Remember agonizing over those pesky math problems in school? Visions of hair-pulling homework hours cross my mind. Those memories are what make Andrew Wiles’ victory over one 358-year old math problem so commendable to me.
The seeming simplicity of Fermat’s Last Theorem, dating back to 1647, caught the attention of the now Oxford University Professor when he was 10 years old. He worked at cracking the problem in his teen years, and then took up the work again while teaching in the mathematics department at Princeton University. Working for more than a decade, he was able to prove the theorem in 1994. You can click here to read more about Professor Wiles and the substantial award he won for his work.
Of course, we all solve problems each day. How will I pay this bill? What will I make for dinner? How do I change this flat tire?
But, what stands out to me about Professor Wiles is his single-minded devotion to this one math problem. Certainly he solved other problems along the way, but it’s obvious that Fermat’s Last Theorem was something he thought about and worked on for a substantial part of his life.
It reminds me of 19th century woman, Mary Baker Eddy, who exercised unswerving dedication to healing others and perfecting and writing down a scientific system of mental healing that anyone can practice today. She said, “The devotion of thought to an honest achievement makes the achievement possible” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p.199). She definitely would have applauded Wiles’ work ethic!
In 1866, after falling on the ice and sustaining injuries in which she was not expected to recover, Mrs. Eddy turned to her Bible for comfort. Pondering one of Christ Jesus’ healings in the New Testament, “she was filled with the conviction that her life was in God—that God was the only Life, the only I AM” (Robert Peel, Mary Baker Eddy: The Years of Discovery, p. 197). With that realization, she was healed from her injuries. The insights she gained at that time and after, she referred to as her discovery.
In the textbook of Christian Science, which she published in 1875, Mrs. Eddy describes the first few years of working out her Bible-based system of healing. “For three years after my discovery, I sought the solution of this problem of Mind-healing, searched the Scriptures and read little else, kept aloof from society, and devoted time and energy to discovering a positive rule. The search was sweet, calm, and buoyant with hope, not selfish nor depressing” (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 109).
She detailed her discovery in the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. She continued to edit and revise her book for the rest of her life. Mrs. Eddy had the reader in mind as each revision of Science and Health clarified her rules of healing, all of which she proved. She understood the importance of her life work and knew she needed to leave the most accurate statement of Christian Science for her students, and generations of students of this Science yet to come.
I have no doubt that the study of mathematics has been changed by the work of Andrew Wiles. In an interview about his math proof he said, “I knew…I would never let it go. I had to solve it.”
Mary Baker Eddy said, "I shall fulfil my mission, fight the good fight, and keep the faith." I also have no doubt that the world will continue to benefit from her revolutionary ideas about God, the illusive nature of matter, and the present, and spiritual nature of man—all of which bring healing.
If you’d like to find out more about Mrs. Eddy’s ideas, you can read from Science and Health here, or visit the website sponsored by The Mary Baker Eddy Library for the Betterment of Humanity.
I hope these insights will inspire readers to think more spiritually about themselves and the world around them!