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