Periodica Mathematica Hungarica

, Volume 9, Issue 3, pp 187–204 | Cite as

Solving equations in groups: A survey of Frobenius' theorem

  • H. Finkelstein


A fundamental result of Frobenius states that in a finite group the number of elements which satisfy the equationxn=1, wheren divides the order of the group, is divisible byn. Here 1 denotes the identity of the group. This theorem and several generalizations were obtained by Frobenius at the turn of the century. These results have stimulated a great amount of interest in counting solutions of equations in groups. This article discusses these results and traces the various developments which these fundamental papers have generated.

LetG be a finite group of order |G|. Leto(g) denote the order ofg(ε G). LetH(s, k)={xεG:k|o(x)| sk} wherea/b meansa dividesb and leth(s,k)=|H(s,k)|. Using this notation the simplest of Frobenius' results states ifn/|G|, then/h(n, 1). The minimum value ofh(n, 1) is discussed in the first section. Various conditions are known to insure thath(n, 1)=n. A long standing conjecture of Frobenius states ifn=h(n, 1) thenH(n, 1) is a subgroup (where of coursen/|G|). This conjecture is valid for solvable groups, as well as for various arithmetic conditions.

In the second section other divisibility conditions arising from Frobenius' Theorem are discussed. One direction covers more general arithmetic divisibility condition. Another direction has a much wider scope, involving a finite number of equations of an unspecified form and is mainly due to P. Hall. Recently some divisibility conditions involving all groups of a given order have been obtained. Divisibility conditions also hold in infinite groups, and for automorphism analogues of element order. In the next section generalizations to group characters relating back to Frobenius are given. Some of these expressions are used in analyzing properties of group representations and have applications in quantum theory. In the last section clear evidence is established for the combinatorial rather than group-theoretic nature of these results. In particular, some recent work of Snapper links the counting of solutions of equations with the cycle indices in combinatorial theory. Counting solutions of equations in the symmetric groups is also discussed.

AMS (MOS) subject classifications (1970)

Primary 20-02 Secondary 05-02 20D99 05A10 

Key words and phrases

Divisibility conditions Frobenius' Theorem automorphism order characters cycle indices 


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Copyright information

© Akadémiai Kiadó 1978

Authors and Affiliations

  • H. Finkelstein
    • 1
  1. 1.Discovery Learning, Inc.AtlantaU. S. A.

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