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In an article by George Johnson in the New York Times back in 1999, it says that an amateur mathematician from India once sent Ian Stewart a proof of the Ramanujan-Nagell theorem that the Diophantine equation $x^2 + 7 = 2^n$ is solvable if and only if $n = 3, 4, 5, 7, 15$. The proof "was badly typed on strange paper and cast in an idiosyncratic style that would have given any journal editor the impression that the writer was a crank." However, it was correct, and after getting some help cleaning it up, the man published the proof.

To me, this is an inspiring story, and I would like to know the name of this man and to see the paper. I asked Ian Stewart but he said that he remembers the incident but not the identity of the man in question. I would try asking George Johnson but I am not sure how to contact him. I searched MathSciNet but was not able to guess which paper it was.

Does anyone know more details?

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Johnson's article is based on the book "Mathematical cranks" by Underwood Dudley. Does the book have the name you are looking for? Let me mention that Dudley was sued by one personality mentioned in the book. I remember reading Richard Posner's decision a few years back - it is beautifully worded... – Igor Pak Jun 5 '10 at 7:05
Unfortunately, Mathematical Cranks does not contain the word "Nagell" (according to amazon's search inside the book), so I'm afraid the answer is not there. – John Stillwell Jun 5 '10 at 7:24
I have no details about this story, but George Johnson has a homepage which includes his [contact information][2]. You might want to send him an e-mail. (This answer should have been a comment, but I'm unable to post comments just yet) [2]: – Liran Rotem Jun 5 '10 at 9:07
Having emailed George Johnson, he says that he does not know anything beyond what is said in the article. – bhwang Jun 6 '10 at 5:01
Well, I hope George Johnson was not bothered by the fact that I emailed him as well. Of course he said the same thing in his reply to me. I'm wondering, as a matter of general MO etiquette, whether the person who asked the question in the first place should be assumed to be the one to contact a suggested person. Otherwise the poor recipient may be barraged by a slew of email messages all asking the same thing. – Timothy Chow Jun 6 '10 at 18:03

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