This chapter establishes some essential foundational results in the subject of algebraic number theory beyond what was already in Basic Algebra.
Section 1 puts matters in perspective by examining what was proved in Chapter I for quadratic number fields and picking out questions that need to be addressed before one can hope to develop a comparable theory for number fields of degree greater than 2.
Sections 2–4 concern the field discriminant of a number field. Section 2 contains the definition of discriminant, as well as some formulas and examples. The main result of Section 3 is the Dedekind Discriminant Theorem. This concerns how prime ideals (p) in Z split when extended to the ideal (p)R in the ring of integers R of a number field. The theorem says that ramification, i.e, the occurrence of some prime ideal factor in R to a power greater than 1, occurs if and only if p divides the field discriminant. The theorem is proved only in a very useful special case, the general case being deferred to Chapter VI. The useful special case is obtained as a consequence of Kummer’s criterion, which relates the factorization modulo p of irreducible monic polynomials in Z[X] to the question of the splitting of the ideal (p)R. Section 4 gives a number of examples of the theory for number fields of degree 3.
Section 5 establishes the Dirichlet Unit Theorem, which describes the group of units in the ring of algebraic integers in a number field. The torsion subgroup is the subgroup of roots of unity, and it is finite. The quotient of the group of units by the torsion subgroup is a free abelian group of a certain finite rank. The proof is an application of the Minkowski Lattice-Point Theorem.
Section 6 concerns class numbers of algebraic number fields. Two nonzero ideals I and J in the ring of algebraic integers of a number field are equivalent if there are nonzero principal ideals (a) and (b) with (a)I = (b)J . It is relatively easy to prove that the set of equivalence classes has a group structure and that the order of this group, which is called the class number, is finite. The class number is 1 if and only if the ring is a principal ideal domain. One wants to be able to compute class numbers, and this easy proof of finiteness of class numbers is not helpful toward this end. Instead, one applies theMinkowski Lattice-Point Theorem a second time, obtaining a second proof of finiteness, one that has a sharp estimate for a finite set of ideals that need to be tested for equivalence. Some examples are provided. A by-product of the sharp estimate is Minkowski’s theorem that the field discriminant of any number field other than Q is greater than 1. In combination with the Dedekind Discriminant Theorem, this result shows that there always exist ramified primes over Q.