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This book explores the development of number theory, and class field theory in particular, as it passed through the hands of Emil Artin, Claude Chevalley and Robert Langlands in the middle of the twentieth century. Claude Chevalley’s presence in Artin’s 1931 Hamburg lectures on class field theory serves as the starting point for this volume. From there, it is traced how class field theory advanced in the 1930s and how Artin’s contributions influenced other mathematicians at the time and in subsequent years. Given the difficult political climate and his forced emigration as it were, the question of how Artin created a life in America within the existing institutional framework, and especially of how he continued his education of and close connection with graduate students, is considered. In particular, Artin’s collaboration in algebraic number theory with George Whaples and his student Margaret Matchett’s thesis work “On the zeta-function for ideles” in the 1940s are investigated. A (first) study of the influence of Artin on present day work on a non-abelian class field theory finishes the book.
The volume consists of individual essays by the authors and two contributors, James Cogdell and Robert Langlands, and contains relevant archival material. Among these, the letter from Chevalley to Helmut Hasse in 1935 is included, where he introduces the notion of ideles and explores their significance, along with the previously unpublished thesis by Matchett and the seminal letter of Langlands to André Weil of 1967 where he lays out his ideas regarding a non-abelian class field theory. Taken together, these chapters offer a view of both the life of Artin in the 1930s and 1940s and the development of class field theory at that time. They also provide insight into the transmission of mathematical ideas, the careful steps required to preserve a life in mathematics at a difficult moment in history, and the interplay between mathematics and politics (in more ways than one). Some of the technical points in this volume require a sophisticated understanding of algebra and number theory. The broader topics, however, will appeal to a wider audience that extends beyond mathematicians and historians of mathematics to include historically minded individuals, particularly those with an interest in the time period.