Definition:Number Theory

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Number theory is the branch of mathematics which studies the properties of the natural numbers.

Also known as

Older sources refer to number theory variously as:

theory of numbers
the higher arithmetic

Carl Friedrich Gauss himself used the term arithmetic, after the manner of the ancient Greeks.

Number theory can also be seen described by the fanciful name the Queen of Mathematics for various whimsical reasons.

Also defined as

Some sources allow that number theory studies the properties of all integers, not just the natural numbers, that is, the positive integers.

Also see

  • Results about number theory can be found here.

Historical Note

The field of number theory was founded in its modern form by Pierre de Fermat in his pioneering work in the $17$th century.

However, most of his discoveries are known about only because he wrote about them to his friends, or (famously) jotted them down in the margins of his copy of Diophantus's Arithmetica.

For many of these, his proofs were never recorded, and when he died they were lost forever.

Nobody else was able to follow him until Euler and Lagrange in the following century.

The field was properly placed on a firm footing by the work of Carl Friedrich Gauss in his Disquisitiones Arithmeticae.

The field was advanced significantly by Augustin Louis Cauchy.