Fermat's Last Theorem
After 356 Years

A Lecture at the Everyone Seminar
University at Albany, October 22, 1993

William F. Hammond

GELLMU Edition with Retrospective Comments
April 21, 2001
Minor revisions: July 15, 2004

Table of Contents

  Comments for the GELLMU Edition... *
1  Introduction.... *
2  Elliptic curves... *
3  Elliptic curves over C... *
4  Modular forms... *
5  Euler products... *
6  Elliptic curves over the rational field Q... *
7  The Shimura map... *
8  The hypothetical Frey curve... *
9  -adic representations of GalQ¯Q... *
Appendix   Late 1993/early 1994 Status... *
References  ... *

Comments for the GELLMU Edition

Among the challenges that I have been facing with my GELLMU project are (1) convincing mathematicians that it is possible to use comfortable LaTeX-like markup in a fully rigorous way to prepare our articles so that they can have formal inclusion in the markup category known as XML and (2) then convincing them that high quality typesetting may be obtained from the ensuing XML document instance. Toward this end I have revisited the LaTeX markup for the official notes on my October 1993 Albany seminar presentation and edited what was LaTeX source to convert it to LaTeX-like source markup for the article document type that is part of the GELLMU didactic markup production system. Information about this system and my reasons for developing it may be found at http://www.albany.edu/~hammond/gellmu/.

After the time of the original talk and the subsequent preparation of my original write-up, there was a time — fortunately not long and also not to have been unexpected in the aftermath of so large a new development — when Andrew Wiles's argument underwent some revision in collaboration with Richard Taylor. Questions about its soundness appeared to have ceased by the fall of 1994, and the work announced by Wiles in June 1993, as revised, was published in the May 1995 issue of the Annals of Mathematics.

There has also been discussion, at times appearing to approach controversy, about the name of the conjecture arising from the 1955 meeting in Japan. What I termed the “Shimura-Taniyama-Weil” conjecture became known as the “modular curve conjecture” and then, from the summer of 1999, as the “modular curve theorem” after the work of Breuil, Conrad, Diamond, and Taylor in the same vein as the work of Wiles and Taylor for the “semi-stable” case.

I list a few references on these matters for the period since my original talk:

A. Wiles, “Modular elliptic curves and Fermat's Last Theorem”, Annals of Mathematics, (second series) vol. 141 (1995), pp. 443–551.
R. Taylor & A. Wiles, “Ring-theoretic properties of certain Hecke algebras”, Annals of Mathematics, (second series) vol. 141 (1995), pp. 553–572.
H. Darmon, F. Diamond, & R. Taylor, “Fermat's Last Theorem”, Current Developments in Mathematics, 1995, International Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1995.
G. Cornell, J. H. Silverman, & G. Stevens, Modular Forms and Fermat's Last Theorem, Springer-Verlag, 1997. This volume is the record of an instructional conference on number theory and arithmetic geometry held August 9-18, 1995 at Boston University.
J. Coates & S.T. Yau, Elliptic curves, modular forms, & Fermat's last theorem, 2nd edition, International Press, Cambridge, MA, 1997. Proceedings of the Conference on Elliptic Curves and Modular Forms held at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Dec. 1993.
B. Conrad, F. Diamond, & R. Taylor, “Modularity of certain potentially Barsotti-Tate Galois representations”, J. Amer. Math. Soc. 12 (1999), no. 2, 521-567. In this article the modular curve conjecture is proved for any elliptic curve defined over Q with conductor not divisible by 27.
C. Breuil, B. Conrad, F. Diamond, & R. Taylor, “On the modularity of elliptic curves over Q: wild 3-adic exercises”, J. Amer. Math. Soc., to appear.1

What follows has the same content as the original write-up except that the title of the Appendix has been changed from “Current Status” to “Late 1993/Early 1994 Status”.

1.  Introduction.

The purpose of this expository lecture is to explain the basic ideas underlying the final resolution of “Fermat's Last Theorem” after 356 years as a consequence of the reported establishment by Andrew Wiles of a sufficient portion of the “Shimura-Taniyama-Weil” conjecture. As these notes are being written, the work of Wiles is not available, and the sources of information available to the author are (1) reports by electronic mail, (2) the AMS Notices article [16] of K. Ribet, and (3) a preprint [18] by K. Rubin and A. Silverberg based on the June, 1993 lectures of Wiles at the Newton Institute in Cambridge, England. It should be noted that the fact that “Fermat's Last Theorem” is a consequence of sufficient knowledge of the theory of “elliptic curves” has been fully documented in the publications ([14], [15]) of K. Ribet.

“Fermat's Last Theorem” is the statement, having origin with Pierre de Fermat in 1637, that there are no positive integers x,y,z such that xn+yn=zn for any integer exponent n>2. Obviously, if there are no positive integer solutions x,y,z for a particular n, then there are certainly none for exponents that are multiples of n. Since every integer n>2 is divisible either by 4 or by some odd prime p, it follows that “Fermat's Last Theorem” is true if there are no solutions in positive integers of the equation xn+yn=zn when n=4 and when n=p for each prime p>2. The cases n=3,4 are standard fare for textbooks (e.g., see Hardy & Wright [6]) in elementary number theory. Therefore, this discussion will focus on the case n=p where p>3 is prime.

Very briefly, the idea is that we now know enough about the classification of non-degenerate plane cubic curves Fx,y=0 in two variables, also known as “elliptic curves”, with rational coefficients to know how to enumerate them in a logical way so that we may conclude that if there were positive integers a,b,c with ap+bp=cp, then the curve y2=xxapx+bp, which is an elliptic curve known as the “Frey curve”, would fall inside of the enumeration. Because the classification is enumerative, when one is presented with a particular elliptic curve with rational coefficients, one knows where to look for the curve in the classification. The curve just written is not to be found within the classification. As a consequence there cannot be positive integers a,b,c with ap+bp=cp.

The enumerative classification of non-degenerate plane cubic curves defined by polynomials with rational coefficients has been entirely conjectural (variously known as the “Taniyama Conjecture”, the “Weil Conjecture”, the “Taniyama-Shimura Conjecture”, ) until June, 1993. This conjecture, even as a conjecture, has served as an important motivating example for the idea of the “Langlands Program”, or perhaps of an extension of that program, that certain kinds of objects in geometry should give rise to certain group representations.

What seems to be believed today2 is that the portion of the enumerative classification pertaining to “semi-stable” elliptic curves has been proved by Andrew Wiles. That the existence of positive integers a,b,c with ap+bp=cp would violate the enumerative classification of semi-stable elliptic curves was established by 1987 through the work of G. Frey, J.-P. Serre, and K. Ribet.

The primary purpose of this lecture is to explain the enumerative classification of elliptic curves and to give a brief indication of the mathematics involved in showing that the Frey curve violates that classification.

2.  Elliptic curves

A polynomial fX,Y of degree d in two variables with coefficients in a field k gives rise to what is called an affine plane curve of degree d: for each field K containing k (more generally, for each commutative ring that is a k-algebra) one has the set C0K={x,yK2|fx,y=0}, and for each k-linear homomorphism KK one has the induced map C0KC0K. From the polynomial f one obtains a homogeneous polynomial of degree d in three variables with coefficients in k: FX,Y,Z=ZdfXZ,YZ, and the projective plane curve of degree d: CK={x,y,zP2K|Fx,y,z=0}, where PNK denotes N-dimensional projective space, which is the quotient set of KN+1{0} obtained by identifying points lying on the same line through the origin of KN+1. Since the projective plane P2K is the disjoint union of the affine plane {x,y,1|x,yK2} with the “(projective) line at infinityx,y,0|x,yP1K, it follows that CK is the disjoint union of C0K with the finite set of its points lying on the projective line at infinity.

An elliptic curve defined over k is the (projective) plane curve E given by a homogeneous polynomial F of degree 3 in three variables with coefficients in k such that (i) F is irreducible over the algebraic closure k¯ of k, (ii) the gradient vector F is a non-vanishing vector at points of k¯3{0} where F vanishes, and (iii) the set Ek is non-empty.

If k is any field, then after an isomorphism (see Silverman [27]) one may obtain a given elliptic curve E with an affine equation of the form (1)y2+a1xy+a3y=x3+a2x2+a4x+a6. Then the homogeneous equation for the intersection of EK with the line at infinity is (2)x3=0. Thus, in this case, E has a unique point on the line at infinity. If the characteristic of k is different from 2 and 33 then one may obtain an equation in “Weierstrass normal form”: (3)y2=4x3g2xg3, which is non-singular if and only if the cubic polynomial in the variable x has distinct roots in k¯.

Elliptic curves are the “group objects” in the category of algebraic curves that reside in projective space: for each extension field K of k the set EK of “K-valued points” of E is an abelian group. The group law on EK is characterized by two conditions:

  1. The origin is a given point of Ek.

  2. The points obtained by intersecting EK with any line in P2K, counted with multiplicities, add up to zero.

When E is given by an equation in the form (1), the origin is usually taken to be the unique point on the line at infinity. If two distinct points of EK are given, they determine a line in P2K; the intersection of that line with EK is given by a cubic polynomial in a parameter for the line which has two roots in K corresponding to the two given points; hence, there is a third root of that cubic polynomial in K; this root gives rise to a point of EK, which is the negative of the sum of the two given points. The negative of a given point of EK is obtained as the third point in the intersection with EK of the line through the given point and the origin.

For a given field k the set of homogeneous cubic polynomials in three variables is a vector space over k having the set of “monomials” of degree three in three variables as basis. Thus, the dimension of the space of homogeneous cubics is 10. The linear group GL3k acts on the space of cubics, and two cubic curves in P2 that are related by this action are isomorphic. Since GL3k is 9-dimensional, one is led to think of the family of isomorphism classes of elliptic curves as 1-dimensional since “non-singularity” is an “open” condition.

3.  Elliptic curves over C

When k is the field C of complex numbers, one knows (see, e.g., Ahlfors [1]) that for each lattice Λ in C the set of Λ-periodic meromorphic functions on the complex line C is the field C,, which is a quadratic extension of the rational function field C, where is the -function of Weierstrass. Moreover, satisfies the famous Weierstrass differential equation (4)z2=4z3g2Λzg3Λ; thus, the formula zz,z defines a holomorphic map from the punctured complex torus CΛ{0} to the affine cubic curve (5)y2=4x3g2Λxg3Λ; it should hardly be necessary to point out that this map extends to a holomorphic map from the torus CΛ to the corresponding (projective) elliptic curve by sending the origin of the torus to the unique point of the elliptic curve on the line at infinity. The classical theory of theta functions (see, e.g., Igusa [7] or Siegel [26]) leads to a direct demonstration that this map is a homomorphism from the group law on the complex torus to the group law previously described for an elliptic curve. It is not difficult to see that the analytic manifold given by any elliptic curve defined over C arises from some complex torus. Indeed each non-singular cubic curve E in P2C determines a compact connected complex-analytic group. Its universal cover is given by a holomorphic homomorphism CE which has some lattice as kernel.

Any two lattices in C are related by a change of real basis for C, i.e., by a matrix in GL2R. Consequently, there is only one real-analytic isomorphism class for the complex torus CΛ as Λ varies. The tori corresponding to two lattices are complex-analytically isomorphic if and only if the corresponding real-linear isomorphism of R2 satisfies the Cauchy-Riemann partial differential equations, i.e., if and only if the R-linear isomorphism is C-linear.

A lattice Λ may be represented concretely by an ordered basis {ω1,ω2}. If τ=ω2ω1, then τ is not real, and after permuting the basis members, if necessary, one may assume that τ is in the “upper-half plane”4 H of C. Observing that Λ is the image under the C-linear map zω1z of the lattice with ordered basis {1,τ}, one may assume that Λ is this latter lattice. Let Eτ be the complex torus CΛ. Allowing for change of basis subject to these assumptions on the basis, one sees that there is an isomorphism of complex-analytic groups EτEτ if (6)τ=aτ+bcτ+d, for some matrix γ=abcdSL2Z. Conversely, the monodromy principle may be used to show that every complex-analytic isomorphism among the complex tori Eτ arises in this way.

The coefficients g2 and g3 in the Weierstrass normal form (5) have very explicit constructions as infinite series (see, e.g., Ahlfors [1] or Serre [20]) determined by the given lattice; from this it is straightforward to see that gw is a modular form of weight 2w: if τ and τ are related by (6), then gwτ=λ2wgwτ,λ=cτ+d. Consequently, the map x,yλ2x,λ3y carries the curve given by (5) for τ isomorphically to the curve given by (5) for τ. The discriminant of the cubic polynomial in the Weierstrass normal form (5) is a modular form of weight 12, which up to a multiplicative constant, is: Δτ=g2327g32. Δ is a non-vanishing holomorphic function in H. The modular invariant ȷ ([20],[24]) is defined by: ȷτ=12g23Δ; it is a holomorphic function in the upper-half plane H with the property that ȷτ=ȷτ if and only if τ and τ are related by (6). Furthermore, ȷ assumes every value in C at some point of H. Consequently, the complex-analytic isomorphism classes of complex tori or, equivalently, the isomorphism classes of elliptic curves defined over C, are parameterized via ȷ in a one-to-one manner by the complex numbers.

Since this is an expository discourse, it is hoped that the reader will not feel patronized by having noted the fact that the coincidence of (1) the category of elliptic curves over C and (2) the category of complex tori is the “genus one” case of the coincidence (see Weyl [33]) of (i) the category of “complete” non-singular algebraic curves over C and (ii) the category of compact Riemann surfaces (one-dimensional connected complex-analytic manifolds).

Although the classification of elliptic curves over C via the ȷ-function is a result that is both beautiful and useful, and although two elliptic curves defined over Q that are isomorphic as curves defined over Q give rise to elliptic curves defined over C that have the same ȷ-invariant, it is not true that any two elliptic curves defined over Q having the same ȷ-invariant are isomorphic over Q. Thus, the classification of elliptic curves over C does not lead directly to the desired enumerative classification of elliptic curves defined over Q, but it does bring to the fore the notion of modular form, which is central in the study of elliptic curves defined over Q. What can be said easily is that, according to the Shimura-Taniyama-Weil conjecture, the isogeny classes of elliptic curves defined over Q are parameterized by certain modular forms.

4.  Modular forms

The group SL2Z is an infinite group that is generated by the two elements 0110,0111, which have orders 4 and 6 respectively. The action of SL2Z on the upper-half plane H by linear fractional transformations has kernel ±1001, and the quotient of SL2Z by this kernel is the group PSL2Z. It is not difficult to see that the set {τH|12Reτ12,τ1} is a “fundamental domain” for the action of PSL2Z on H. More precisely, this set meets each orbit, and the only redundancies are the boundary identifications arising from the maps ττ+1 and τ1τ. The quotient HPSL2Z is not compact since the fundamental domain is “open at the top”. Beyond that the modular invariant j induces a bicontinuous biholomorphic isomorphism of the quotient HPSL2Z with the affine line over C. Since ȷτ+1=ȷτ, and since for q=e2πiτ one has q<1 for τH, there is a holomorphic function ȷ in the punctured unit disk such that ȷq=ȷτ. Likewise Δ may be regarded as function of q, and one may use the calculus of residues to show that Δ has a simple zero at q=0; hence, ȷ has a simple pole at q=0, or, equivalently, ȷ has a simple pole at (the “missing top” of the fundamental domain). Thus, ȷ gives rise to a bicontinuous biholomorphic isomorphism HPSL2Z{}P1C.

A non-trivial element of PSL2Z has a fixed point in H if and only if it has finite order, and one's explicit knowledge of the fundamental domain makes it possible to see that the only elements of finite order are of order 2 or 35. A congruence subgroup of SL2Z is a subgroup Γ that contains one of the principal congruence subgroups; the principal congruence subgroup ΓN of level N is the set of all elements γ of SL2Z that are congruent modN to the identity matrix. The group Γ0N is the congruence subgroup of SL2Z consisting of all elements abcd for which c0modN. It is obvious that each congruence group Γ has finite index in SL2Z, and, consequently the quotient HΓ is a non-compact Riemann surface. Observe that for each level N the group Γ0N contains the parabolic element T=1101, which gives rise to the holomorphic map ττ+1 that fixes the point .

A modular form6 of weight w for Γ is a holomorphic function f in H that satisfies the functional equation (7)fγ·τ=cτ+dwfτ,γΓ and that is holomorphic at each cusp of Γ. The role of cusps for Γ is to provide a slightly larger set H* than H, H*=H{cusps}, where Γ acts such that H*Γ is a compact Riemann surface containing HΓ as the open complement of a finite set of points arising from cusps. The cusps of Γ are the points of the closure of the boundary of H in P1C = C{} that are fixed by some non-trivial parabolic element of Γ. When Γ = SL2Z, the set of cusps is Q{}. In view of (7) applied to the case γ=T one sees that a modular form f of any weight for the group Γ0N satisfies (8)fτ+1=fτ, and, therefore, f defines a holomorphic function in the variable q=e2πiτ for 0<q<1. The condition in the definition of modular form that f should be holomorphic at means that f as a function of q is holomorphic at q=0. Consequently, f admits an absolutely convergent Fourier expansion (9)fτ=m=0cme2πimτ, which is a Taylor series in q.

For any cusp ρ of a congruence group Γ one may define the notion holomorphic at ρ for a modular form f by an analogous procedure using an arbitrary parabolic element of Γ that fixes ρ instead of T. For a given congruence group Γ two cusps ρ and σ are equivalent if there is some element γ in Γ such that σ=γ·ρ. A modular form f is holomorphic at any cusp that is equivalent to another where it is holomorphic. The modular form f is a cuspform if, in addition to being holomorphic at each cusp, f vanishes at each cusp. For a given congruence group Γ a modular form vanishes at any cusp that is equivalent to another where it vanishes. The set of modular forms of given weight w forms a finite-dimensional vector space over C in which the set of cuspforms is a linear subspace of codimension bounded by the number of equivalence classes of cusps. In fact, using “Eisenstein series” one may show that the codimension of the space of cuspforms in the space of modular forms is often equal to the number of equivalence classes of cusps. For example, with the group Γ1=SL2Z there are no modular forms of odd weight, there is an Eisenstein series of every even weight greater than 2 that is not a cuspform, and every cusp is equivalent to . Furthermore, since is the only zero of the cusp form Δ (of the preceding section) in the quotient H*Γ1 and since is a simple zero of Δ, every cuspform for Γ1 is divisible by Δ. Thus, in this case, there are no cuspforms of weight less than 12.

It is not difficult to see that the cuspforms of weight 2 for a congruence group Γ correspond to holomorphic differential 1-forms (differentials of the first kind) on the compact Riemann surface X=H*Γ. Thus, the dimension of the space of cuspforms of weight 2 is the genus of X. The fact that there are no cuspforms of weight 2 for the group Γ1 matches the previously mentioned fact that X is P1. It is certain of the cuspforms of weight two for the groups Γ0N that, according to the Shimura-Taniyama-Weil conjecture, parameterize the isogeny classes of elliptic curves defined over Q.

5.  Euler products

It will be recalled that the infinite series n=11ns converges for Res>1 and gives rise by analytic continuation to a meromorphic function ζs in C. For Res>1 ζs admits the absolutely convergent infinite product expansion p11ps, taken over the set of primes. This “Euler product” may be regarded as an analtyic formulation of the principle of unique factorization in the ring Z of integers. It is, as well, the product taken over all the non-archimedean completions of the rational field Q (which completions Qp are indexed by the set of primes) of the “Mellin transform”7 in Qp ξps=11ps, of the canonical “Gaussian density” Φpx=1if x closure ofZinQp.0otherwise. , which Gaussian density is equal to its own Fourier transform. For the archimedean completion Q=R of the rational field Q one forms the classical Mellin transform ξs=πs2Γs2 of the classical Gaussian density Φx=eπx2, (which also is equal to its own Fourier transform). Then the function ξs=ξsζs=pξps is meromorphic in C, and satisfies the functional equation (10)ξ1s=ξs.

The connection of Riemann's ζ-function with the subject of modular forms begins with the observation that ζ2s is essentially the Mellin transform of θIx=θix1, where θ, which is a modular form of weight 12 and level 8, is defined in the upper-half plane H by the formula θτ=mZexpπiτm2. In fact, one of the classical proofs of the functional equation (10) is given by applying the Poisson summation formula8 to the function xexpπiτx2, while observing that the substitution s12s for ζ2s corresponds in the upper-half plane to the substitution τ1τ for the theta series.

If f is a cuspform for a congruence group Γ containing T=1101, and so, consequently, fτ+1=fτ, then, as previously explained, one has the Fourier expansion (9) fτ=m=1cme2πimτ. The Mellin transform φs of fI leads to the Dirichlet series (11)φs=m=1cmms, which may be seen to have a positive abscissa of convergence. One is led to the questions:

  1. For which cuspforms f does the associated Dirichlet series φs admit an analytic continuation with functional equation?

  2. For which cuspforms f does the associated Dirichlet series φs have an Euler product expansion?

For the “modular group” Γ1 the Dirichlet series associated to every cuspform of weight w admits an analtyic continution with functional equation under the substitution sws. Since Γ1 is generated by the two matrices T and W=0110 and since the functional equation of a modular form f relative to T is reflected in the formation of the Fourier series (9), the condition that an absolutely convergent series (9) is a modular form for Γ1 is the functional equation for a modular form relative solely to W. This is equivalent to the (properly formulated) functional equation for the associated Dirichlet series φ together with a “growth condition”. For the group Γ0N, with N>1, the question of a functional equation is more complicated since, although T is available, there is no reason for a cuspform to satisfy a law of transformation relative to W. But note that for any Γ the set of cuspforms of given weight for which the associated Dirichlet series have analytic continuations satisfying a given finite set of functional equations is a vector space. On the other hand, there is no reason to believe, even for level 1, that the cuspforms admitting an Euler product expansion form a vector space.

In a nutshell the cuspforms admitting Euler products are those which arise as eigenforms for an arithmetically defined commutative algebra of semi-simple operators on the space of cuspforms of a given weight introduced by E. Hecke. The theory of Hecke operators is reasonably simple for level 1 but somewhat more complicated in general (see, e.g., Shimura's book [24]).

Observing that the formula ds2=dx2+dy2y2,forτ=x+iyH, gives a (the hyperbolic) SL2R-invariant metric in H with associated invariant measure dμ=dxdyy2, one introduces the Petersson (Hermitian) inner product in the space of cuspforms of weight w for Γ with the definition: (12)f,g=HΓfτg¯τImτwdμτ. (Integration over the quotient HΓ makes sense since the integrand fτg¯τyw is Γ-invariant.)

For the modular group Γ1 the nth Hecke operator Tn=Twn is the linear endomorphism of the space of cuspforms of weight w arising from the following considerations. Let Sn be the set of 2×2 matrices in Z with determinant n. For M=abcdSn and for a function f in H one defines (13)M·wfτ=detMw1cτ+dwfτ, and then, observing that Γ1 under ·w acts trivially on the modular forms of weight w, one may define the Hecke operator Twn by (14)Twnf=MSnΓ1M·wfτ, where the quotient SnΓ1 refers to the action of Γ1 by left multiplication on the set Sn. One finds for m, n coprime that Tmn=TmTn, and furthermore one has Tpe+1=TpeTppw1Tpe1. Consequently, the operators Tn commute with each other, and, therefore, generate a commutative algebra of endomorphisms of the space of cusp forms of weight w for Γ1. It is not difficult to see that the Hecke operators are self-adjoint for the Petersson inner product on the space of cuspforms. Consequently, the space of cuspforms of weight w admits a basis of simultaneous eigenforms for the Hecke algebra. A “Hecke eigencuspform” is said to be normalized if its Fourier coefficient c1=1. If f is a normalized Hecke eigencuspform, then

Consequently, the Dirichlet series associated with a simultaneous Hecke eigencuspform of level 1 and weight w admits an Euler product (15)φs=p11cpps+pw12s. For example, when f is the unique normalized cuspform Δ of level 1 and weight 12, one has φs=p11τpps+p112s, where cp=τp is the function τ of Ramanujan.

For the congruence group Γ0N a Hecke eigencuspform of weight w gives rise to a Dirichlet series φs that admits an Euler product expansion whose factors at primes p coprime to N resemble those given by (15). In order for φs to satisfy a functional equation under the substitution sws, one needs to require that the eigencuspform f admits a functional equation not only with respect to each element of the group Γ0N but also with respect to the substitution in the upper-half plane H given by the matrix WN=01N0. A. Weil ([31]) showed that the cuspforms of weight 2 for the group Γ0N satisfying the appropriate functional equation under the mapping of H given by WN correspond precisely to Dirichlet series with certain growth conditions that admit analytic continuations as meromorphic functions in C satisfying a finite number of “twisted” functional equations.

The reader will have noticed that it is not extremely easy to characterize the cuspforms of weight 2 that conjecturally (Shimura-Taniyama-Weil) parameterize the isogeny classes of elliptic curves defined over the rational field Q. The Euler product is an extremely important part of the characterization since the Dirichlet series given by such an elliptic curve, as will be made explicit in the next section, is, by its very nature, an Euler product. Weil conjectures explicitly that the Dirichlet series with Euler product given by each elliptic curve defined over Q satisfies these conditions, i.e., is the Dirichlet series associated to some WN-compatible Hecke eigencuspform for the group Γ0N, where N is the “conductor” of E. This has led to efforts, related to the “Langlands program” to understand the WN-compatible Hecke eigencuspforms in a more intrinsic way as objects of representation theory over Q (see, e.g., the survey of Gelbart [4]).

6.  Elliptic curves over the rational field Q

Let E be an elliptic curve defined over Q. One may clear denominators from its cubic equation, if necessary, in order to arrive at an equation with integer coefficients having no common factor. While the Weierstrass normal form (3) is available to represent the isomorphism class of any elliptic curve over a field of characteristic different from 2 and 3, one needs the generalized Weierstrass form (16)y2+a1xy+a3y=x3+a2x2+a4x+a6 over an arbitrary field, and, moreover, for each elliptic curve E defined over Q there is a “best possible” equation (e.g., see Silverman [27]) of the form (16) with integer coefficients called the Neron model of E. With an abuse of notation E will denote the Neron model, which may be regarded as a “curve over Z”. (One would want to call it an “elliptic curve over Z” if it were “smooth over Z”, i.e., if it had good reduction at each prime p; the fact that every Neron model has bad reduction at least once corresponds under the “dictionary” to the fact that there are no cuspforms of weight two and level 1.) It then may be observed that for each prime p the Neron model gives rise to a cubic equation over the finite field Fp. For all but a finite number of p the equation over Fp is non-singular over F¯p, i.e., determines an elliptic curve Ep defined over Fp. One says in this case that E has “good reduction” mod p. Following Tate ([30]) one introduces b2=a12+4a2, b4=a1a3+2a4, b6=a32+4a6, and b8=b2a6a1a3a4+a2a32a42. Then one has Δ=b22b88b4327b62+9b2b4b6. The non-vanishing of Δ mod p is necessary and sufficient for E to have good reduction mod p. It follows that a prime p divides Δ if and only if E does not have good reduction mod p. If p is a prime for which E has “bad reduction”, then there is a single singular point of the reduced curve Ep, and either (a) Ep has distinct tangent lines at the singular point (semi-stable reduction) or (b) Ep has a single tangent line occurring with multiplicity 2. E is called semi-stable if it has either good or semi-stable reduction at each prime. The conductor of E is the integer N defined by N=ppνp, where νp=0if E has good reduction at p.1if E has semi-stable reduction at p.2+λp2otherwise. The non-negative integer λp cannot be positive unless p is 2 or 3. Tautologically, E is semi-stable if and only if its conductor N is square-free.

One defines the “L-series” of E by (17)LE,s=p|N11cppspN11cpps+p12s, where cp is defined when E has good reduction mod p by the formula cp=p+1EFp, and cp is defined when E has bad reduction mod p by cp=1if νp=1 and the tangents are defined over Fp.1if νp=1 with “irrational” tangents. 0if νp>1. One observes readily that the L-function of E codifies information about the number of points of E in the finite field Fp. Quite generally for an algebraic variety defined over Q the analogous codification of information obtained by counting points in the various reductions mod p of the variety yields the “Hasse-Weil zeta function”, which reflects “cohomological” information about E. The L-series of E is the essential part, corresponding to cohomology in dimension 1, of the Hasse-Weil zeta function of E. The Hasse-Weil zeta function is a special case of the general notion (Serre [19]) of “zeta function” for a scheme of finite type over Z.

One observes that LE,s resembles, at least insofar as one considers its Euler factors for primes p corresponding to good reductions of E, the Dirichlet series associated to a cuspform of weight 2 that admits an Euler product expansion. The observation of this resemblance is the beginning of an appreciation of the Shimura-Taniyama-Weil conjecture. One is led to ask to what extent the two classes of Dirichlet series with Euler products coincide. The conjecture states that the L-function of an elliptic curve defined over Q with conductor N arises from a cuspform for the group Γ0N that is compatible with the substitution in the upper-half plane H given by WN. Isogenous elliptic curves have the same L-function, and, conversely (cf. Tate [29] and Faltings [3]) two elliptic curves with the same L-function must be isogenous. Thus, the idea of the conjecture is that the isogeny classes of elliptic curves defined over Q with conductor N are in bijective correspondence with the set of Hecke eigencuspforms for the group Γ0N of level N, compatible with the extension of that group by the substitution arising from WN, having rational Fourier coefficients and not arising from levels dividing N.

7.  The Shimura map

Shimura ([23], [24], [25]) showed for a given WN-compatible Hecke eigencuspform f of weight 2 for the group Γ0N with rational Fourier coefficients how to construct how to construct an elliptic curve Ef defined over Q such that the Dirichlet series φs associated with f is the same as the L-function LEf,s. Thus, the Shimura-Taniyama-Weil conjecture becomes the statement that Shimura's map from the set of such cuspforms to the set of elliptic curves defined over Q is surjective up to isogeny. A rough description of the Shimura map follows.

Let Γ be a congruence subgroup of SL2Z, and let XΓ denote the compact Riemann surface H*Γ. The inclusion of Γ in Γ1 induces a “branched covering” XΓX1P1. One may use the elementary Riemann-Hurwitz formula from combinatorial topology to determine the Euler number, and consequently the genus, of XΓ. The genus is the dimension of the space of cuspforms of weight 2. Even when the genus is zero one obtains embeddings of XΓ in projective spaces Pr through holomorphic maps τf0τ,f1τ,,frτ, where f0,f1,,fr is a basis of the space of modular forms of weight w with w sufficiently large. For example, any w12 will suffice for Γ1. For Γ0N (but not for arbitrary Γ) one may find a basis of the space of modular forms of weight w having rational Fourier coefficients. Using the corresponding projective embedding one finds a model for X0N=XΓ0N over Q, i.e., an algebraic curve defined over Q in projective space that is isomorphic as a compact Riemann surface to X0N.

Associated with any “complete non-singular” algebraic curve (i.e., after Weyl [33], any compact Riemann surface) X of genus g is a complex torus, the “Jacobian” JX of X, that is the quotient of g-dimensional complex vector space Cg by the lattice Ω generated by the “period matrix”, which is the g×2g matrix in C obtained by integrating each of the g members ωi of a basis of the space of holomorphic differentials over each of the 2g loops in X representing the members of a homology basis in dimension 1. Furthermore, if one picks a base point z0 in X, then for any z in X, the path integral from z0 to z of each of the g holomorphic differentials is well-defined modulo the periods of the differential. One obtains a holomorphic map XJX from the formula zz0zω1,,z0zωgmodΩ. This map is, in fact, universal for pointed holomorphic maps from X to complex tori. Furthermore, the Jacobian JX is an algebraic variety that admits definition over any field of definition for X and z0, and the universal map also admits definition over any such field. The complex tori that admit embeddings in projective space are the abelian group objects in the category of projective varieties. They are called abelian varieties. Every abelian variety is isogenous to the product of “simple” abelian varieties: abelian varieties having no abelian subvarieties. Shimura showed that one of the simple isogeny factors of JX0N is an elliptic curve Ef defined over Q characterized by the fact that its one-dimensional space of holomorphic differentials induces on X0N, via the composition of the universal map with projection on Ef, the one-dimensional space of differentials on X0N determined by the cuspform f. He showed further that LEf,s is the Dirichlet series φs with Euler product given by f. An elliptic curve E defined over Q is said to be modular if it is isogenous to Ef for some WN-compatible Hecke eigencuspform of weight 2 for Γ0N. Equivalently E is modular if and only if LE,s is the Dirichlet series given by such a cuspform. The Shimura-Taniyama-Weil Conjecture states that every elliptic curve defined over Q is modular. Shimura [23] showed that this conjecture is true in the special case where the Z-module rank of the ring of endomorphisms of E is greater than one. In this case the point τ (notation of section 3) of the upper-half plane corresponding to EC is a quadratic imaginary number, and LE,s is a number-theoretic L-function associated with the corresponding imaginary quadratic number field.

8.  The hypothetical Frey curve

Let p5 be a prime. Based on the assumption, which presumably is false, that there are non-zero integers a,b,c such that ap+bp+cp=0, G. Frey observed that the elliptic curve given by the equation (18)y2=xxapx+bp, which is certainly defined over Q, would not be likely to be modular. Thus, if the Shimura-Taniyama-Weil Conjecture were true, then “Fermat's Last Theorem” would also be true. By 1987 it had been shown through the efforts of Frey, Ribet and Serre that the Frey curve (18) is not modular. The proof involves the systematic study of what is known as the “-adic representation” of an elliptic curve defined over Q, which is described in the next section. This same technique is what has been reported to be the basis of the proof of Wiles that every semi-stable elliptic curve defined over Q is modular. The Frey curve (18) has discriminant Δ=abcp. It is only slightly difficult to see that it is semi-stable, and, therefore, that its conductor N is the square-free integer abc. If the Frey curve is modular, one is led to a cuspform of weight 2 for Γ0abc. The theory of -adic representations leads one along a path of reductions of the level N from the initial level abc that enables one to conclude that there is a cuspform of weight 2 for Γ02; but the genus of X02 is 0, and, consequently, there is no such cuspform.

9.  -adic representations of GalQ¯Q

Let E be an elliptic curve defined over Q. Inasmuch as the group law E×EE is defined over Q it follows that for each integer m the group (scheme) Em of m-torsion points, i.e., for any field K containing Q the group EmK consisting of all x in EK such that mx=0, is defined by equations with rational coefficients. Consequently, any automorphism of K must carry the group EmK into itself. Since EC is the quotient of C by a lattice, it is clear that EmC is isomorphic to ZmZ×ZmZ; in fact, this latter group is isomorphic to EmK for each algebraically closed field of characteristic 0. There is a unique ring homomorphism ZmnZZmZ for each integer n1, and the family of these ring homomorphisms gives rise to an inverse system in the category of commutative rings. If one specializes to the case m=r, where is prime, the projective limit is the ring Z of -adic integers. The groups Em form a direct system with respect to the inclusions EmEmn, but, corresponding to the inverse system of the groups ZmZ, form an inverse system (the Tate system) with respect to the family of homorphisms EmnEm defined by xnx. If one specializes to the case m=r, where is prime, one obtains the projective limit (19)TE=proj limrErQ¯Z×Z, which is isomorphic to the cohomology module H1E,Z. The action of GalQ¯Q on the torsion groups Em induces an action of GalQ¯Q on the projective limit TE. This action gives rise to a representation ρ:GalQ¯QGL2Z, which is called the -adic representation of E. In considering ρ one is reminded of the action of the automorphism group of a manifold M on the cohomology H*M and, more particularly, the action of Gal(CR) on the cohomology of M when M is an algebraic manifold in PnC defined by equations with real coefficients, but one must keep in mind that the transformations of EQ¯ arising from the elements of GalQ¯Q are not even remotely continuous in the classical topology on EC. More generally, there is an algebraic way of defining the cohomology ring H*M,Z (see Tate [28]) when M is an algebraic variety with the property that automorphisms fixing the field of definition act on H*M,Z. An introduction to the study of ρ may be found in Serre's “Montreal Notes” [21].

The canonical ring homomorphism from the ring Z of -adic integers to the field ZZ induces a group homomorphism AA¯, called reduction mod , from the group GL2Z to the finite group GL2ZZ. An -adic representation ρ of GalQ¯Q is called modular if it is isomorphic to the representation ρ arising from the elliptic curve Ef that is the image under the Shimura map of a modular form f. A representation GalQ¯QGL2ZZ is called modular if it is isomorphic to ρ¯ for some modular -adic representation ρ. In the extensive detailed study of representations of GalQ¯Q particular attention has been paid to the question of when a representation in GL2Z is modular and also to the question of when a representation of GL2ZZ is modular. Under certain conditions (see Serre [22] and Ribet [14], [15]) one can show that ρ is modular if ρ¯ is modular, i.e., ρ is modular if it is congruent mod to a modular -adic representation. Such arguments are central both to the work of Ribet in showing that the Shimura-Taniyama-Weil conjecture implies “Fermat's Last Theorem” and to the reported work of Wiles in proving that semi-stable elliptic curves are modular. In the work of Ribet the basic idea is that the modularity of the Frey curve, which has square-free conductor N=abc, implies the existence of a cusp form of weight 2 and level N. By using an argument at the scene of the mod representations, Ribet shows that one may split each odd prime divisor out of the level N and arrive at the conclusion that there is a cusp form of weight 2 and level 2, which is not possible.

Appendix  Late 1993/early 1994 Status

Andrew Wiles posted the following announcement in the “UseNet” electronic news group called “sci.math”:

From: wiles@rugola.Princeton.EDU (Andrew Wiles)
Newsgroups: sci.math
Subject: Fermat status
Message-ID: <1993Dec4.013650.12700@Princeton.EDU>
Date: 4 Dec 93 01:36:50 GMT
Sender: news@Princeton.EDU (USENET News System)
Organization: Princeton University
Lines: 21
Originator: news@nimaster
Nntp-Posting-Host: rugola.princeton.edu
 In view of the speculation on the status of my work on the
Taniyama-Shimura conjecture and Fermat's Last Theorem I will give a
brief account of the situation. During the review process a number of
problems emerged, most of which have been resolved, but one in
particular I have not yet settled. The key reduction of (most cases
of ) the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture to the calculation of the Selmer
group is correct. However the final calculation of a precise upper
bound for the Selmer group in the semistable case (of the symmetric
square representation associated to a modular form) is not yet
complete as it stands. I believe that I will be able to finish this
in the near future using the ideas explained in my Cambridge
 The fact that a lot of work remains to be done on the
manuscript makes it still unsuitable for release as a preprint . In
my course in Princeton beginning in February I will give a full
account of this work.
Andrew Wiles.


[1]   Lars V. Ahlfors, Complex Analysis, 3rd edition, McGraw Hill, 1979.
[2]   A. Borel & W. Casselman, eds., Automorphic Forms, Representations, and L-Functions, Proceedings of Symposia in Pure Mathematics, vol. 33, (bound in two parts), American Mathematical Society, 1979.
[3]   G. Cornell & J. Silverman, eds., Arithmetic Geometry, Springer-Verlag, 1986.
[4]   S. Gelbart, “Elliptic curves and automorphic representations”, Advances in Mathematics, vol. 21 (1976), pp. 235-292.
[5]   ________ , “An elementary introduction to the Langlands program”, Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, vol. 10 (1984), pp. 177-219.
[6]   G. H. Hardy & E. M. Wright, An Introduction to the Theory of Numbers, 4th edition, Oxford University Press, 1960.
[7]   J.-I. Igusa, Theta Functions, Die Grundlehren der mathematischen Wissenschaften, vol. 194, Springer-Verlag, 1972.
[8]   Y. Ihara, K. Ribet, & J.-P. Serre, eds., Galois Groups over Q, Mathematical Sciences Research Institute Publications, no. 16, Springer-Verlag, 1989.
[9]   W. Kuyk et al., eds., Modular Functions of One Variable, I, II, ..., VI, Lecture Notes in Mathematics, nos. 320, 349, 350, 476, 601, 627, Springer-Verlag, 1973-1977.
[10]   R. P. Langlands, “Representation theory and arithmetic”, Lecture at the Symposium on the Mathematical Heritage of Hermann Weyl, Proceedings of Symposia in Pure Mathematics, vol. 48, pp. 25-33, American Mathematical Society, 1988.
[11]   B. Mazur, “Arithmetic on curves”, Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, vol. 14 (1986), pp. 207-259.
[12]   ________ , “Number Theory as Gadfly”, The American Mathematical Monthly, vol. 98 (1991), pp. 593-610.
[13]   A. Ogg, Modular Forms and Dirichlet Series, W. A. Benjamin, Inc., 1969.
[14]   K. Ribet, “On modular representations of GalQ¯Q arising from modular forms”, Inventiones Mathematicae, vol. 100 (1990), pp. 431-476.
[15]   ________ , “From the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture to Fermat's Last Theorem”, Annales de la Faculté des Sciences de Toulouse, vol. 11 (1990), pp.116-139.
[16]   ________ , “Wiles proves Taniyama's conjecture; Fermat's Last Theorem follows”, Notices of the American Mathematical Society, vol. 40 (1993), pp. 575-576.
[17]   K. Ribet, ed., Current Trends in Arithmetical Algebraic Geometry, Contemporary Mathematics, vol. 67, American Mathematical Society, 1987.
[18]   K. Rubin & A. Silverberg, “Wiles' proof of Fermat's Last Theorem”, preprint, November, 1993.
[19]   J.-P. Serre, “Zeta and L functions”, Arithmetical Algebraic Geometry: Proceedings of a Conference Held at Purdue University, December 5-7, 1963, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1965.
[20]   J.-P. Serre, A Course in Arithmetic, Graduate Texts in Mathematics, vol. 7, Springer-Verlag, 1973.
[21]   ________ , Abelian l-adic Representations and Elliptic Curves, W. A. Benjamin, Inc., 1968.
[22]   ________ , “Sur les représentations modulaires de degré 2 de GalQ¯Q”, Duke Mathematical Journal, vol. 54 (1987), pp. 179-230.
[23]   G. Shimura, “On elliptic curves with complex multiplication as factors of the Jacobians of modular function fields”, Nagoya Mathematical Journal, vol. 43 (1971), pp. 199-208.
[24]   ________ , Introduction to the Arithmetic Theory of Automorphic Forms, Iwanami Shoten Publishers and Princeton University Press, 1971.
[25]   ________ , “On the factors of the jacobian variety of a modular function field”, Journal of the Mathematical Society of Japan, vol. 25 (1973), pp. 523-544.
[26]   C. L. Siegel, Topics in Complex Function Theory, 3 volumes, Wiley-Interscience, 1969, 1971, 1973.
[27]   J. H. Silverman, The Arithmetic of Elliptic Curves, Graduate Texts in Mathematics, vol. 106, Springer-Verlag, 1986.
[28]   J. T. Tate, “Algebraic cycles and poles of zeta functions”, Arithmetical Algebraic Geometry: Proceedings of a Conference Held at Purdue University, December 5-7, 1963, Harper & Row, Publishers, 1965.
[29]   ________ , “Endomorphisms of abelian varieties over finite fields”, Inventiones Mathematicae, vol. 2 (1966), pp. 134-144.
[30]   ________ , “The arithmetic of elliptic curves”, Inventiones Mathematicae, vol. 23 (1974), pp. 179-206.
[31]   A. Weil, “Úber die Bestimmung Dirichletscher Reihen durch Funktionalgleichungen”, Mathematische Annalen, vol. 168 (1967), pp. 149-56.
[32]   ________ , Dirichlet Series and Automorphic Forms, Lecture Notes in Mathematics, no. 189, Springer-Verlag, 1971.
[33]   Hermann Weyl, The Concept of a Riemann Surface, (English translation by Gerald R. MacLane), Addison-Wesley, 1964.


  1. * Based on a citation found at http://www.math.harvard.edu/~rtaylor/ on 21 April 2001.
  2. * As of the time of this write-up Wiles has stated that a portion of what he announced in June needs further justification and that he expects to be able to complete it. See the appendix.
  3. * Thus, one sees that the primes 2 and 3 play a special role in the theory of elliptic curves.
  4. * The fact that the half-plane is a model of non-Euclidean geometry led a popular columnist in November, 1993 to question the validity of the work being discussed here.
  5. * Thus, one sees that the primes 2 and 3 play a special role in the study of the group SL2Z.
  6. * Details concerning the discussion in this section may be found in Shimura's book [24].
  7. * The Mellin transform is, more or less, Fourier transform on the multiplicative group. Classically, the Mellin transform φ of f is given formally by φs=0fxxsdxx.
  8. * On the other hand, (10) may be regarded directly as a divergent model of the Poisson summation formula.