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INTRODUCTION NUMBER THEORY BY TRYGVE NAGELL Professor of Mathematics University of Uppsala JOHN WILEY ¢ SONS, ING. NEW YORK ALMQVIST & WIKSELL, STOCKHOLM Printed in Sweden. UPPSALA, 195% ALMQVIST & WIKSELLS BOKTRYCKER1 AB PREFACE Natural number is the original mathematical concept and the most fundamental. Speculations about the nature and properties of whole numbers doubtless constitute the oldest form of mathe- matical thought. Tt is known that the Sumerians and Babylonians as well as the Ancient Egyptians had a fair knowledge of the properties of natural numbers. But first in connection with the Greeks is it possible to speak of a proper theory of numbers. Pythagoras (cirea 500 B.C.) and his pupils pursued extensive studies in the field of integers. The first systematic presentation of results in number theory with proof is to be found in Buclid’s £lementa (cirea 300 B.C.). Among the later Greek mathematicians, Dio- phantos (cirea A. D. 350) was of the greatest significance in the development of number theory; six of the thirteen books of his Arithmetica have been preserved. It is also certain that number theory has a very old tradition in India. where it flourished during the period between A.D. 500 and {200. Western Europe became acquainted with Greek mathematics inainly through the agency of the Arabs. But development was slow, and we cannot speak of an independent Western theory of numbers before the seventeenth century. The French mathe- matician Fermat (1601-165) may rightly be regarded as the father of more recent number theory. Its further development before the nineteenth century was associated chiefly with the names of Buler (1707-1783). Lagrange (173U—1413), Legendre (1752 1833) and Gauss (1777-1855). The first textbook in the theory of numbers was published in 178% by Legendre under the title Esai sur la théorie des nombres. But the really basic work is Gauss’s book Disquisitiones Arithmeticae, which appeared in 1801. With that work number theory became a systematic science. Gauss himself considered that it was the greatest of all his works.