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Yutaka Taniyama

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12 Nov 1927

Kisai (north of Tokyo), Japan

17 Nov 1958

Tokyo, Japan

Presentation Wikipedia
Yutaka Taniyama graduated from the University of Tokyo in 1953. He remained there as a 'special research student', then as an associate professor.

His interests were in algebraic number theory . He wrote Modern number theory (1957) in Japanese, jointly with G Shimura. Although they planned an English version, they lost enthusiasm and never found the time to write it before Taniyama's death. However they probably give the reason themselves in the 1957 preface:

We find it difficult to claim that the theory is presented in a completely satisfactory form. In any case, it may be said, we are allowed in the course of progress to climb to a certain height in order to look back at our tracks, and then to take a view of our destination.

Taniyama's fame is mainly due to two problems posed by him at the symposium on Algebraic Number Theory held in Tokyo in 1955. (His meeting with Weil at this symposium was to have a major influence on Taniyama's work.) These problems form the basis of a conjecture : every elliptic curve defined over the rational field is a factor of the Jacobian of a modular function field. This conjecture proved to be a major factor in the proof of Fermat's Last Theorem by Wiles .

With seemingly a great future in front of him, both in mathematics and his life (he was planning marriage) he took his own life. In a note he left he took great care to describe exactly where he had reached in the calculus and linear algebra courses he was teaching and to appologise to his colleagues for the trouble his death would cause them. As to the reason for taking his life he says

Until yesterday I had no definite intention of killing myself. ... I don't quite understand it myself, but it is not the result of a particular incident, nor of a specific matter.

About a month later the girl who he was planning to marry also committed suicide.

Source:School of Mathematics and Statistics University of St Andrews, Scotland