E.T. Bell called Fermat the Prince of Amateurs. One hundred years ago Ramanujan amazed the mathematical world. In between were many important amateurs and mathematicians off the beaten path, but what about the last one hundred years? Is it still possible for an amateur to make a significant contribution to mathematics? Can anyone cite examples of important works done by amateur mathematicians in the last one hundred years?

For a definition of amateur:

I think that to make the term "amateur" meaningful, it should mean someone who has had no formal instruction in mathematics past undergraduate school and does not maintain any sort of professional connection with mathematicians in the research world. – Harry Gindi

plentyout there who arguably make a significant contribution. $\endgroup$ – Todd Trimble♦ Oct 30 '10 at 16:0016more comments