TheInfoList

OR: Number theory (or arithmetic or higher arithmetic in older usage) is a branch of
pure mathematics Pure mathematics is the study of mathematical concepts independently of any application outside mathematics. These concepts may originate in real-world concerns, and the results obtained may later turn out to be useful for practical applications, ...
devoted primarily to the study of the
integer An integer is the number zero (), a positive natural number (, , , etc.) or a negative integer with a minus sign ( −1, −2, −3, etc.). The negative numbers are the additive inverses of the corresponding positive numbers. In the languag ...
s and integer-valued functions. German mathematician
Carl Friedrich Gauss Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss (; german: Gauß ; la, Carolus Fridericus Gauss; 30 April 177723 February 1855) was a German mathematician and physicist who made significant contributions to many fields in mathematics and science. Sometimes refe ...
(1777–1855) said, "Mathematics is the queen of the sciences—and number theory is the queen of mathematics."German original: "Die Mathematik ist die Königin der Wissenschaften, und die Arithmetik ist die Königin der Mathematik." Number theorists study
prime number A prime number (or a prime) is a natural number greater than 1 that is not a Product (mathematics), product of two smaller natural numbers. A natural number greater than 1 that is not prime is called a composite number. For example, 5 is prime ...
s as well as the properties of mathematical objects made out of integers (for example,
rational number In mathematics, a rational number is a number that can be expressed as the quotient or fraction of two integers, a numerator and a non-zero denominator . For example, is a rational number, as is every integer (e.g. ). The set of all ratio ...
s) or defined as generalizations of the integers (for example, algebraic integers). Integers can be considered either in themselves or as solutions to equations ( Diophantine geometry). Questions in number theory are often best understood through the study of analytical objects (for example, the Riemann zeta function) that encode properties of the integers, primes or other number-theoretic objects in some fashion (
analytic number theory In mathematics, analytic number theory is a branch of number theory that uses methods from mathematical analysis to solve problems about the integers. It is often said to have begun with Peter Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet's 1837 introduction of Dir ...
). One may also study
real number In mathematics, a real number is a number that can be used to measure a ''continuous'' one- dimensional quantity such as a distance, duration or temperature. Here, ''continuous'' means that values can have arbitrarily small variations. Ever ...
s in relation to rational numbers, for example, as approximated by the latter ( Diophantine approximation). The older term for number theory is ''arithmetic''. By the early twentieth century, it had been superseded by "number theory".Already in 1921, T. L. Heath had to explain: "By arithmetic, Plato meant, not arithmetic in our sense, but the science which considers numbers in themselves, in other words, what we mean by the Theory of Numbers." (The word " arithmetic" is used by the general public to mean " elementary calculations"; it has also acquired other meanings in
mathematical logic Mathematical logic is the study of formal logic within mathematics. Major subareas include model theory, proof theory, set theory, and recursion theory. Research in mathematical logic commonly addresses the mathematical properties of formal s ...
, as in ''
Peano arithmetic In mathematical logic, the Peano axioms, also known as the Dedekind–Peano axioms or the Peano postulates, are axioms for the natural numbers presented by the 19th century Italian mathematician Giuseppe Peano. These axioms have been used nearly ...
'', and
computer science Computer science is the study of computation, automation, and information. Computer science spans theoretical disciplines (such as algorithms, theory of computation, information theory, and automation) to practical disciplines (includin ...
, as in ''
floating-point arithmetic In computing, floating-point arithmetic (FP) is arithmetic that represents real numbers approximately, using an integer with a fixed precision, called the significand, scaled by an integer exponent of a fixed base. For example, 12.345 can ...
''.) The use of the term ''arithmetic'' for ''number theory'' regained some ground in the second half of the 20th century, arguably in part due to French influence.Take, for example, . In 1952, Davenport still had to specify that he meant ''The Higher Arithmetic''. Hardy and Wright wrote in the introduction to ''
An Introduction to the Theory of Numbers ''An Introduction to the Theory of Numbers'' is a classic textbook in the field of number theory, by G. H. Hardy and E. M. Wright. The book grew out of a series of lectures by Hardy and Wright and was first published in 1938. The third edition ...
'' (1938): "We proposed at one time to change he titleto ''An introduction to arithmetic'', a more novel and in some ways a more appropriate title; but it was pointed out that this might lead to misunderstandings about the content of the book."
In particular, ''arithmetical'' is commonly preferred as an adjective to ''number-theoretic''.

# History

## Origins

### Dawn of arithmetic

The earliest historical find of an arithmetical nature is a fragment of a table: the broken clay tablet
Plimpton 322 Plimpton 322 is a Babylonian clay tablet, notable as containing an example of Babylonian mathematics. It has number 322 in the G.A. Plimpton Collection at Columbia University. This tablet, believed to have been written about 1800 BC, has a tab ...
( Larsa, Mesopotamia, ca. 1800 BC) contains a list of "
Pythagorean triple A Pythagorean triple consists of three positive integers , , and , such that . Such a triple is commonly written , and a well-known example is . If is a Pythagorean triple, then so is for any positive integer . A primitive Pythagorean triple is ...
s", that is, integers $\left(a,b,c\right)$ such that $a^2+b^2=c^2$. The triples are too many and too large to have been obtained by brute force. The heading over the first column reads: "The ''takiltum'' of the diagonal which has been subtracted such that the width..." The table's layout suggests that it was constructed by means of what amounts, in modern language, to the identity :$\left\left(\frac \left\left(x - \frac\right\right)\right\right)^2 + 1 = \left\left(\frac \left\left(x + \frac \right\right)\right\right)^2,$ which is implicit in routine Old Babylonian exercises. If some other method was used, the triples were first constructed and then reordered by $c/a$, presumably for actual use as a "table", for example, with a view to applications. It is not known what these applications may have been, or whether there could have been any;
Babylonian astronomy Babylonian astronomy was the study or recording of celestial objects during the early history of Mesopotamia. Babylonian astronomy seemed to have focused on a select group of stars and constellations known as Ziqpu stars. These constellation ...
, for example, truly came into its own only later. It has been suggested instead that the table was a source of numerical examples for school problems.. This is controversial. See
Plimpton 322 Plimpton 322 is a Babylonian clay tablet, notable as containing an example of Babylonian mathematics. It has number 322 in the G.A. Plimpton Collection at Columbia University. This tablet, believed to have been written about 1800 BC, has a tab ...
. Robson's article is written polemically with a view to "perhaps ..knocking limpton 322off its pedestal" ; at the same time, it settles to the conclusion that
..the question "how was the tablet calculated?" does not have to have the same answer as the question "what problems does the tablet set?" The first can be answered most satisfactorily by reciprocal pairs, as first suggested half a century ago, and the second by some sort of right-triangle problems .
Robson takes issue with the notion that the scribe who produced Plimpton 322 (who had to "work for a living", and would not have belonged to a "leisured middle class") could have been motivated by his own "idle curiosity" in the absence of a "market for new mathematics".
While Babylonian number theory—or what survives of Babylonian mathematics that can be called thus—consists of this single, striking fragment, Babylonian algebra (in the secondary-school sense of "
algebra Algebra () is one of the broad areas of mathematics. Roughly speaking, algebra is the study of mathematical symbols and the rules for manipulating these symbols in formulas; it is a unifying thread of almost all of mathematics. Elementary ...
") was exceptionally well developed. Late Neoplatonic sources
Iamblichus Iamblichus (; grc-gre, Ἰάμβλιχος ; Aramaic: 𐡉𐡌𐡋𐡊𐡅 ''Yamlīḵū''; ) was a Syrian neoplatonic philosopher of Arabic origin. He determined a direction later taken by neoplatonism. Iamblichus was also the biographer ...
, ''Life of Pythagoras'',(trans., for example, ) cited in . See also Porphyry, ''Life of Pythagoras'', paragraph 6, in Van der Waerden sustains the view that Thales knew Babylonian mathematics.
state that Pythagoras learned mathematics from the Babylonians. Much earlier sourcesHerodotus (II. 81) and Isocrates (''Busiris'' 28), cited in: . On Thales, see Eudemus ap. Proclus, 65.7, (for example, ) cited in: . Proclus was using a work by
Eudemus of Rhodes Eudemus of Rhodes ( grc-gre, Εὔδημος) was an ancient Greek philosopher, considered the first historian of science, who lived from c. 370 BCE until c. 300 BCE. He was one of Aristotle's most important pupils, editing his teacher's work and m ...
(now lost), the ''Catalogue of Geometers''. See also introduction, on Proclus's reliability.
state that
Thales Thales of Miletus ( ; grc-gre, Θαλῆς; ) was a Greek mathematician, astronomer, statesman, and pre-Socratic philosopher from Miletus in Ionia, Asia Minor. He was one of the Seven Sages of Greece. Many, most notably Aristotle, regarded ...
and Pythagoras traveled and studied in
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مصر , ), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a transcontinental country spanning the northeast corner of Africa and southwest corner of Asia via a land bridge formed by the Sinai Peninsula. It is bordered by the Medite ...
.
Euclid Euclid (; grc-gre, Εὐκλείδης; BC) was an ancient Greek mathematician active as a geometer and logician. Considered the "father of geometry", he is chiefly known for the '' Elements'' treatise, which established the foundations of ...
IX 21–34 is very probably Pythagorean;, cited in: . it is very simple material ("odd times even is even", "if an odd number measures dividesan even number, then it also measures divideshalf of it"), but it is all that is needed to prove that $\sqrt$ is irrational. Pythagorean mystics gave great importance to the odd and the even. The discovery that $\sqrt$ is irrational is credited to the early Pythagoreans (pre- Theodorus).Plato, ''Theaetetus'', p. 147 B, (for example, ), cited in : "Theodorus was writing out for us something about roots, such as the roots of three or five, showing that they are incommensurable by the unit;..." ''See also''
Spiral of Theodorus In geometry, the spiral of Theodorus (also called ''square root spiral'', ''Einstein spiral'', ''Pythagorean spiral'', or ''Pythagoras's snail'') is a spiral composed of right triangles, placed edge-to-edge. It was named after Theodorus of Cyrene ...
.
By revealing (in modern terms) that numbers could be irrational, this discovery seems to have provoked the first foundational crisis in mathematical history; its proof or its divulgation are sometimes credited to
Hippasus Hippasus of Metapontum (; grc-gre, Ἵππασος ὁ Μεταποντῖνος, ''Híppasos''; c. 530 – c. 450 BC) was a Greek philosopher and early follower of Pythagoras. Little is known about his life or his beliefs, but he is sometime ...
, who was expelled or split from the Pythagorean sect. This forced a distinction between ''numbers'' (integers and the rationals—the subjects of arithmetic), on the one hand, and ''lengths'' and ''proportions'' (which we would identify with real numbers, whether rational or not), on the other hand. The Pythagorean tradition spoke also of so-called
polygonal In geometry, a polygon () is a plane figure that is described by a finite number of straight line segments connected to form a closed ''polygonal chain'' (or ''polygonal circuit''). The bounded plane region, the bounding circuit, or the two t ...
or
figurate numbers The term figurate number is used by different writers for members of different sets of numbers, generalizing from triangular numbers to different shapes (polygonal numbers) and different dimensions (polyhedral numbers). The term can mean * polygo ...
. While square numbers,
cubic number In arithmetic and algebra, the cube of a number is its third power, that is, the result of multiplying three instances of together. The cube of a number or any other mathematical expression is denoted by a superscript 3, for example or . T ...
s, etc., are seen now as more natural than
triangular number A triangular number or triangle number counts objects arranged in an equilateral triangle. Triangular numbers are a type of figurate number, other examples being square numbers and cube numbers. The th triangular number is the number of dots i ...
s, pentagonal numbers, etc., the study of the sums of triangular and pentagonal numbers would prove fruitful in the early modern period (17th to early 19th century). We know of no clearly arithmetical material in ancient Egyptian or
Vedic upright=1.2, The Vedas are ancient Sanskrit texts of Hinduism. Above: A page from the '' Atharvaveda''. The Vedas (, , ) are a large body of religious texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the ...
sources, though there is some algebra in each. The
Chinese remainder theorem In mathematics, the Chinese remainder theorem states that if one knows the remainders of the Euclidean division of an integer ''n'' by several integers, then one can determine uniquely the remainder of the division of ''n'' by the product of the ...
appears as an exercise in '' Sunzi Suanjing'' (3rd, 4th or 5th century CE).The date of the text has been narrowed down to 220–420 CE (Yan Dunjie) or 280–473 CE (Wang Ling) through internal evidence (= taxation systems assumed in the text). See . (There is one important step glossed over in Sunzi's solution:''Sunzi Suanjing'', Ch. 3, Problem 26, in :
6Now there are an unknown number of things. If we count by threes, there is a remainder 2; if we count by fives, there is a remainder 3; if we count by sevens, there is a remainder 2. Find the number of things. ''Answer'': 23.
''Method'': If we count by threes and there is a remainder 2, put down 140. If we count by fives and there is a remainder 3, put down 63. If we count by sevens and there is a remainder 2, put down 30. Add them to obtain 233 and subtract 210 to get the answer. If we count by threes and there is a remainder 1, put down 70. If we count by fives and there is a remainder 1, put down 21. If we count by sevens and there is a remainder 1, put down 15. When numberexceeds 106, the result is obtained by subtracting 105.
it is the problem that was later solved by
Āryabhaṭa Aryabhata (ISO: ) or Aryabhata I (476–550 CE) was an Indian mathematician and astronomer of the classical age of Indian mathematics and Indian astronomy. He flourished in the Gupta Era and produced works such as the ''Aryabhatiya'' (which ...
's Kuṭṭaka – see
below Below may refer to: * Earth * Ground (disambiguation) * Soil *Floor * Bottom (disambiguation) *Less than * Temperatures below freezing * Hell or underworld People with the surname *Ernst von Below (1863–1955), German World War I general *Fred ...
.) There is also some numerical mysticism in Chinese mathematics,See, for example, ''Sunzi Suanjing'', Ch. 3, Problem 36, in :
6Now there is a pregnant woman whose age is 29. If the gestation period is 9 months, determine the sex of the unborn child. ''Answer'': Male.
''Method'': Put down 49, add the gestation period and subtract the age. From the remainder take away 1 representing the heaven, 2 the earth, 3 the man, 4 the four seasons, 5 the five phases, 6 the six pitch-pipes, 7 the seven stars f the Dipper 8 the eight winds, and 9 the nine divisions f China under Yu the Great If the remainder is odd, he sexis male and if the remainder is even, he sexis female.
This is the last problem in Sunzi's otherwise matter-of-fact treatise.
but, unlike that of the Pythagoreans, it seems to have led nowhere. Like the Pythagoreans' perfect numbers, magic squares have passed from superstition into recreation.

### Classical Greece and the early Hellenistic period

Aside from a few fragments, the mathematics of Classical Greece is known to us either through the reports of contemporary non-mathematicians or through mathematical works from the early
Hellenistic period In Classical antiquity, the Hellenistic period covers the time in Mediterranean history after Classical Greece, between the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC and the emergence of the Roman Empire, as signified by the Battle of Actium in ...
. In the case of number theory, this means, by and large, ''
Plato Plato ( ; grc-gre, Πλάτων ; 428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC) was a Greek philosopher born in Athens during the Classical period in Ancient Greece. He founded the Platonist school of thought and the Academy, the first institution ...
'' and ''Euclid'', respectively. While Asian mathematics influenced Greek and Hellenistic learning, it seems to be the case that Greek mathematics is also an indigenous tradition. Eusebius, PE X, chapter 4 mentions of Pythagoras:
"In fact the said Pythagoras, while busily studying the wisdom of each nation, visited Babylon, and Egypt, and all Persia, being instructed by the Magi and the priests: and in addition to these he is related to have studied under the Brahmans (these are Indian philosophers); and from some he gathered astrology, from others geometry, and arithmetic and music from others, and different things from different nations, and only from the wise men of Greece did he get nothing, wedded as they were to a poverty and dearth of wisdom: so on the contrary he himself became the author of instruction to the Greeks in the learning which he had procured from abroad."
Aristotle claimed that the philosophy of Plato closely followed the teachings of the Pythagoreans, and Cicero repeats this claim: ''Platonem ferunt didicisse Pythagorea omnia'' ("They say Plato learned all things Pythagorean"). Plato had a keen interest in mathematics, and distinguished clearly between arithmetic and calculation. (By ''arithmetic'' he meant, in part, theorising on number, rather than what ''arithmetic'' or ''number theory'' have come to mean.) It is through one of Plato's dialogues—namely, ''Theaetetus''—that we know that Theodorus had proven that $\sqrt, \sqrt, \dots, \sqrt$ are irrational. Theaetetus was, like Plato, a disciple of Theodorus's; he worked on distinguishing different kinds of incommensurables, and was thus arguably a pioneer in the study of number systems. (Book X of
Euclid's Elements The ''Elements'' ( grc, Στοιχεῖα ''Stoikheîa'') is a mathematical treatise consisting of 13 books attributed to the ancient Greek mathematician Euclid in Alexandria, Ptolemaic Egypt 300 BC. It is a collection of definitions, postul ...
is described by Pappus as being largely based on Theaetetus's work.) Euclid devoted part of his ''Elements'' to prime numbers and divisibility, topics that belong unambiguously to number theory and are basic to it (Books VII to IX of Euclid's Elements). In particular, he gave an algorithm for computing the greatest common divisor of two numbers (the Euclidean algorithm; ''Elements'', Prop. VII.2) and the first known proof of the infinitude of primes (''Elements'', Prop. IX.20). In 1773, Lessing published an
epigram An epigram is a brief, interesting, memorable, and sometimes surprising or satirical statement. The word is derived from the Greek "inscription" from "to write on, to inscribe", and the literary device has been employed for over two mille ...
he had found in a manuscript during his work as a librarian; it claimed to be a letter sent by
Archimedes Archimedes of Syracuse (;; ) was a Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, astronomer, and inventor from the ancient city of Syracuse in Sicily. Although few details of his life are known, he is regarded as one of the leading scientists ...
to
Eratosthenes Eratosthenes of Cyrene (; grc-gre, Ἐρατοσθένης ;  – ) was a Greek polymath: a mathematician, geographer, poet, astronomer, and music theorist. He was a man of learning, becoming the chief librarian at the Library of Alex ...
. The epigram proposed what has become known as
Archimedes's cattle problem Archimedes's cattle problem (or the or ) is a problem in Diophantine analysis, the study of polynomial equations with integer solutions. Attributed to Archimedes, the problem involves computing the number of cattle in a herd of the sun god fro ...
; its solution (absent from the manuscript) requires solving an indeterminate quadratic equation (which reduces to what would later be misnamed Pell's equation). As far as we know, such equations were first successfully treated by the Indian school. It is not known whether Archimedes himself had a method of solution.

### Diophantus

Very little is known about Diophantus of Alexandria; he probably lived in the third century AD, that is, about five hundred years after Euclid. Six out of the thirteen books of Diophantus's '' Arithmetica'' survive in the original Greek and four more survive in an Arabic translation. The ''Arithmetica'' is a collection of worked-out problems where the task is invariably to find rational solutions to a system of polynomial equations, usually of the form $f\left(x,y\right)=z^2$ or $f\left(x,y,z\right)=w^2$. Thus, nowadays, we speak of ''Diophantine equations'' when we speak of polynomial equations to which rational or integer solutions must be found. One may say that Diophantus was studying rational points, that is, points whose coordinates are rational—on
curve In mathematics, a curve (also called a curved line in older texts) is an object similar to a line, but that does not have to be straight. Intuitively, a curve may be thought of as the trace left by a moving point. This is the definition that ...
s and algebraic varieties; however, unlike the Greeks of the Classical period, who did what we would now call basic algebra in geometrical terms, Diophantus did what we would now call basic algebraic geometry in purely algebraic terms. In modern language, what Diophantus did was to find rational parametrizations of varieties; that is, given an equation of the form (say) $f\left(x_1,x_2,x_3\right)=0$, his aim was to find (in essence) three
rational functions In mathematics, a rational function is any function that can be defined by a rational fraction, which is an algebraic fraction such that both the numerator and the denominator are polynomials. The coefficients of the polynomials need not be ...
$g_1, g_2, g_3$ such that, for all values of $r$ and $s$, setting $x_i = g_i\left(r,s\right)$ for $i=1,2,3$ gives a solution to $f\left(x_1,x_2,x_3\right)=0.$ Diophantus also studied the equations of some non-rational curves, for which no rational parametrisation is possible. He managed to find some rational points on these curves ( elliptic curves, as it happens, in what seems to be their first known occurrence) by means of what amounts to a tangent construction: translated into coordinate geometry (which did not exist in Diophantus's time), his method would be visualised as drawing a tangent to a curve at a known rational point, and then finding the other point of intersection of the tangent with the curve; that other point is a new rational point. (Diophantus also resorted to what could be called a special case of a secant construction.) While Diophantus was concerned largely with rational solutions, he assumed some results on integer numbers, in particular that every integer is the sum of four squares (though he never stated as much explicitly).

### Āryabhaṭa, Brahmagupta, Bhāskara

While Greek astronomy probably influenced Indian learning, to the point of introducing
trigonometry Trigonometry () is a branch of mathematics that studies relationships between side lengths and angles of triangles. The field emerged in the Hellenistic world during the 3rd century BC from applications of geometry to astronomical studies. ...
, it seems to be the case that Indian mathematics is otherwise an indigenous tradition;Any early contact between Babylonian and Indian mathematics remains conjectural . in particular, there is no evidence that Euclid's Elements reached India before the 18th century. Āryabhaṭa (476–550 AD) showed that pairs of simultaneous congruences $n\equiv a_1 \bmod m_1$, $n\equiv a_2 \bmod m_2$ could be solved by a method he called ''kuṭṭaka'', or ''pulveriser''; this is a procedure close to (a generalisation of) the Euclidean algorithm, which was probably discovered independently in India. Āryabhaṭa seems to have had in mind applications to astronomical calculations. Brahmagupta (628 AD) started the systematic study of indefinite quadratic equations—in particular, the misnamed Pell equation, in which
Archimedes Archimedes of Syracuse (;; ) was a Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, astronomer, and inventor from the ancient city of Syracuse in Sicily. Although few details of his life are known, he is regarded as one of the leading scientists ...
may have first been interested, and which did not start to be solved in the West until the time of Fermat and Euler. Later Sanskrit authors would follow, using Brahmagupta's technical terminology. A general procedure (the chakravala, or "cyclic method") for solving Pell's equation was finally found by Jayadeva (cited in the eleventh century; his work is otherwise lost); the earliest surviving exposition appears in Bhāskara II's Bīja-gaṇita (twelfth century). Indian mathematics remained largely unknown in Europe until the late eighteenth century; Brahmagupta and Bhāskara's work was translated into English in 1817 by
Henry Colebrooke Henry Thomas Colebrooke FRS FRSE (15 June 1765 – 10 March 1837) was an English orientalist and mathematician. He has been described as "the first great Sanskrit scholar in Europe". Biography Henry Thomas Colebrooke was born on 15 Jun ...
.

### Arithmetic in the Islamic golden age In the early ninth century, the caliph
Al-Ma'mun Abu al-Abbas Abdallah ibn Harun al-Rashid ( ar, أبو العباس عبد الله بن هارون الرشيد, Abū al-ʿAbbās ʿAbd Allāh ibn Hārūn ar-Rashīd; 14 September 786 – 9 August 833), better known by his regnal name Al-Ma'm ...
ordered translations of many Greek mathematical works and at least one Sanskrit work (the ''Sindhind'', which may or may not, and , cited in . be Brahmagupta's
Brāhmasphuṭasiddhānta The ''Brāhmasphuṭasiddhānta'' ("Correctly Established Doctrine of Brahma", abbreviated BSS) is the main work of Brahmagupta, written c. 628. This text of mathematical astronomy contains significant mathematical content, including a good underst ...
). Diophantus's main work, the ''Arithmetica'', was translated into Arabic by Qusta ibn Luqa (820–912). Part of the treatise ''al-Fakhri'' (by al-Karajī, 953 – ca. 1029) builds on it to some extent. According to Rashed Roshdi, Al-Karajī's contemporary
Ibn al-Haytham Ḥasan Ibn al-Haytham, Latinized as Alhazen (; full name ; ), was a medieval mathematician, astronomer, and physicist of the Islamic Golden Age from present-day Iraq.For the description of his main fields, see e.g. ("He is one of the prin ...
knew what would later be called
Wilson's theorem In algebra and number theory, Wilson's theorem states that a natural number ''n'' > 1 is a prime number if and only if the product of all the positive integers less than ''n'' is one less than a multiple of ''n''. That is (using the notations ...
.

### Western Europe in the Middle Ages

Other than a treatise on squares in arithmetic progression by Fibonacci—who traveled and studied in north Africa and Constantinople—no number theory to speak of was done in western Europe during the Middle Ages. Matters started to change in Europe in the late
Renaissance The Renaissance ( , ) , from , with the same meanings. is a period in European history marking the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity and covering the 15th and 16th centuries, characterized by an effort to revive and surpass ide ...
, thanks to a renewed study of the works of Greek antiquity. A catalyst was the textual emendation and translation into Latin of Diophantus' ''Arithmetica''.

## Early modern number theory

### Fermat

Pierre de Fermat (1607–1665) never published his writings; in particular, his work on number theory is contained almost entirely in letters to mathematicians and in private marginal notes. In his notes and letters, he scarcely wrote any proofs - he had no models in the area. Over his lifetime, Fermat made the following contributions to the field: * One of Fermat's first interests was perfect numbers (which appear in Euclid, ''Elements'' IX) and amicable numbers;Perfect and especially amicable numbers are of little or no interest nowadays. The same was not true in medieval times—whether in the West or the Arab-speaking world—due in part to the importance given to them by the Neopythagorean (and hence mystical) Nicomachus (ca. 100 CE), who wrote a primitive but influential "
Introduction to Arithmetic The book ''Introduction to Arithmetic'' ( grc-gre, Ἀριθμητικὴ εἰσαγωγή, ''Arithmetike eisagoge'') is the only extant work on mathematics by Nicomachus (60–120 AD). Summary The work contains both philosophical prose an ...
". See .
these topics led him to work on integer
divisor In mathematics, a divisor of an integer n, also called a factor of n, is an integer m that may be multiplied by some integer to produce n. In this case, one also says that n is a multiple of m. An integer n is divisible or evenly divisible by ...
s, which were from the beginning among the subjects of the correspondence (1636 onwards) that put him in touch with the mathematical community of the day. * In 1638, Fermat claimed, without proof, that all whole numbers can be expressed as the sum of four squares or fewer. * Fermat's little theorem (1640): if ''a'' is not divisible by a prime ''p'', then $a^ \equiv 1 \bmod p.$Here, as usual, given two integers ''a'' and ''b'' and a non-zero integer ''m'', we write $a \equiv b \bmod m$ (read "''a'' is congruent to ''b'' modulo ''m''") to mean that ''m'' divides ''a'' − ''b'', or, what is the same, ''a'' and ''b'' leave the same residue when divided by ''m''. This notation is actually much later than Fermat's; it first appears in section 1 of
Gauss Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss (; german: Gauß ; la, Carolus Fridericus Gauss; 30 April 177723 February 1855) was a German mathematician and physicist who made significant contributions to many fields in mathematics and science. Sometimes refe ...
's Disquisitiones Arithmeticae. Fermat's little theorem is a consequence of the fact that the order of an element of a group divides the order of the group. The modern proof would have been within Fermat's means (and was indeed given later by Euler), even though the modern concept of a group came long after Fermat or Euler. (It helps to know that inverses exist modulo ''p'', that is, given ''a'' not divisible by a prime ''p'', there is an integer ''x'' such that $x a \equiv 1 \bmod p$); this fact (which, in modern language, makes the residues mod ''p'' into a group, and which was already known to Āryabhaṭa; see above) was familiar to Fermat thanks to its rediscovery by Bachet . Weil goes on to say that Fermat would have recognised that Bachet's argument is essentially Euclid's algorithm.
* If ''a'' and ''b'' are coprime, then $a^2 + b^2$ is not divisible by any prime congruent to −1 modulo 4; and every prime congruent to 1 modulo 4 can be written in the form $a^2 + b^2$. These two statements also date from 1640; in 1659, Fermat stated to Huygens that he had proven the latter statement by the method of infinite descent. * In 1657, Fermat posed the problem of solving $x^2 - N y^2 = 1$ as a challenge to English mathematicians. The problem was solved in a few months by Wallis and Brouncker. Fermat considered their solution valid, but pointed out they had provided an algorithm without a proof (as had Jayadeva and Bhaskara, though Fermat was not aware of this). He stated that a proof could be found by infinite descent. * Fermat stated and proved (by infinite descent) in the appendix to ''Observations on Diophantus'' (Obs. XLV) that $x^ + y^ = z^$ has no non-trivial solutions in the integers. Fermat also mentioned to his correspondents that $x^3 + y^3 = z^3$ has no non-trivial solutions, and that this could also be proven by infinite descent. The first known proof is due to Euler (1753; indeed by infinite descent). * Fermat claimed ( Fermat's Last Theorem) to have shown there are no solutions to $x^n + y^n = z^n$ for all $n\geq 3$; this claim appears in his annotations in the margins of his copy of Diophantus.

### Euler

The interest of
Leonhard Euler Leonhard Euler ( , ; 15 April 170718 September 1783) was a Swiss mathematician, physicist, astronomer, geographer, logician and engineer who founded the studies of graph theory and topology and made pioneering and influential discoveries ...
(1707–1783) in number theory was first spurred in 1729, when a friend of his, the amateurUp to the second half of the seventeenth century, academic positions were very rare, and most mathematicians and scientists earned their living in some other way . (There were already some recognisable features of professional ''practice'', viz., seeking correspondents, visiting foreign colleagues, building private libraries . Matters started to shift in the late 17th century ; scientific academies were founded in England (the
Royal Society The Royal Society, formally The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, is a learned society and the United Kingdom's national academy of sciences. The society fulfils a number of roles: promoting science and its benefits, re ...
, 1662) and France (the
Académie des sciences The French Academy of Sciences (French: ''Académie des sciences'') is a learned society, founded in 1666 by Louis XIV at the suggestion of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, to encourage and protect the spirit of French scientific research. It was at th ...
, 1666) and Russia (1724). Euler was offered a position at this last one in 1726; he accepted, arriving in St. Petersburg in 1727 ( and ). In this context, the term ''amateur'' usually applied to Goldbach is well-defined and makes some sense: he has been described as a man of letters who earned a living as a spy ; cited in ). Notice, however, that Goldbach published some works on mathematics and sometimes held academic positions.
Goldbach, pointed him towards some of Fermat's work on the subject. This has been called the "rebirth" of modern number theory, after Fermat's relative lack of success in getting his contemporaries' attention for the subject. Euler's work on number theory includes the following: *''Proofs for Fermat's statements.'' This includes Fermat's little theorem (generalised by Euler to non-prime moduli); the fact that $p = x^2 + y^2$ if and only if $p\equiv 1 \bmod 4$; initial work towards a proof that every integer is the sum of four squares (the first complete proof is by
Joseph-Louis Lagrange Joseph-Louis Lagrange (born Giuseppe Luigi LagrangiaPell's equation'', first misnamed by Euler.. Euler was generous in giving credit to others , not always correctly. He wrote on the link between continued fractions and Pell's equation. *''First steps towards analytic number theory.'' In his work of sums of four squares, partitions, pentagonal numbers, and the distribution of prime numbers, Euler pioneered the use of what can be seen as analysis (in particular, infinite series) in number theory. Since he lived before the development of
complex analysis Complex analysis, traditionally known as the theory of functions of a complex variable, is the branch of mathematical analysis that investigates functions of complex numbers. It is helpful in many branches of mathematics, including algebrai ...
, most of his work is restricted to the formal manipulation of
power series In mathematics, a power series (in one variable) is an infinite series of the form \sum_^\infty a_n \left(x - c\right)^n = a_0 + a_1 (x - c) + a_2 (x - c)^2 + \dots where ''an'' represents the coefficient of the ''n''th term and ''c'' is a const ...
. He did, however, do some very notable (though not fully rigorous) early work on what would later be called the Riemann zeta function. *''Quadratic forms''. Following Fermat's lead, Euler did further research on the question of which primes can be expressed in the form $x^2 + N y^2$, some of it prefiguring quadratic reciprocity. *''Diophantine equations''. Euler worked on some Diophantine equations of genus 0 and 1. In particular, he studied Diophantus's work; he tried to systematise it, but the time was not yet ripe for such an endeavour—algebraic geometry was still in its infancy. He did notice there was a connection between Diophantine problems and
elliptic integral In integral calculus, an elliptic integral is one of a number of related functions defined as the value of certain integrals, which were first studied by Giulio Fagnano and Leonhard Euler (). Their name originates from their originally arising i ...
s, whose study he had himself initiated. ### Lagrange, Legendre, and Gauss

Joseph-Louis Lagrange Joseph-Louis Lagrange (born Giuseppe Luigi Lagrangiafour-square theorem and the basic theory of the misnamed "Pell's equation" (for which an algorithmic solution was found by Fermat and his contemporaries, and also by Jayadeva and Bhaskara II before them.) He also studied
quadratic form In mathematics, a quadratic form is a polynomial with terms all of degree two (" form" is another name for a homogeneous polynomial). For example, :4x^2 + 2xy - 3y^2 is a quadratic form in the variables and . The coefficients usually belong t ...
s in full generality (as opposed to $m X^2 + n Y^2$)—defining their equivalence relation, showing how to put them in reduced form, etc.
Adrien-Marie Legendre Adrien-Marie Legendre (; ; 18 September 1752 – 9 January 1833) was a French mathematician who made numerous contributions to mathematics. Well-known and important concepts such as the Legendre polynomials and Legendre transformation are name ...
(1752–1833) was the first to state the law of quadratic reciprocity. He also conjectured what amounts to the
prime number theorem In mathematics, the prime number theorem (PNT) describes the asymptotic distribution of the prime numbers among the positive integers. It formalizes the intuitive idea that primes become less common as they become larger by precisely quantifying t ...
and Dirichlet's theorem on arithmetic progressions. He gave a full treatment of the equation $a x^2 + b y^2 + c z^2 = 0$ and worked on quadratic forms along the lines later developed fully by Gauss. In his old age, he was the first to prove Fermat's Last Theorem for $n=5$ (completing work by
Peter Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet Johann Peter Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet (; 13 February 1805 – 5 May 1859) was a German mathematician who made deep contributions to number theory (including creating the field of analytic number theory), and to the theory of Fourier series and ...
, and crediting both him and
Sophie Germain Marie-Sophie Germain (; 1 April 1776 – 27 June 1831) was a French mathematician, physicist, and philosopher. Despite initial opposition from her parents and difficulties presented by society, she gained education from books in her father's lib ...
). In his ''Disquisitiones Arithmeticae'' (1798), Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777–1855) proved the law of quadratic reciprocity and developed the theory of quadratic forms (in particular, defining their composition). He also introduced some basic notation ( congruences) and devoted a section to computational matters, including primality tests. The last section of the ''Disquisitiones'' established a link between roots of unity and number theory:
The theory of the division of the circle...which is treated in sec. 7 does not belong by itself to arithmetic, but its principles can only be drawn from higher arithmetic.
In this way, Gauss arguably made a first foray towards both Évariste Galois's work and
algebraic number theory Algebraic number theory is a branch of number theory that uses the techniques of abstract algebra to study the integers, rational numbers, and their generalizations. Number-theoretic questions are expressed in terms of properties of algebraic ...
.

## Maturity and division into subfields

Starting early in the nineteenth century, the following developments gradually took place: * The rise to self-consciousness of number theory (or ''higher arithmetic'') as a field of study. * The development of much of modern mathematics necessary for basic modern number theory:
complex analysis Complex analysis, traditionally known as the theory of functions of a complex variable, is the branch of mathematical analysis that investigates functions of complex numbers. It is helpful in many branches of mathematics, including algebrai ...
,
group theory In abstract algebra, group theory studies the algebraic structures known as groups. The concept of a group is central to abstract algebra: other well-known algebraic structures, such as rings, fields, and vector spaces, can all be seen as ...
, Galois theory—accompanied by greater rigor in analysis and abstraction in algebra. * The rough subdivision of number theory into its modern subfields—in particular, analytic and algebraic number theory. Algebraic number theory may be said to start with the study of reciprocity and
cyclotomy In mathematics, a root of unity, occasionally called a de Moivre number, is any complex number that yields 1 when raised to some positive integer power . Roots of unity are used in many branches of mathematics, and are especially importan ...
, but truly came into its own with the development of
abstract algebra In mathematics, more specifically algebra, abstract algebra or modern algebra is the study of algebraic structures. Algebraic structures include groups, rings, fields, modules, vector spaces, lattices, and algebras over a field. The te ...
and early ideal theory and valuation theory; see below. A conventional starting point for analytic number theory is Dirichlet's theorem on arithmetic progressions (1837), whose proof introduced L-functions and involved some asymptotic analysis and a limiting process on a real variable. The first use of analytic ideas in number theory actually goes back to Euler (1730s), who used formal power series and non-rigorous (or implicit) limiting arguments. The use of ''complex'' analysis in number theory comes later: the work of
Bernhard Riemann Georg Friedrich Bernhard Riemann (; 17 September 1826 – 20 July 1866) was a German mathematician who made contributions to analysis, number theory, and differential geometry. In the field of real analysis, he is mostly known for the first ...
(1859) on the zeta function is the canonical starting point; Jacobi's four-square theorem (1839), which predates it, belongs to an initially different strand that has by now taken a leading role in analytic number theory (
modular form In mathematics, a modular form is a (complex) analytic function on the upper half-plane satisfying a certain kind of functional equation with respect to the group action of the modular group, and also satisfying a growth condition. The theory o ...
s). The history of each subfield is briefly addressed in its own section below; see the main article of each subfield for fuller treatments. Many of the most interesting questions in each area remain open and are being actively worked on.

# Main subdivisions

## Elementary number theory

The term '' elementary'' generally denotes a method that does not use
complex analysis Complex analysis, traditionally known as the theory of functions of a complex variable, is the branch of mathematical analysis that investigates functions of complex numbers. It is helpful in many branches of mathematics, including algebrai ...
. For example, the
prime number theorem In mathematics, the prime number theorem (PNT) describes the asymptotic distribution of the prime numbers among the positive integers. It formalizes the intuitive idea that primes become less common as they become larger by precisely quantifying t ...
was first proven using complex analysis in 1896, but an elementary proof was found only in 1949 by Erdős and Selberg. The term is somewhat ambiguous: for example, proofs based on complex Tauberian theorems (for example, Wiener–Ikehara) are often seen as quite enlightening but not elementary, in spite of using
Fourier analysis In mathematics, Fourier analysis () is the study of the way general functions may be represented or approximated by sums of simpler trigonometric functions. Fourier analysis grew from the study of Fourier series, and is named after Joseph ...
, rather than complex analysis as such. Here as elsewhere, an ''elementary'' proof may be longer and more difficult for most readers than a non-elementary one. Number theory has the reputation of being a field many of whose results can be stated to the layperson. At the same time, the proofs of these results are not particularly accessible, in part because the range of tools they use is, if anything, unusually broad within mathematics.

## Analytic number theory ''Analytic number theory'' may be defined * in terms of its tools, as the study of the integers by means of tools from real and
complex Complex commonly refers to: * Complexity, the behaviour of a system whose components interact in multiple ways so possible interactions are difficult to describe ** Complex system, a system composed of many components which may interact with each ...
analysis; or * in terms of its concerns, as the study within number theory of estimates on size and density, as opposed to identities. Some subjects generally considered to be part of analytic number theory, for example,
sieve theory Sieve theory is a set of general techniques in number theory, designed to count, or more realistically to estimate the size of, sifted sets of integers. The prototypical example of a sifted set is the set of prime numbers up to some prescribed l ...
,Sieve theory figures as one of the main subareas of analytic number theory in many standard treatments; see, for instance, or are better covered by the second rather than the first definition: some of sieve theory, for instance, uses little analysis,This is the case for small sieves (in particular, some combinatorial sieves such as the Brun sieve) rather than for large sieves; the study of the latter now includes ideas from
harmonic A harmonic is a wave with a frequency that is a positive integer multiple of the '' fundamental frequency'', the frequency of the original periodic signal, such as a sinusoidal wave. The original signal is also called the ''1st harmonic' ...
and
functional analysis Functional analysis is a branch of mathematical analysis, the core of which is formed by the study of vector spaces endowed with some kind of limit-related structure (e.g. inner product, norm, topology, etc.) and the linear functions defined ...
.
yet it does belong to analytic number theory. The following are examples of problems in analytic number theory: the
prime number theorem In mathematics, the prime number theorem (PNT) describes the asymptotic distribution of the prime numbers among the positive integers. It formalizes the intuitive idea that primes become less common as they become larger by precisely quantifying t ...
, the Goldbach conjecture (or the twin prime conjecture, or the Hardy–Littlewood conjectures), the Waring problem and the
Riemann hypothesis In mathematics, the Riemann hypothesis is the conjecture that the Riemann zeta function has its zeros only at the negative even integers and complex numbers with real part . Many consider it to be the most important unsolved problem in ...
. Some of the most important tools of analytic number theory are the circle method, sieve methods and L-functions (or, rather, the study of their properties). The theory of
modular form In mathematics, a modular form is a (complex) analytic function on the upper half-plane satisfying a certain kind of functional equation with respect to the group action of the modular group, and also satisfying a growth condition. The theory o ...
s (and, more generally, automorphic forms) also occupies an increasingly central place in the toolbox of analytic number theory. One may ask analytic questions about
algebraic number An algebraic number is a number that is a root of a non-zero polynomial in one variable with integer (or, equivalently, rational) coefficients. For example, the golden ratio, (1 + \sqrt)/2, is an algebraic number, because it is a root of the ...
s, and use analytic means to answer such questions; it is thus that algebraic and analytic number theory intersect. For example, one may define
prime ideal In algebra, a prime ideal is a subset of a ring that shares many important properties of a prime number in the ring of integers. The prime ideals for the integers are the sets that contain all the multiples of a given prime number, together ...
s (generalizations of
prime number A prime number (or a prime) is a natural number greater than 1 that is not a Product (mathematics), product of two smaller natural numbers. A natural number greater than 1 that is not prime is called a composite number. For example, 5 is prime ...
s in the field of algebraic numbers) and ask how many prime ideals there are up to a certain size. This question can be answered by means of an examination of Dedekind zeta functions, which are generalizations of the Riemann zeta function, a key analytic object at the roots of the subject. This is an example of a general procedure in analytic number theory: deriving information about the distribution of a
sequence In mathematics, a sequence is an enumerated collection of objects in which repetitions are allowed and order matters. Like a set, it contains members (also called ''elements'', or ''terms''). The number of elements (possibly infinite) is call ...
(here, prime ideals or prime numbers) from the analytic behavior of an appropriately constructed complex-valued function.

## Algebraic number theory

An ''algebraic number'' is any complex number that is a solution to some polynomial equation $f\left(x\right)=0$ with rational coefficients; for example, every solution $x$ of $x^5 + \left(11/2\right) x^3 - 7 x^2 + 9 = 0$ (say) is an algebraic number. Fields of algebraic numbers are also called '' algebraic number fields'', or shortly '' number fields''. Algebraic number theory studies algebraic number fields. Thus, analytic and algebraic number theory can and do overlap: the former is defined by its methods, the latter by its objects of study. It could be argued that the simplest kind of number fields (viz., quadratic fields) were already studied by Gauss, as the discussion of quadratic forms in ''Disquisitiones arithmeticae'' can be restated in terms of ideals and norms in quadratic fields. (A ''quadratic field'' consists of all numbers of the form $a + b \sqrt$, where $a$ and $b$ are rational numbers and $d$ is a fixed rational number whose square root is not rational.) For that matter, the 11th-century chakravala method amounts—in modern terms—to an algorithm for finding the units of a real quadratic number field. However, neither Bhāskara nor Gauss knew of number fields as such. The grounds of the subject as we know it were set in the late nineteenth century, when ''ideal numbers'', the ''theory of ideals'' and ''valuation theory'' were developed; these are three complementary ways of dealing with the lack of unique factorisation in algebraic number fields. (For example, in the field generated by the rationals and $\sqrt$, the number $6$ can be factorised both as $6 = 2 \cdot 3$ and $6 = \left(1 + \sqrt\right) \left( 1 - \sqrt\right)$; all of $2$, $3$, $1 + \sqrt$ and $1 - \sqrt$ are irreducible, and thus, in a naïve sense, analogous to primes among the integers.) The initial impetus for the development of ideal numbers (by Kummer) seems to have come from the study of higher reciprocity laws, that is, generalisations of quadratic reciprocity. Number fields are often studied as extensions of smaller number fields: a field ''L'' is said to be an ''extension'' of a field ''K'' if ''L'' contains ''K''. (For example, the complex numbers ''C'' are an extension of the reals ''R'', and the reals ''R'' are an extension of the rationals ''Q''.) Classifying the possible extensions of a given number field is a difficult and partially open problem. Abelian extensions—that is, extensions ''L'' of ''K'' such that the Galois groupThe Galois group of an extension ''L/K'' consists of the operations ( isomorphisms) that send elements of L to other elements of L while leaving all elements of K fixed. Thus, for instance, ''Gal(C/R)'' consists of two elements: the identity element (taking every element ''x'' + ''iy'' of ''C'' to itself) and complex conjugation (the map taking each element ''x'' + ''iy'' to ''x'' − ''iy''). The Galois group of an extension tells us many of its crucial properties. The study of Galois groups started with Évariste Galois; in modern language, the main outcome of his work is that an equation ''f''(''x'') = 0 can be solved by radicals (that is, ''x'' can be expressed in terms of the four basic operations together with square roots, cubic roots, etc.) if and only if the extension of the rationals by the roots of the equation ''f''(''x'') = 0 has a Galois group that is solvable in the sense of group theory. ("Solvable", in the sense of group theory, is a simple property that can be checked easily for finite groups.) Gal(''L''/''K'') of ''L'' over ''K'' is an
abelian group In mathematics, an abelian group, also called a commutative group, is a group in which the result of applying the group operation to two group elements does not depend on the order in which they are written. That is, the group operation is comm ...
—are relatively well understood. Their classification was the object of the programme of
class field theory In mathematics, class field theory (CFT) is the fundamental branch of algebraic number theory whose goal is to describe all the abelian Galois extensions of local and global fields using objects associated to the ground field. Hilbert is credite ...
, which was initiated in the late 19th century (partly by Kronecker and Eisenstein) and carried out largely in 1900–1950. An example of an active area of research in algebraic number theory is Iwasawa theory. The Langlands program, one of the main current large-scale research plans in mathematics, is sometimes described as an attempt to generalise class field theory to non-abelian extensions of number fields.

## Diophantine geometry

The central problem of ''Diophantine geometry'' is to determine when a Diophantine equation has solutions, and if it does, how many. The approach taken is to think of the solutions of an equation as a geometric object. For example, an equation in two variables defines a curve in the plane. More generally, an equation, or system of equations, in two or more variables defines a
curve In mathematics, a curve (also called a curved line in older texts) is an object similar to a line, but that does not have to be straight. Intuitively, a curve may be thought of as the trace left by a moving point. This is the definition that ...
, a surface or some other such object in ''n''-dimensional space. In Diophantine geometry, one asks whether there are any ''rational points'' (points all of whose coordinates are rationals) or ''integral points'' (points all of whose coordinates are integers) on the curve or surface. If there are any such points, the next step is to ask how many there are and how they are distributed. A basic question in this direction is if there are finitely or infinitely many rational points on a given curve (or surface). In the Pythagorean equation $x^2+y^2 = 1,$ we would like to study its rational solutions, that is, its solutions $\left(x,y\right)$ such that ''x'' and ''y'' are both rational. This is the same as asking for all integer solutions to $a^2 + b^2 = c^2$; any solution to the latter equation gives us a solution $x = a/c$, $y = b/c$ to the former. It is also the same as asking for all points with rational coordinates on the curve described by $x^2 + y^2 = 1$. (This curve happens to be a circle of radius 1 around the origin.) The rephrasing of questions on equations in terms of points on curves turns out to be felicitous. The finiteness or not of the number of rational or integer points on an algebraic curve—that is, rational or integer solutions to an equation $f\left(x,y\right)=0$, where $f$ is a polynomial in two variables—turns out to depend crucially on the ''genus'' of the curve. The ''genus'' can be defined as follows:If we want to study the curve $y^2 = x^3 + 7$. We allow ''x'' and ''y'' to be complex numbers: $\left(a + b i\right)^2 = \left(c + d i\right)^3 + 7$. This is, in effect, a set of two equations on four variables, since both the real and the imaginary part on each side must match. As a result, we get a surface (two-dimensional) in four-dimensional space. After we choose a convenient hyperplane on which to project the surface (meaning that, say, we choose to ignore the coordinate ''a''), we can plot the resulting projection, which is a surface in ordinary three-dimensional space. It then becomes clear that the result is a
torus In geometry, a torus (plural tori, colloquially donut or doughnut) is a surface of revolution generated by revolving a circle in three-dimensional space about an axis that is coplanar with the circle. If the axis of revolution does not t ...
, loosely speaking, the surface of a doughnut (somewhat stretched). A doughnut has one hole; hence the genus is 1.
allow the variables in $f\left(x,y\right)=0$ to be complex numbers; then $f\left(x,y\right)=0$ defines a 2-dimensional surface in (projective) 4-dimensional space (since two complex variables can be decomposed into four real variables, that is, four dimensions). If we count the number of (doughnut) holes in the surface; we call this number the ''genus'' of $f\left(x,y\right)=0$. Other geometrical notions turn out to be just as crucial. There is also the closely linked area of Diophantine approximations: given a number $x$, then finding how well can it be approximated by rationals. (We are looking for approximations that are good relative to the amount of space that it takes to write the rational: call $a/q$ (with $\gcd\left(a,q\right)=1$) a good approximation to $x$ if $, x-a/q, <\frac$, where $c$ is large.) This question is of special interest if $x$ is an algebraic number. If $x$ cannot be well approximated, then some equations do not have integer or rational solutions. Moreover, several concepts (especially that of
height Height is measure of vertical distance, either vertical extent (how "tall" something or someone is) or vertical position (how "high" a point is). For example, "The height of that building is 50 m" or "The height of an airplane in-flight is abo ...
) turn out to be critical both in Diophantine geometry and in the study of Diophantine approximations. This question is also of special interest in
transcendental number theory Transcendental number theory is a branch of number theory that investigates transcendental numbers (numbers that are not solutions of any polynomial equation with rational coefficients), in both qualitative and quantitative ways. Transcendenc ...
: if a number can be better approximated than any algebraic number, then it is a
transcendental number In mathematics, a transcendental number is a number that is not algebraic—that is, not the root of a non-zero polynomial of finite degree with rational coefficients. The best known transcendental numbers are and . Though only a few classe ...
. It is by this argument that and e have been shown to be transcendental. Diophantine geometry should not be confused with the
geometry of numbers Geometry of numbers is the part of number theory which uses geometry for the study of algebraic numbers. Typically, a ring of algebraic integers is viewed as a lattice in \mathbb R^n, and the study of these lattices provides fundamental informati ...
, which is a collection of graphical methods for answering certain questions in algebraic number theory. ''Arithmetic geometry'', however, is a contemporary term for much the same domain as that covered by the term ''Diophantine geometry''. The term ''arithmetic geometry'' is arguably used most often when one wishes to emphasise the connections to modern algebraic geometry (as in, for instance, Faltings's theorem) rather than to techniques in Diophantine approximations.

# Other subfields

The areas below date from no earlier than the mid-twentieth century, even if they are based on older material. For example, as is explained below, the matter of algorithms in number theory is very old, in some sense older than the concept of proof; at the same time, the modern study of
computability Computability is the ability to solve a problem in an effective manner. It is a key topic of the field of computability theory within mathematical logic and the theory of computation within computer science. The computability of a problem is cl ...
dates only from the 1930s and 1940s, and
computational complexity theory In theoretical computer science and mathematics, computational complexity theory focuses on classifying computational problems according to their resource usage, and relating these classes to each other. A computational problem is a task solved by ...
from the 1970s.

## Probabilistic number theory

Much of probabilistic number theory can be seen as an important special case of the study of variables that are almost, but not quite, mutually
independent Independent or Independents may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Artist groups * Independents (artist group), a group of modernist painters based in the New Hope, Pennsylvania, area of the United States during the early 1930s * Independ ...
. For example, the event that a random integer between one and a million be divisible by two and the event that it be divisible by three are almost independent, but not quite. It is sometimes said that probabilistic combinatorics uses the fact that whatever happens with probability greater than $0$ must happen sometimes; one may say with equal justice that many applications of probabilistic number theory hinge on the fact that whatever is unusual must be rare. If certain algebraic objects (say, rational or integer solutions to certain equations) can be shown to be in the tail of certain sensibly defined distributions, it follows that there must be few of them; this is a very concrete non-probabilistic statement following from a probabilistic one. At times, a non-rigorous, probabilistic approach leads to a number of
heuristic A heuristic (; ), or heuristic technique, is any approach to problem solving or self-discovery that employs a practical method that is not guaranteed to be optimal, perfect, or rational, but is nevertheless sufficient for reaching an immediate, ...
algorithms and open problems, notably Cramér's conjecture.

## Arithmetic combinatorics

If we begin from a fairly "thick" infinite set $A$, does it contain many elements in arithmetic progression: $a$, $a+b, a+2 b, a+3 b, \ldots, a+10b$, say? Should it be possible to write large integers as sums of elements of $A$? These questions are characteristic of ''arithmetic combinatorics''. This is a presently coalescing field; it subsumes '' additive number theory'' (which concerns itself with certain very specific sets $A$ of arithmetic significance, such as the primes or the squares) and, arguably, some of the ''geometry of numbers'', together with some rapidly developing new material. Its focus on issues of growth and distribution accounts in part for its developing links with
ergodic theory Ergodic theory (Greek: ' "work", ' "way") is a branch of mathematics that studies statistical properties of deterministic dynamical systems; it is the study of ergodicity. In this context, statistical properties means properties which are expres ...
, finite group theory,
model theory In mathematical logic, model theory is the study of the relationship between formal theories (a collection of sentences in a formal language expressing statements about a mathematical structure), and their models (those structures in which the ...
, and other fields. The term ''additive combinatorics'' is also used; however, the sets $A$ being studied need not be sets of integers, but rather subsets of non-commutative groups, for which the multiplication symbol, not the addition symbol, is traditionally used; they can also be subsets of
rings Ring may refer to: * Ring (jewellery), a round band, usually made of metal, worn as ornamental jewelry * To make a sound with a bell, and the sound made by a bell :(hence) to initiate a telephone connection Arts, entertainment and media Film an ...
, in which case the growth of $A+A$ and $A$·$A$ may be compared.

## Computational number theory

While the word ''algorithm'' goes back only to certain readers of al-Khwārizmī, careful descriptions of methods of solution are older than proofs: such methods (that is, algorithms) are as old as any recognisable mathematics—ancient Egyptian, Babylonian, Vedic, Chinese—whereas proofs appeared only with the Greeks of the classical period. An early case is that of what we now call the Euclidean algorithm. In its basic form (namely, as an algorithm for computing the greatest common divisor) it appears as Proposition 2 of Book VII in ''Elements'', together with a proof of correctness. However, in the form that is often used in number theory (namely, as an algorithm for finding integer solutions to an equation $a x + b y = c$, or, what is the same, for finding the quantities whose existence is assured by the
Chinese remainder theorem In mathematics, the Chinese remainder theorem states that if one knows the remainders of the Euclidean division of an integer ''n'' by several integers, then one can determine uniquely the remainder of the division of ''n'' by the product of the ...
) it first appears in the works of
Āryabhaṭa Aryabhata (ISO: ) or Aryabhata I (476–550 CE) was an Indian mathematician and astronomer of the classical age of Indian mathematics and Indian astronomy. He flourished in the Gupta Era and produced works such as the ''Aryabhatiya'' (which ...
(5th–6th century CE) as an algorithm called ''kuṭṭaka'' ("pulveriser"), without a proof of correctness. There are two main questions: "Can we compute this?" and "Can we compute it rapidly?" Anyone can test whether a number is prime or, if it is not, split it into prime factors; doing so rapidly is another matter. We now know fast algorithms for testing primality, but, in spite of much work (both theoretical and practical), no truly fast algorithm for factoring. The difficulty of a computation can be useful: modern protocols for encrypting messages (for example, RSA) depend on functions that are known to all, but whose inverses are known only to a chosen few, and would take one too long a time to figure out on one's own. For example, these functions can be such that their inverses can be computed only if certain large integers are factorized. While many difficult computational problems outside number theory are known, most working encryption protocols nowadays are based on the difficulty of a few number-theoretical problems. Some things may not be computable at all; in fact, this can be proven in some instances. For instance, in 1970, it was proven, as a solution to Hilbert's 10th problem, that there is no Turing machine which can solve all Diophantine equations. In particular, this means that, given a
computably enumerable In computability theory, a set ''S'' of natural numbers is called computably enumerable (c.e.), recursively enumerable (r.e.), semidecidable, partially decidable, listable, provable or Turing-recognizable if: *There is an algorithm such that the ...
set of axioms, there are Diophantine equations for which there is no proof, starting from the axioms, of whether the set of equations has or does not have integer solutions. (We would necessarily be speaking of Diophantine equations for which there are no integer solutions, since, given a Diophantine equation with at least one solution, the solution itself provides a proof of the fact that a solution exists. We cannot prove that a particular Diophantine equation is of this kind, since this would imply that it has no solutions.)

# Applications

The number-theorist Leonard Dickson (1874–1954) said "Thank God that number theory is unsullied by any application". Such a view is no longer applicable to number theory. In 1974,
Donald Knuth Donald Ervin Knuth ( ; born January 10, 1938) is an American computer scientist, mathematician, and professor emeritus at Stanford University. He is the 1974 recipient of the ACM Turing Award, informally considered the Nobel Prize of computer ...
said "...virtually every theorem in elementary number theory arises in a natural, motivated way in connection with the problem of making computers do high-speed numerical calculations". Elementary number theory is taught in
discrete mathematics Discrete mathematics is the study of mathematical structures that can be considered "discrete" (in a way analogous to discrete variables, having a bijection with the set of natural numbers) rather than "continuous" (analogously to continuous ...
courses for
computer scientist A computer scientist is a person who is trained in the academic study of computer science. Computer scientists typically work on the theoretical side of computation, as opposed to the hardware side on which computer engineers mainly focus ( ...
s; on the other hand, number theory also has applications to the continuous in
numerical analysis Numerical analysis is the study of algorithms that use numerical approximation (as opposed to symbolic manipulations) for the problems of mathematical analysis (as distinguished from discrete mathematics). It is the study of numerical methods th ...
. As well as the well-known applications to
cryptography Cryptography, or cryptology (from grc, , translit=kryptós "hidden, secret"; and ''graphein'', "to write", or ''-logia'', "study", respectively), is the practice and study of techniques for secure communication in the presence of adve ...
, there are also applications to many other areas of mathematics.

# Prizes

The
American Mathematical Society The American Mathematical Society (AMS) is an association of professional mathematicians dedicated to the interests of mathematical research and scholarship, and serves the national and international community through its publications, meetings ...
awards the '' Cole Prize in Number Theory''. Moreover, number theory is one of the three mathematical subdisciplines rewarded by the '' Fermat Prize''.

* Algebraic function field *
Finite field In mathematics, a finite field or Galois field (so-named in honor of Évariste Galois) is a field that contains a finite number of elements. As with any field, a finite field is a set on which the operations of multiplication, addition, sub ...
*
p-adic number In mathematics, the -adic number system for any prime number  extends the ordinary arithmetic of the rational numbers in a different way from the extension of the rational number system to the real and complex number systems. The extensi ...

# Sources

* * (Subscription needed) * *
1968 edition
at archive.org * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4 (1912)
* For other editions, see Iamblichus#List of editions and translations * This Google books preview of ''Elements of algebra'' lacks Truesdell's intro, which is reprinted (slightly abridged) in the following book: * * * * * *