Ernst Kummer

Ernst Eduard Kummer (29 January 1810 – 14 May 1893) was a German mathematician. Skilled in applied mathematics, Kummer trained German army officers in ballistics; afterwards, he taught for 10 years in a gymnasium, the German equivalent of high school, where he inspired the mathematical career of Leopold Kronecker.

Kummer was born in Sorau, Brandenburg (then part of Prussia). He was awarded a PhD from the University of Halle in 1831 for writing a prize-winning mathematical essay (), which was eventually published a year later.

De cosinuum et sinuum potestatibus secundum cosinus et sinus arcuum multiplicium evolvendis

In 1840, Kummer married Ottilie Mendelssohn, daughter of Nathan Mendelssohn and Henriette Itzig. Ottilie was a cousin of Felix Mendelssohn and his sister Rebecca Mendelssohn Bartholdy, the wife of the mathematician Peter Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet. His second wife (whom he married soon after the death of Ottilie in 1848), Bertha Cauer, was a maternal cousin of Ottilie. Overall, he had 13 children. His daughter Marie married the mathematician Hermann Schwarz. Kummer retired from teaching and from mathematics in 1890 and died three years later in Berlin.

Kummer also proved Fermat's last theorem for a considerable class of prime exponents (see regular prime, ideal class group). His methods were closer, perhaps, to p-adic ones than to ideal theory as understood later, though the term 'ideal' was invented by Kummer. He studied what were later called Kummer extensions of fields: that is, extensions generated by adjoining an nth root to a field already containing a primitive nth root of unity. This is a significant extension of the theory of quadratic extensions, and the genus theory of quadratic forms (linked to the 2-torsion of the class group). As such, it is still foundational for class field theory.

Kummer further conducted research in ballistics and, jointly with William Rowan Hamilton he investigated ray systems.[1]