mathematics Mathematics is an area of knowledge that includes the topics of numbers, formulas and related structures, shapes and the spaces in which they are contained, and quantities and their changes. These topics are represented in modern mathematics ...
, a field is a
set Set, The Set, SET or SETS may refer to: Science, technology, and mathematics Mathematics *Set (mathematics), a collection of elements *Category of sets, the category whose objects and morphisms are sets and total functions, respectively Electro ...
on which addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division are defined and behave as the corresponding operations on rational and real numbers do. A field is thus a fundamental algebraic structure which is widely used in algebra, number theory, and many other areas of mathematics. The best known fields are the field of rational numbers, the field of real numbers and the field of complex numbers. Many other fields, such as fields of rational functions, algebraic function fields, algebraic number fields, and ''p''-adic fields are commonly used and studied in mathematics, particularly in number theory and algebraic geometry. Most
cryptographic protocol A security protocol (cryptographic protocol or encryption protocol) is an abstract or concrete protocol that performs a security-related function and applies cryptographic methods, often as sequences of cryptographic primitives. A protocol descri ...
s rely on finite fields, i.e., fields with finitely many elements. The relation of two fields is expressed by the notion of a field extension. Galois theory, initiated by Évariste Galois in the 1830s, is devoted to understanding the symmetries of field extensions. Among other results, this theory shows that angle trisection and squaring the circle cannot be done with a compass and straightedge. Moreover, it shows that quintic equations are, in general, algebraically unsolvable. Fields serve as foundational notions in several mathematical domains. This includes different branches of mathematical analysis, which are based on fields with additional structure. Basic theorems in analysis hinge on the structural properties of the field of real numbers. Most importantly for algebraic purposes, any field may be used as the
scalars Scalar may refer to: * Scalar (mathematics), an element of a field, which is used to define a vector space, usually the field of real numbers * Scalar (physics), a physical quantity that can be described by a single element of a number field such ...
for a vector space, which is the standard general context for linear algebra. Number fields, the siblings of the field of rational numbers, are studied in depth in number theory. Function fields can help describe properties of geometric objects.


Informally, a field is a set, along with two
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s defined on that set: an addition operation written as , and a multiplication operation written as , both of which behave similarly as they behave for rational numbers and real numbers, including the existence of an additive inverse for all elements , and of a multiplicative inverse for every nonzero element . This allows one to also consider the so-called ''inverse'' operations of subtraction, , and division, , by defining: :, :.

Classic definition

Formally, a field is a
set Set, The Set, SET or SETS may refer to: Science, technology, and mathematics Mathematics *Set (mathematics), a collection of elements *Category of sets, the category whose objects and morphisms are sets and total functions, respectively Electro ...
together with two binary operations on called ''addition'' and ''multiplication''. A binary operation on is a mapping , that is, a correspondence that associates with each ordered pair of elements of a uniquely determined element of . The result of the addition of and is called the sum of and , and is denoted . Similarly, the result of the multiplication of and is called the product of and , and is denoted or . These operations are required to satisfy the following properties, referred to as '' field axioms'' (in these axioms, , , and are arbitrary elements of the field ): * Associativity of addition and multiplication: , and . * Commutativity of addition and multiplication: , and . * Additive and multiplicative identity: there exist two different elements and in such that and . * Additive inverses: for every in , there exists an element in , denoted , called the ''additive inverse'' of , such that . * Multiplicative inverses: for every in , there exists an element in , denoted by or , called the ''multiplicative inverse'' of , such that . * Distributivity of multiplication over addition: . This may be summarized by saying: a field has two operations, called addition and multiplication; it is an abelian group under addition with 0 as the additive identity; the nonzero elements are an abelian group under multiplication with 1 as the multiplicative identity; and multiplication distributes over addition. Even more summarized: a field is a commutative ring where 0 \ne 1 and all nonzero elements are invertible under multiplication.

Alternative definition

Fields can also be defined in different, but equivalent ways. One can alternatively define a field by four binary operations (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) and their required properties. Division by zero is, by definition, excluded. In order to avoid existential quantifiers, fields can be defined by two binary operations (addition and multiplication), two unary operations (yielding the additive and multiplicative inverses respectively), and two nullary operations (the constants and ). These operations are then subject to the conditions above. Avoiding existential quantifiers is important in constructive mathematics and
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. One may equivalently define a field by the same two binary operations, one unary operation (the multiplicative inverse), and two constants and , since and .The a priori twofold use of the symbol "−" for denoting one part of a constant and for the additive inverses is justified by this latter condition.


Rational numbers

Rational numbers have been widely used a long time before the elaboration of the concept of field. They are numbers that can be written as fractions , where and are integers, and . The additive inverse of such a fraction is , and the multiplicative inverse (provided that ) is , which can be seen as follows: : \frac b a \cdot \frac a b = \frac = 1. The abstractly required field axioms reduce to standard properties of rational numbers. For example, the law of distributivity can be proven as follows: : \begin & \frac a b \cdot \left(\frac c d + \frac e f \right) \\ pt= & \frac a b \cdot \left(\frac c d \cdot \frac f f + \frac e f \cdot \frac d d \right) \\ pt= & \frac \cdot \left(\frac + \frac\right) = \frac \cdot \frac \\ pt= & \frac = \frac + \frac = \frac + \frac \\ pt= & \frac a b \cdot \frac c d + \frac a b \cdot \frac e f. \end

Real and complex numbers

The real numbers , with the usual operations of addition and multiplication, also form a field. The complex numbers consist of expressions : with real, where is the imaginary unit, i.e., a (non-real) number satisfying . Addition and multiplication of real numbers are defined in such a way that expressions of this type satisfy all field axioms and thus hold for . For example, the distributive law enforces : It is immediate that this is again an expression of the above type, and so the complex numbers form a field. Complex numbers can be geometrically represented as points in the plane, with Cartesian coordinates given by the real numbers of their describing expression, or as the arrows from the origin to these points, specified by their length and an angle enclosed with some distinct direction. Addition then corresponds to combining the arrows to the intuitive parallelogram (adding the Cartesian coordinates), and the multiplication is – less intuitively – combining rotating and scaling of the arrows (adding the angles and multiplying the lengths). The fields of real and complex numbers are used throughout mathematics, physics, engineering, statistics, and many other scientific disciplines.

Constructible numbers

In antiquity, several geometric problems concerned the (in)feasibility of constructing certain numbers with compass and straightedge. For example, it was unknown to the Greeks that it is, in general, impossible to trisect a given angle in this way. These problems can be settled using the field of constructible numbers. Real constructible numbers are, by definition, lengths of line segments that can be constructed from the points 0 and 1 in finitely many steps using only compass and straightedge. These numbers, endowed with the field operations of real numbers, restricted to the constructible numbers, form a field, which properly includes the field of rational numbers. The illustration shows the construction of
square root In mathematics, a square root of a number is a number such that ; in other words, a number whose '' square'' (the result of multiplying the number by itself, or  ⋅ ) is . For example, 4 and −4 are square roots of 16, because . ...
s of constructible numbers, not necessarily contained within . Using the labeling in the illustration, construct the segments , , and a semicircle over (center at the midpoint ), which intersects the perpendicular line through in a point , at a distance of exactly h=\sqrt p from when has length one. Not all real numbers are constructible. It can be shown that \sqrt 2 is not a constructible number, which implies that it is impossible to construct with compass and straightedge the length of the side of a cube with volume 2, another problem posed by the ancient Greeks.

A field with four elements

In addition to familiar number systems such as the rationals, there are other, less immediate examples of fields. The following example is a field consisting of four elements called , , , and . The notation is chosen such that plays the role of the additive identity element (denoted 0 in the axioms above), and is the multiplicative identity (denoted 1 in the axioms above). The field axioms can be verified by using some more field theory, or by direct computation. For example, : , which equals , as required by the distributivity. This field is called a finite field with four elements, and is denoted or . The subset consisting of and (highlighted in red in the tables at the right) is also a field, known as the '' binary field'' or . In the context of
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 Applied science, practical discipli ...
and Boolean algebra, and are often denoted respectively by ''false'' and ''true'', and the addition is then denoted XOR (exclusive or). In other words, the structure of the binary field is the basic structure that allows computing with bits.

Elementary notions

In this section, denotes an arbitrary field and and are arbitrary elements of .

Consequences of the definition

One has and . In particular, one may deduce the additive inverse of every element as soon as one knows . If then or must be 0, since, if , then . This means that every field is an integral domain. In addition, the following properties are true for any elements and : : : : : : if

The additive and the multiplicative group of a field

The axioms of a field imply that it is an abelian group under addition. This group is called the additive group of the field, and is sometimes denoted by when denoting it simply as could be confusing. Similarly, the ''nonzero'' elements of form an abelian group under multiplication, called the multiplicative group, and denoted by or just or . A field may thus be defined as set equipped with two operations denoted as an addition and a multiplication such that is an abelian group under addition, is an abelian group under multiplication (where 0 is the identity element of the addition), and multiplication is distributive over addition.Equivalently, a field is an algebraic structure of type , such that is not defined, and are abelian groups, and ⋅ is distributive over +. Some elementary statements about fields can therefore be obtained by applying general facts of
groups A group is a number of persons or things that are located, gathered, or classed together. Groups of people * Cultural group, a group whose members share the same cultural identity * Ethnic group, a group whose members share the same ethnic ide ...
. For example, the additive and multiplicative inverses and are uniquely determined by . The requirement follows, because 1 is the identity element of a group that does not contain 0. Thus, the trivial ring, consisting of a single element, is not a field. Every finite subgroup of the multiplicative group of a field is
cyclic Cycle, cycles, or cyclic may refer to: Anthropology and social sciences * Cyclic history, a theory of history * Cyclical theory, a theory of American political history associated with Arthur Schlesinger, Sr. * Social cycle, various cycles in so ...
(see ).


In addition to the multiplication of two elements of ''F'', it is possible to define the product of an arbitrary element of by a positive integer to be the -fold sum : (which is an element of .) If there is no positive integer such that :, then is said to have characteristic 0. For example, the field of rational numbers has characteristic 0 since no positive integer is zero. Otherwise, if there ''is'' a positive integer satisfying this equation, the smallest such positive integer can be shown to be a
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 ...
. It is usually denoted by and the field is said to have characteristic then. For example, the field has characteristic 2 since (in the notation of the above addition table) . If has characteristic , then for all in . This implies that :, since all other binomial coefficients appearing in the binomial formula are divisible by . Here, ( factors) is the -th power, i.e., the -fold product of the element . Therefore, the Frobenius map : is compatible with the addition in (and also with the multiplication), and is therefore a field homomorphism. The existence of this homomorphism makes fields in characteristic quite different from fields of characteristic 0.

Subfields and prime fields

A '' subfield'' of a field is a subset of that is a field with respect to the field operations of . Equivalently is a subset of that contains , and is closed under addition, multiplication, additive inverse and multiplicative inverse of a nonzero element. This means that , that for all both and are in , and that for all in , both and are in .
Field homomorphism Field theory is the branch of mathematics in which fields are studied. This is a glossary of some terms of the subject. (See field theory (physics) for the unrelated field theories in physics.) Definition of a field A field is a commutative rin ...
s are maps between two fields such that , , and , where and are arbitrary elements of . All field homomorphisms are injective. If is also surjective, it is called an isomorphism (or the fields and are called isomorphic). A field is called a prime field if it has no proper (i.e., strictly smaller) subfields. Any field contains a prime field. If the characteristic of is (a prime number), the prime field is isomorphic to the finite field introduced below. Otherwise the prime field is isomorphic to .

Finite fields

''Finite fields'' (also called ''Galois fields'') are fields with finitely many elements, whose number is also referred to as the order of the field. The above introductory example is a field with four elements. Its subfield is the smallest field, because by definition a field has at least two distinct elements . The simplest finite fields, with prime order, are most directly accessible using modular arithmetic. For a fixed positive integer , arithmetic "modulo " means to work with the numbers : The addition and multiplication on this set are done by performing the operation in question in the set of integers, dividing by and taking the remainder as result. This construction yields a field precisely if is a
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 ...
. For example, taking the prime results in the above-mentioned field . For and more generally, for any
composite number A composite number is a positive integer that can be formed by multiplying two smaller positive integers. Equivalently, it is a positive integer that has at least one divisor In mathematics, a divisor of an integer n, also called a factor ...
(i.e., any number which can be expressed as a product of two strictly smaller natural numbers), is not a field: the product of two non-zero elements is zero since in , which, as was explained above, prevents from being a field. The field with elements ( being prime) constructed in this way is usually denoted by . Every finite field has elements, where is prime and . This statement holds since may be viewed as a vector space over its prime field. The dimension of this vector space is necessarily finite, say , which implies the asserted statement. A field with elements can be constructed as the splitting field of the polynomial :. Such a splitting field is an extension of in which the polynomial has zeros. This means has as many zeros as possible since the degree of is . For , it can be checked case by case using the above multiplication table that all four elements of satisfy the equation , so they are zeros of . By contrast, in , has only two zeros (namely 0 and 1), so does not split into linear factors in this smaller field. Elaborating further on basic field-theoretic notions, it can be shown that two finite fields with the same order are isomorphic. It is thus customary to speak of ''the'' finite field with elements, denoted by or .


Historically, three algebraic disciplines led to the concept of a field: the question of solving polynomial equations, algebraic number theory, and algebraic geometry. A first step towards the notion of a field was made in 1770 by Joseph-Louis Lagrange, who observed that permuting the zeros of a cubic polynomial in the expression : (with being a third root of unity) only yields two values. This way, Lagrange conceptually explained the classical solution method of Scipione del Ferro and François Viète, which proceeds by reducing a cubic equation for an unknown to a quadratic equation for . Together with a similar observation for equations of degree 4, Lagrange thus linked what eventually became the concept of fields and the concept of groups. Vandermonde, also in 1770, and to a fuller extent, Carl Friedrich Gauss, in his '' Disquisitiones Arithmeticae'' (1801), studied the equation : for a prime and, again using modern language, the resulting cyclic Galois group. Gauss deduced that a regular -gon can be constructed if . Building on Lagrange's work, Paolo Ruffini claimed (1799) that quintic equations (polynomial equations of degree 5) cannot be solved algebraically; however, his arguments were flawed. These gaps were filled by Niels Henrik Abel in 1824. Évariste Galois, in 1832, devised necessary and sufficient criteria for a polynomial equation to be algebraically solvable, thus establishing in effect what is known as Galois theory today. Both Abel and Galois worked with what is today called an algebraic number field, but conceived neither an explicit notion of a field, nor of a group. In 1871 Richard Dedekind introduced, for a set of real or complex numbers that is closed under the four arithmetic operations, the
German German(s) may refer to: * Germany (of or related to) **Germania (historical use) * Germans, citizens of Germany, people of German ancestry, or native speakers of the German language ** For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law **Ge ...
word ''Körper'', which means "body" or "corpus" (to suggest an organically closed entity). The English term "field" was introduced by . In 1881 Leopold Kronecker defined what he called a ''domain of rationality'', which is a field of rational fractions in modern terms. Kronecker's notion did not cover the field of all algebraic numbers (which is a field in Dedekind's sense), but on the other hand was more abstract than Dedekind's in that it made no specific assumption on the nature of the elements of a field. Kronecker interpreted a field such as abstractly as the rational function field . Prior to this, examples of transcendental numbers were known since Joseph Liouville's work in 1844, until
Charles Hermite Charles Hermite () FRS FRSE MIAS (24 December 1822 – 14 January 1901) was a French mathematician who did research concerning number theory, quadratic forms, invariant theory, orthogonal polynomials, elliptic functions, and algebra. ...
(1873) and Ferdinand von Lindemann (1882) proved the transcendence of and , respectively. The first clear definition of an abstract field is due to . In particular, Heinrich Martin Weber's notion included the field F''p''. Giuseppe Veronese (1891) studied the field of formal power series, which led to introduce the field of ''p''-adic numbers. synthesized the knowledge of abstract field theory accumulated so far. He axiomatically studied the properties of fields and defined many important field-theoretic concepts. The majority of the theorems mentioned in the sections Galois theory, Constructing fields and Elementary notions can be found in Steinitz's work. linked the notion of orderings in a field, and thus the area of analysis, to purely algebraic properties. Emil Artin redeveloped Galois theory from 1928 through 1942, eliminating the dependency on the primitive element theorem.

Constructing fields

Constructing fields from rings

A commutative ring is a set, equipped with an addition and multiplication operation, satisfying all the axioms of a field, except for the existence of multiplicative inverses . For example, the integers form a commutative ring, but not a field: the
reciprocal Reciprocal may refer to: In mathematics * Multiplicative inverse, in mathematics, the number 1/''x'', which multiplied by ''x'' gives the product 1, also known as a ''reciprocal'' * Reciprocal polynomial, a polynomial obtained from another pol ...
of an integer is not itself an integer, unless . In the hierarchy of algebraic structures fields can be characterized as the commutative rings in which every nonzero element is a unit (which means every element is invertible). Similarly, fields are the commutative rings with precisely two distinct
ideal Ideal may refer to: Philosophy * Ideal (ethics), values that one actively pursues as goals * Platonic ideal, a philosophical idea of trueness of form, associated with Plato Mathematics * Ideal (ring theory), special subsets of a ring considered ...
s, and . Fields are also precisely the commutative rings in which is the only prime ideal. Given a commutative ring , there are two ways to construct a field related to , i.e., two ways of modifying such that all nonzero elements become invertible: forming the field of fractions, and forming residue fields. The field of fractions of is , the rationals, while the residue fields of are the finite fields .

Field of fractions

Given an integral domain , its field of fractions is built with the fractions of two elements of exactly as Q is constructed from the integers. More precisely, the elements of are the fractions where and are in , and . Two fractions and are equal if and only if . The operation on the fractions work exactly as for rational numbers. For example, :\frac+\frac = \frac. It is straightforward to show that, if the ring is an integral domain, the set of the fractions form a field. The field of the rational fractions over a field (or an integral domain) is the field of fractions of the polynomial ring . The field of Laurent series :\sum_^\infty a_i x^i \ (k \in \Z, a_i \in F) over a field is the field of fractions of the ring of formal power series (in which ). Since any Laurent series is a fraction of a power series divided by a power of (as opposed to an arbitrary power series), the representation of fractions is less important in this situation, though.

Residue fields

In addition to the field of fractions, which embeds injectively into a field, a field can be obtained from a commutative ring by means of a surjective map onto a field . Any field obtained in this way is a quotient , where is a maximal ideal of . If has only one maximal ideal , this field is called the residue field of . The ideal generated by a single polynomial in the polynomial ring (over a field ) is maximal if and only if is irreducible in , i.e., if cannot be expressed as the product of two polynomials in of smaller degree. This yields a field : This field contains an element (namely the residue class of ) which satisfies the equation :. For example, is obtained from by adjoining the imaginary unit symbol , which satisfies , where . Moreover, is irreducible over , which implies that the map that sends a polynomial to yields an isomorphism :\mathbf R \left(X^2 + 1\right) \ \stackrel \cong \longrightarrow \ \mathbf C.

Constructing fields within a bigger field

Fields can be constructed inside a given bigger container field. Suppose given a field , and a field containing as a subfield. For any element of , there is a smallest subfield of containing and , called the subfield of ''F'' generated by and denoted . The passage from to is referred to by '' adjoining an element'' to . More generally, for a subset , there is a minimal subfield of containing and , denoted by . The
compositum In mathematics, the tensor product of two fields is their tensor product as algebras over a common subfield. If no subfield is explicitly specified, the two fields must have the same characteristic and the common subfield is their prime subf ...
of two subfields and of some field is the smallest subfield of containing both and The compositum can be used to construct the biggest subfield of satisfying a certain property, for example the biggest subfield of , which is, in the language introduced below, algebraic over .Further examples include the maximal unramified extension or the maximal abelian extension within .

Field extensions

The notion of a subfield can also be regarded from the opposite point of view, by referring to being a '' field extension'' (or just extension) of , denoted by :, and read " over ". A basic datum of a field extension is its degree , i.e., the dimension of as an -vector space. It satisfies the formula :. Extensions whose degree is finite are referred to as finite extensions. The extensions and are of degree 2, whereas is an infinite extension.

Algebraic extensions

A pivotal notion in the study of field extensions are
algebraic element In mathematics, if is a field extension of , then an element of is called an algebraic element over , or just algebraic over , if there exists some non-zero polynomial with coefficients in such that . Elements of which are not algebraic ove ...
s. An element is ''algebraic'' over if it is a root of a polynomial with coefficients in , that is, if it satisfies a polynomial equation :, with in , and . For example, the imaginary unit in is algebraic over , and even over , since it satisfies the equation :. A field extension in which every element of is algebraic over is called an algebraic extension. Any finite extension is necessarily algebraic, as can be deduced from the above multiplicativity formula. The subfield generated by an element , as above, is an algebraic extension of if and only if is an algebraic element. That is to say, if is algebraic, all other elements of are necessarily algebraic as well. Moreover, the degree of the extension , i.e., the dimension of as an -vector space, equals the minimal degree such that there is a polynomial equation involving , as above. If this degree is , then the elements of have the form :\sum_^ a_k x^k, \ \ a_k \in E. For example, the field of Gaussian rationals is the subfield of consisting of all numbers of the form where both and are rational numbers: summands of the form (and similarly for higher exponents) don't have to be considered here, since can be simplified to .

Transcendence bases

The above-mentioned field of rational fractions , where is an indeterminate, is not an algebraic extension of since there is no polynomial equation with coefficients in whose zero is . Elements, such as , which are not algebraic are called transcendental. Informally speaking, the indeterminate and its powers do not interact with elements of . A similar construction can be carried out with a set of indeterminates, instead of just one. Once again, the field extension discussed above is a key example: if is not algebraic (i.e., is not a root of a polynomial with coefficients in ), then is isomorphic to . This isomorphism is obtained by substituting to in rational fractions. A subset of a field is a
transcendence basis In abstract algebra, the transcendence degree of a field extension ''L'' / ''K'' is a certain rather coarse measure of the "size" of the extension. Specifically, it is defined as the largest cardinality of an algebraically independent subset o ...
if it is algebraically independent (don't satisfy any polynomial relations) over and if is an algebraic extension of . Any field extension has a transcendence basis. Thus, field extensions can be split into ones of the form ( purely transcendental extensions) and algebraic extensions.

Closure operations

A field is algebraically closed if it does not have any strictly bigger algebraic extensions or, equivalently, if any polynomial equation :, with coefficients , has a solution . By the fundamental theorem of algebra, is algebraically closed, i.e., ''any'' polynomial equation with complex coefficients has a complex solution. The rational and the real numbers are ''not'' algebraically closed since the equation : does not have any rational or real solution. A field containing is called an '' algebraic closure'' of if it is
algebraic Algebraic may refer to any subject related to algebra in mathematics and related branches like algebraic number theory and algebraic topology. The word algebra itself has several meanings. Algebraic may also refer to: * Algebraic data type, a data ...
over (roughly speaking, not too big compared to ) and is algebraically closed (big enough to contain solutions of all polynomial equations). By the above, is an algebraic closure of . The situation that the algebraic closure is a finite extension of the field is quite special: by the Artin-Schreier theorem, the degree of this extension is necessarily 2, and is elementarily equivalent to . Such fields are also known as real closed fields. Any field has an algebraic closure, which is moreover unique up to (non-unique) isomorphism. It is commonly referred to as ''the'' algebraic closure and denoted . For example, the algebraic closure of is called the field of algebraic numbers. The field is usually rather implicit since its construction requires the ultrafilter lemma, a set-theoretic axiom that is weaker than the axiom of choice. In this regard, the algebraic closure of , is exceptionally simple. It is the union of the finite fields containing (the ones of order ). For any algebraically closed field of characteristic 0, the algebraic closure of the field of Laurent series is the field of Puiseux series, obtained by adjoining roots of .

Fields with additional structure

Since fields are ubiquitous in mathematics and beyond, several refinements of the concept have been adapted to the needs of particular mathematical areas.

Ordered fields

A field ''F'' is called an ''ordered field'' if any two elements can be compared, so that and whenever and . For example, the real numbers form an ordered field, with the usual ordering . The Artin-Schreier theorem states that a field can be ordered if and only if it is a formally real field, which means that any quadratic equation :x_1^2 + x_2^2 + \dots + x_n^2 = 0 only has the solution . The set of all possible orders on a fixed field is isomorphic to the set of ring homomorphisms from the Witt ring of quadratic forms over , to . An Archimedean field is an ordered field such that for each element there exists a finite expression : whose value is greater than that element, that is, there are no infinite elements. Equivalently, the field contains no
infinitesimals In mathematics, an infinitesimal number is a quantity that is closer to zero than any standard real number, but that is not zero. The word ''infinitesimal'' comes from a 17th-century Modern Latin coinage ''infinitesimus'', which originally refe ...
(elements smaller than all rational numbers); or, yet equivalent, the field is isomorphic to a subfield of . An ordered field is Dedekind-complete if all upper bounds,
lower bound In mathematics, particularly in order theory, an upper bound or majorant of a subset of some preordered set is an element of that is greater than or equal to every element of . Dually, a lower bound or minorant of is defined to be an elemen ...
s (see Dedekind cut) and limits, which should exist, do exist. More formally, each
bounded subset :''"Bounded" and "boundary" are distinct concepts; for the latter see boundary (topology). A circle in isolation is a boundaryless bounded set, while the half plane is unbounded yet has a boundary. In mathematical analysis and related areas of mat ...
of is required to have a least upper bound. Any complete field is necessarily Archimedean, since in any non-Archimedean field there is neither a greatest infinitesimal nor a least positive rational, whence the sequence , every element of which is greater than every infinitesimal, has no limit. Since every proper subfield of the reals also contains such gaps, is the unique complete ordered field, up to isomorphism. Several foundational results in
calculus Calculus, originally called infinitesimal calculus or "the calculus of infinitesimals", is the mathematics, mathematical study of continuous change, in the same way that geometry is the study of shape, and algebra is the study of generalizati ...
follow directly from this characterization of the reals. The
hyperreals In mathematics, the system of hyperreal numbers is a way of treating infinite and infinitesimal (infinitely small but non-zero) quantities. The hyperreals, or nonstandard reals, *R, are an extension of the real numbers R that contains number ...
form an ordered field that is not Archimedean. It is an extension of the reals obtained by including infinite and infinitesimal numbers. These are larger, respectively smaller than any real number. The hyperreals form the foundational basis of non-standard analysis.

Topological fields

Another refinement of the notion of a field is a topological field, in which the set is a topological space, such that all operations of the field (addition, multiplication, the maps and ) are continuous maps with respect to the topology of the space. The topology of all the fields discussed below is induced from a metric, i.e., a function : that measures a ''distance'' between any two elements of . The completion of is another field in which, informally speaking, the "gaps" in the original field are filled, if there are any. For example, any irrational number , such as , is a "gap" in the rationals in the sense that it is a real number that can be approximated arbitrarily closely by rational numbers , in the sense that distance of and given by the absolute value is as small as desired. The following table lists some examples of this construction. The fourth column shows an example of a zero sequence, i.e., a sequence whose limit (for ) is zero. The field is used in number theory and -adic analysis. The algebraic closure carries a unique norm extending the one on , but is not complete. The completion of this algebraic closure, however, is algebraically closed. Because of its rough analogy to the complex numbers, it is sometimes called the field of complex p-adic numbers and is denoted by .

Local fields

The following topological fields are called '' local fields'':Some authors also consider the fields and to be local fields. On the other hand, these two fields, also called Archimedean local fields, share little similarity with the local fields considered here, to a point that calls them "completely anomalous". * finite extensions of (local fields of characteristic zero) * finite extensions of , the field of Laurent series over (local fields of characteristic ). These two types of local fields share some fundamental similarities. In this relation, the elements and (referred to as uniformizer) correspond to each other. The first manifestation of this is at an elementary level: the elements of both fields can be expressed as power series in the uniformizer, with coefficients in . (However, since the addition in is done using carrying, which is not the case in , these fields are not isomorphic.) The following facts show that this superficial similarity goes much deeper: * Any
first-order In mathematics and other formal sciences, first-order or first order most often means either: * "linear" (a polynomial of degree at most one), as in first-order approximation and other calculus uses, where it is contrasted with "polynomials of hig ...
statement that is true for almost all is also true for almost all . An application of this is the Ax-Kochen theorem describing zeros of homogeneous polynomials in . * Tamely ramified extensions of both fields are in bijection to one another. * Adjoining arbitrary -power roots of (in ), respectively of (in ), yields (infinite) extensions of these fields known as perfectoid fields. Strikingly, the Galois groups of these two fields are isomorphic, which is the first glimpse of a remarkable parallel between these two fields: \operatorname \left(\mathbf Q_p \left(p^ \right) \right) \cong \operatorname \left(\mathbf F_p((t))\left(t^\right)\right).

Differential fields

Differential fields are fields equipped with a derivation, i.e., allow to take derivatives of elements in the field. For example, the field R(''X''), together with the standard derivative of polynomials forms a differential field. These fields are central to differential Galois theory, a variant of Galois theory dealing with linear differential equations.

Galois theory

Galois theory studies algebraic extensions of a field by studying the symmetry in the arithmetic operations of addition and multiplication. An important notion in this area is that of finite Galois extensions , which are, by definition, those that are separable and normal. The primitive element theorem shows that finite separable extensions are necessarily
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, i.e., of the form :, where is an irreducible polynomial (as above). For such an extension, being normal and separable means that all zeros of are contained in and that has only simple zeros. The latter condition is always satisfied if has characteristic 0. For a finite Galois extension, the Galois group is the group of field automorphisms of that are trivial on (i.e., the bijections that preserve addition and multiplication and that send elements of to themselves). The importance of this group stems from the
fundamental theorem of Galois theory In mathematics, the fundamental theorem of Galois theory is a result that describes the structure of certain types of field extensions in relation to groups. It was proved by Évariste Galois in his development of Galois theory. In its most basi ...
, which constructs an explicit one-to-one correspondence between the set of subgroups of and the set of intermediate extensions of the extension . By means of this correspondence, group-theoretic properties translate into facts about fields. For example, if the Galois group of a Galois extension as above is not solvable (cannot be built from abelian groups), then the zeros of ''cannot'' be expressed in terms of addition, multiplication, and radicals, i.e., expressions involving \sqrt /math>. For example, the symmetric groups is not solvable for . Consequently, as can be shown, the zeros of the following polynomials are not expressible by sums, products, and radicals. For the latter polynomial, this fact is known as the Abel–Ruffini theorem: : (and ), : (where is regarded as a polynomial in , for some indeterminates , is any field, and ). The tensor product of fields is not usually a field. For example, a finite extension of degree is a Galois extension if and only if there is an isomorphism of -algebras :. This fact is the beginning of
Grothendieck's Galois theory In mathematics, Grothendieck's Galois theory is an abstract approach to the Galois theory of fields, developed around 1960 to provide a way to study the fundamental group of algebraic topology in the setting of algebraic geometry. It provides, in ...
, a far-reaching extension of Galois theory applicable to algebro-geometric objects.

Invariants of fields

Basic invariants of a field include the characteristic and the transcendence degree of over its prime field. The latter is defined as the maximal number of elements in that are algebraically independent over the prime field. Two algebraically closed fields and are isomorphic precisely if these two data agree. This implies that any two uncountable algebraically closed fields of the same cardinality and the same characteristic are isomorphic. For example, and are isomorphic (but ''not'' isomorphic as topological fields).

Model theory of fields

In model theory, a branch of
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 forma ...
, two fields and are called elementarily equivalent if every mathematical statement that is true for is also true for and conversely. The mathematical statements in question are required to be
first-order In mathematics and other formal sciences, first-order or first order most often means either: * "linear" (a polynomial of degree at most one), as in first-order approximation and other calculus uses, where it is contrasted with "polynomials of hig ...
sentences (involving 0, 1, the addition and multiplication). A typical example, for , ''n'' an integer, is : = "any polynomial of degree in has a zero in " The set of such formulas for all expresses that is algebraically closed. The Lefschetz principle states that is elementarily equivalent to any algebraically closed field of characteristic zero. Moreover, any fixed statement holds in if and only if it holds in any algebraically closed field of sufficiently high characteristic. If is an ultrafilter on a set , and is a field for every in , the ultraproduct of the with respect to is a field. It is denoted by :, since it behaves in several ways as a limit of the fields : Łoś's theorem states that any first order statement that holds for all but finitely many , also holds for the ultraproduct. Applied to the above sentence , this shows that there is an isomorphismBoth and are algebraically closed by Łoś's theorem. For the same reason, they both have characteristic zero. Finally, they are both uncountable, so that they are isomorphic. :\operatorname_ \overline \mathbf F_p \cong \mathbf C. The Ax–Kochen theorem mentioned above also follows from this and an isomorphism of the ultraproducts (in both cases over all primes ) :. In addition, model theory also studies the logical properties of various other types of fields, such as real closed fields or exponential fields (which are equipped with an exponential function ).

The absolute Galois group

For fields that are not algebraically closed (or not separably closed), the absolute Galois group is fundamentally important: extending the case of finite Galois extensions outlined above, this group governs ''all'' finite separable extensions of . By elementary means, the group can be shown to be the
Prüfer group In mathematics, specifically in group theory, the Prüfer ''p''-group or the ''p''-quasicyclic group or ''p''∞-group, Z(''p''∞), for a prime number ''p'' is the unique ''p''-group in which every element has ''p'' different ''p''-th roots. ...
, the profinite completion of . This statement subsumes the fact that the only algebraic extensions of are the fields for , and that the Galois groups of these finite extensions are given by :. A description in terms of generators and relations is also known for the Galois groups of -adic number fields (finite extensions of ). Representations of Galois groups and of related groups such as the Weil group are fundamental in many branches of arithmetic, such as the Langlands program. The cohomological study of such representations is done using Galois cohomology. For example, the
Brauer group Brauer or Bräuer is a surname of German origin, meaning "brewer". Notable people with the name include:- * Alfred Brauer (1894–1985), German-American mathematician, brother of Richard * Andreas Brauer (born 1973), German film producer * Arik ...
, which is classically defined as the group of central simple -algebras, can be reinterpreted as a Galois cohomology group, namely :.


Milnor K-theory is defined as :K_n^M(F) = F^\times \otimes \cdots \otimes F^\times / \left\langle x \otimes (1-x) \mid x \in F \setminus \ \right\rangle. The norm residue isomorphism theorem, proved around 2000 by Vladimir Voevodsky, relates this to Galois cohomology by means of an isomorphism :K_n^M(F) / p = H^n(F, \mu_l^). Algebraic K-theory is related to the group of invertible matrices with coefficients the given field. For example, the process of taking the
determinant In mathematics, the determinant is a scalar value that is a function of the entries of a square matrix. It characterizes some properties of the matrix and the linear map represented by the matrix. In particular, the determinant is nonzero if a ...
of an invertible matrix leads to an isomorphism K1(''F'') = ''F''×. Matsumoto's theorem shows that K2(''F'') agrees with K2M(''F''). In higher degrees, K-theory diverges from Milnor K-theory and remains hard to compute in general.


Linear algebra and commutative algebra

If , then the equation : has a unique solution in a field , namely x=a^b. This immediate consequence of the definition of a field is fundamental in linear algebra. For example, it is an essential ingredient of Gaussian elimination and of the proof that any vector space has a basis. The theory of
modules Broadly speaking, modularity is the degree to which a system's components may be separated and recombined, often with the benefit of flexibility and variety in use. The concept of modularity is used primarily to reduce complexity by breaking a s ...
(the analogue of vector spaces over rings instead of fields) is much more complicated, because the above equation may have several or no solutions. In particular systems of linear equations over a ring are much more difficult to solve than in the case of fields, even in the specially simple case of the ring \Z of the integers.

Finite fields: cryptography and coding theory

A widely applied cryptographic routine uses the fact that discrete exponentiation, i.e., computing : ( factors, for an integer ) in a (large) finite field can be performed much more efficiently than the discrete logarithm, which is the inverse operation, i.e., determining the solution to an equation :. In
elliptic curve cryptography Elliptic-curve cryptography (ECC) is an approach to public-key cryptography based on the algebraic structure of elliptic curves over finite fields. ECC allows smaller keys compared to non-EC cryptography (based on plain Galois fields) to provid ...
, the multiplication in a finite field is replaced by the operation of adding points on an
elliptic curve In mathematics, an elliptic curve is a smooth, projective, algebraic curve of genus one, on which there is a specified point . An elliptic curve is defined over a field and describes points in , the Cartesian product of with itself. I ...
, i.e., the solutions of an equation of the form :. Finite fields are also used in coding theory and combinatorics.

Geometry: field of functions

Functions on a suitable topological space into a field can be added and multiplied pointwise, e.g., the product of two functions is defined by the product of their values within the domain: :. This makes these functions a - commutative algebra. For having a ''field'' of functions, one must consider algebras of functions that are integral domains. In this case the ratios of two functions, i.e., expressions of the form :\frac, form a field, called field of functions. This occurs in two main cases. When is a complex manifold . In this case, one considers the algebra of holomorphic functions, i.e., complex differentiable functions. Their ratios form the field of meromorphic functions on . The
function field of an algebraic variety In algebraic geometry, the function field of an algebraic variety ''V'' consists of objects which are interpreted as rational functions on ''V''. In classical algebraic geometry they are ratios of polynomials; in complex algebraic geometry these ...
(a geometric object defined as the common zeros of polynomial equations) consists of ratios of regular functions, i.e., ratios of polynomial functions on the variety. The function field of the -dimensional space over a field is , i.e., the field consisting of ratios of polynomials in indeterminates. The function field of is the same as the one of any
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dense subvariety. In other words, the function field is insensitive to replacing by a (slightly) smaller subvariety. The function field is invariant under isomorphism and birational equivalence of varieties. It is therefore an important tool for the study of abstract algebraic varieties and for the classification of algebraic varieties. For example, the dimension, which equals the transcendence degree of , is invariant under birational equivalence. For curves (i.e., the dimension is one), the function field is very close to : if is smooth and proper (the analogue of being
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), can be reconstructed, up to isomorphism, from its field of functions.More precisely, there is an
equivalence of categories In category theory, a branch of abstract mathematics, an equivalence of categories is a relation between two categories that establishes that these categories are "essentially the same". There are numerous examples of categorical equivalences fr ...
between smooth proper algebraic curves over an algebraically closed field and finite field extensions of .
In higher dimension the function field remembers less, but still decisive information about . The study of function fields and their geometric meaning in higher dimensions is referred to as birational geometry. The
minimal model program In algebraic geometry, the minimal model program is part of the birational classification of algebraic varieties. Its goal is to construct a birational model of any complex projective variety which is as simple as possible. The subject has its ori ...
attempts to identify the simplest (in a certain precise sense) algebraic varieties with a prescribed function field.

Number theory: global fields

Global field In mathematics, a global field is one of two type of fields (the other one is local field) which are characterized using valuations. There are two kinds of global fields: *Algebraic number field: A finite extension of \mathbb *Global function f ...
s are in the limelight in algebraic number theory and arithmetic geometry. They are, by definition, number fields (finite extensions of ) or function fields over (finite extensions of ). As for local fields, these two types of fields share several similar features, even though they are of characteristic 0 and positive characteristic, respectively. This function field analogy can help to shape mathematical expectations, often first by understanding questions about function fields, and later treating the number field case. The latter is often more difficult. For example, the Riemann hypothesis concerning the zeros of the Riemann zeta function (open as of 2017) can be regarded as being parallel to the Weil conjectures (proven in 1974 by Pierre Deligne). Cyclotomic fields are among the most intensely studied number fields. They are of the form , where is a primitive -th root of unity, i.e., a complex number satisfying and for all . For being a regular prime, Kummer used cyclotomic fields to prove Fermat's Last Theorem, which asserts the non-existence of rational nonzero solutions to the equation :. Local fields are completions of global fields. Ostrowski's theorem asserts that the only completions of , a global field, are the local fields and . Studying arithmetic questions in global fields may sometimes be done by looking at the corresponding questions locally. This technique is called the
local-global principle In mathematics, Helmut Hasse's local–global principle, also known as the Hasse principle, is the idea that one can find an integer solution to an equation by using the Chinese remainder theorem to piece together solutions modulo powers of each ...
. For example, the Hasse–Minkowski theorem reduces the problem of finding rational solutions of quadratic equations to solving these equations in and , whose solutions can easily be described. Unlike for local fields, the Galois groups of global fields are not known. Inverse Galois theory studies the (unsolved) problem whether any finite group is the Galois group for some number field . Class field theory describes the abelian extensions, i.e., ones with abelian Galois group, or equivalently the abelianized Galois groups of global fields. A classical statement, the Kronecker–Weber theorem, describes the maximal abelian extension of : it is the field : obtained by adjoining all primitive -th roots of unity. Kronecker's Jugendtraum asks for a similarly explicit description of of general number fields . For
imaginary quadratic field In algebraic number theory, a quadratic field is an algebraic number field of degree two over \mathbf, the rational numbers. Every such quadratic field is some \mathbf(\sqrt) where d is a (uniquely defined) square-free integer different from 0 ...
s, F=\mathbf Q(\sqrt), , the theory of complex multiplication describes using
elliptic curves In mathematics, an elliptic curve is a smooth, projective, algebraic curve of genus one, on which there is a specified point . An elliptic curve is defined over a field and describes points in , the Cartesian product of with itself. If t ...
. For general number fields, no such explicit description is known.

Related notions

In addition to the additional structure that fields may enjoy, fields admit various other related notions. Since in any field 0 ≠ 1, any field has at least two elements. Nonetheless, there is a concept of field with one element, which is suggested to be a limit of the finite fields , as tends to 1. In addition to division rings, there are various other weaker algebraic structures related to fields such as quasifields, near-fields and
semifield In mathematics, a semifield is an algebraic structure with two binary operations, addition and multiplication, which is similar to a field, but with some axioms relaxed. Overview The term semifield has two conflicting meanings, both of which inc ...
s. There are also proper classes with field structure, which are sometimes called Fields, with a capital F. The surreal numbers form a Field containing the reals, and would be a field except for the fact that they are a proper class, not a set. The nimbers, a concept from game theory, form such a Field as well.

Division rings

Dropping one or several axioms in the definition of a field leads to other algebraic structures. As was mentioned above, commutative rings satisfy all field axioms except for the existence of multiplicative inverses. Dropping instead commutativity of multiplication leads to the concept of a '' division ring'' or ''skew field'';Historically, division rings were sometimes referred to as fields, while fields were called ''commutative fields''. sometimes associativity is weakened as well. The only division rings that are finite-dimensional -vector spaces are itself, (which is a field), and the quaternions (in which multiplication is non-commutative). This result is known as the Frobenius theorem. The octonions , for which multiplication is neither commutative nor associative, is a normed
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division algebra, but is not a division ring. This fact was proved using methods of algebraic topology in 1958 by Michel Kervaire, Raoul Bott, and John Milnor. The non-existence of an odd-dimensional division algebra is more classical. It can be deduced from the hairy ball theorem illustrated at the right.



* * * , especially Chapter 13 * * * * * * . See especially Book 3 () and Book 6 (). * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * {{DEFAULTSORT:Field (Mathematics) Algebraic structures Abstract algebra