From Rainbows to Rings: A History of the Idea of the Spectrum

  • D. E. Taylor


In twentieth century mathematics the word ’spectrum’ occurs in many places and is used to describe a wide variety of apparently unrelated ideas. The evolution of the meaning of this word begins with the rainbow of light created by a prism and passes by way of integral equations and quantum mechanics to the space of prime ideals of a ring. Along the way one glimpses much of modern harmonic analysis and operator theory.


Quadratic Form Prime Ideal Maximal Ideal Commutative Ring Algebraic Variety 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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  1. J. Dieudonné, History of Functional Analysis, Notas de Matemática ( 77 ), North-Holland (Amsterdam, New York, Oxford, 1981 ).Google Scholar
  2. LA. Steen, “Highlights in the history of spectral theory”, Amer. Math. Monthly 80(1973) 359–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. E. Taylor
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Pure MathematicsUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

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