Henrik Abel, a Norwegian mathematician.

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