World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Field theory (mathematics)


Field theory (mathematics)

Field theory is a branch of mathematics which studies the properties of fields. A field is a mathematical entity for which addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are well-defined.

Please refer to Glossary of field theory for some basic definitions in field theory.


The concept of field was used implicitly by Niels Henrik Abel and Évariste Galois in their work on the solvability of equations.

In 1871, Richard Dedekind, called a set of real or complex numbers which is closed under the four arithmetic operations a "field".

In 1881, Leopold Kronecker defined what he called a "domain of rationality", which is a field extension of the field of rational numbers in modern terms.[1]

In 1893, Heinrich M. Weber gave the first clear definition of an abstract field.

In 1910 Ernst Steinitz published the influential paper Algebraische Theorie der Körper (German: Algebraic Theory of Fields). In this paper he axiomatically studied the properties of fields and defined many important field theoretic concepts like prime field, perfect field and the transcendence degree of a field extension.

Galois, who did not have the term "field" in mind, is honored to be the first mathematician linking group theory and field theory. Galois theory is named after him. However it was Emil Artin who first developed the relationship between groups and fields in great detail during 1928-1942.


Fields are important objects of study in algebra since they provide a useful generalization of many number systems, such as the rational numbers, real numbers, and complex numbers. In particular, the usual rules of associativity, commutativity and distributivity hold. Fields also appear in many other areas of mathematics; see the examples below.

When abstract algebra was first being developed, the definition of a field usually did not include commutativity of multiplication, and what we today call a field would have been called either a commutative field or a rational domain. In contemporary usage, a field is always commutative. A structure which satisfies all the properties of a field except possibly for commutativity, is today called a division ring or division algebra or sometimes a skew field. Also non-commutative field is still widely used. In French, fields are called corps (literally, body), generally regardless of their commutativity. When necessary, a (commutative) field is called corps commutatif and a skew field corps gauche. The German word for body is Körper and this word is used to denote fields; hence the use of the blackboard bold \mathbb K to denote a field.

The concept of fields was first (implicitly) used to prove that there is no general formula expressing in terms of radicals the roots of a polynomial with rational coefficients of degree 5 or higher.

Extensions of a field

An extension of a field k is just a field K containing k as a subfield. One distinguishes between extensions having various qualities. For example, an extension K of a field k is called algebraic, if every element of K is a root of some polynomial with coefficients in k. Otherwise, the extension is called transcendental.

The aim of Galois theory is the study of algebraic extensions of a field.

Closures of a field

Given a field k, various kinds of closures of k may be introduced. For example, the algebraic closure, the separable closure, the cyclic closure et cetera. The idea is always the same: If P is a property of fields, then a P-closure of k is a field K containing k, having property P, and which is minimal in the sense that no proper subfield of K that contains k has property P. For example if we take P(K) to be the property "every nonconstant polynomial f in K[t] has a root in K", then a P-closure of k is just an algebraic closure of k. In general, if P-closures exist for some property P and field k, they are all isomorphic. However, there is in general no preferable isomorphism between two closures.

Applications of field theory

The concept of a field is of use, for example, in defining vectors and matrices, two structures in linear algebra whose components can be elements of an arbitrary field.

Finite fields are used in number theory, Galois theory and coding theory, and again algebraic extension is an important tool.

Binary fields, fields of characteristic 2, are useful in computer science.

Some useful theorems

See also


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.