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Algebra [1st Edition] Hardcover – 24 Apr 1991

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 43 reviews
103 of 114 people found the following review helpful
Great book for challanging you to think with clarity 23 Jun. 2004
By Ellipsic - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Artin's book is probably one of the better books, more because of the way you have to read it to learn it. Artin's book is extremely nonstandard, in the sense that it isn't so "encyclopedic" as you usually encounter with the whole theorem, corollary, proof, proof, proof, example, example sequence. What I think a lot of readers miss is that Artin's book makes you fill in the details he leaves out by using the hints he mentions in words within the text. For example, I was able to expand the two pages of notes on Ch 2, section 5, in Artin into about 8 pages of original notes and theorems, just by digging for the main points. If you want a sample of my notes, please email me and I'll email you a brief PDF sample for you to compare. That being said, assume that you will have to dig a lot in this book, and should you choose to study from it, I suggest the following:

How to read it:

With a cup of coffee, or tea, and a notepad of paper for you to make comments on. Do not take notes; anyone knows that simply rewriting things doesn't do anything for learning. You should do the proofs in different ways, if you can see how, and try to make some of the aside remarks he makes into theorems or more precise ideas (this is not to say that Artin lacks rigor; this is just talking about the general commentary. When he makes commentary, it always seems to be enough to actually dig out exactly what to do after a little scratching). He also leaves a lot of easier proofs to the reader, so do them.

Is non-standard a less-rigorous approach?

No. Artin is definitely doing his own thing here, but I think it works really well. Getting through that book FORCES you to take responsibility for your math education by making you get your hands dirty while also developing an intuitive understanding of algebra.

What about his personal flavor of algebra?

Well, it's fairly clear to all of us that texts seem to have different flavors (being a function of the author's research area, and what was fashionable during the time the book was authored). Artin's book is algebra with light strong hints of geometry throughout, as he is in algebraic geometry. You will find that unlike most authors, Artin loves structures made of matrices when working with examples, as opposed to permutation groups or the ``symmetries of the square group,'' known also as the ``octic group.'' While these things have their place in his book, he changes the emphasis here. That's why I suggest using a companion book so as to have two sharply contrasting flavors of presentation, and Herstein seems to write in such a way that would do this. Artin covers a lot of material extremely quickly, but focuses on the bigger picture in several key areas. For example, the sections 7 and 8 in chapter 2 deal almost exclusively with how one would go about investigating a particular group structure to learn about it, teaching a student how to dig into something they might barely understand.

Advice to make a wondeful course:

Use another book which IS encyclopedic as a reference, since Artin doesn't label theorems and definitions so explicitly. I suggest Lang's Algebra or Undergraduate Algebra.

Personal Charracterization:

This book helps you learn how to fight with algebra problems--in a course that can be taught in a very dry way, M. Artin has been able to supply a text with a large scope, borrowing ideas from topology, analysis, etc. The book has a very broad scope, and the exercises and problems Artin has chosen are great for teaching you to dig into ideas.

* EDIT * This book is based on lecture notes, and so is great to learn from, but not so great as a reference text. Things you might like to look up (i.e., correspondence theorem for subgroups containing a normal subgroup) are left as exercises, so it's tough to track down some things.
43 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Quite Simply the BEST 26 Sept. 2004
By Dr. Joseph R. DELLAQUILA - Published on
Format: Hardcover
By treating the concrete before the abstract, Artin has produced the clearest and easiest to understand expositon I have seen. He delves quite deeply into groups, rings, field theory and Galois theory. It is NOT true, as one reviewer claims, that Artin does not treat fields: an entire chapter is devoted to the topic.

If Bourbaki is your god and you believe axiomatization is the only way to present this material, then you won't like this book. But remember that this work is written by the son of the great Emil Artin, and Michael is a first-rate mathematician as well.

The ordering of topics and the approach are non-standard but this emphasis on the concrete before the abstract and the use of a function motivated development make this book stand apart from the competition. It is not only the best undergraduate abstract algebra text that I have seen but it can be very useful for graduate students. My undergraduate major was not in math, I HAD NO UNDERGRADUATE COURSE IN ABSTRACT ALGEBRA but I jumped into a really heavy-duty graduate level abstract algebra course with Hungerford as the text. Now, I feel that Dummit and Foote is much better than Hungerford and Artin is even better than the aforementioned and much better - and more thoughtful -than Gallian. I wish I had Artin to give me enlightenment and perspective when I was struggling with this material having had no prior exposure to it.
44 of 51 people found the following review helpful
Exactly how an undergrad abstract algebra book should be 8 May 2000
By "mikeu3" - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Pretty much any introductory abstract algebra book on the market does a perfectly competent job of introducing the basic definitions and proving the basic theorems that any math student has to know. Artin's book is no exception, and I find his writing style to be very appropriate for this purpose. What sets this book apart is its treatment of topics beyond the basics--things like matrix groups and group representations. I suppose many introductory books shy away from much of the material on matrix groups in Artin's book because it involves a little analysis (and likewise for the section on Riemann surfaces in the chapter on field theory). However, Artin correctly realizes that a reasonably mathematically mature student--even one who doesn't know much analysis--will be able to profit from and enjoy the relatively informal treatments he gives these slightly more advanced topics. Of course these topics can also be found in graduate-level texts, but I for one would much rather be introduced to them via an example-based approach such as that in Artin than through the diagram-chasing obscurantism in more advanced books. I happened upon this book a little late--in fact, only after I'd taken a semester of graduate-level algebra and already felt like analysis was the path I wanted to take--but I'm beginning to think I would have been more keen on going into algebra if I'd first learned it from a book like this one.
23 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Incredibly insightful, deliberately disorganized text 7 May 2009
By Mitchell C. Amiano - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I wish to first point out that several positive reviewers argue that the strength of the book is what it forces you to look for and that if you cannot find the missing puzzle pieces you must be mathematically weak or studying poorly. The argument seems to be that the book's strength lies in that which is omitted.

This is a silly argument, but it is telling of the pedagogical philosophy and communication bias in the book. The purpose of a text book is to communicate, but Artin's lazy stream-of-consciousness style will leave many out in the cold.

Indeed, the book does seem to be written for those who do not need it, an enormous sequence of casual asides to a lost conversation between students already versed in the field and a professor intent on communicating in fits and starts, short growls and nods.

As one reviewer noted, the text derives from Artin's lecture notes. This is not uncommon, but the book shows little evidence of any thought put into making the book useful as a reference. Rather it has many gaps both large and small. It is what one might expect from putting in the least amount of editorial work and hastily typesetting the notes for publication.

In terms of original content, Artin provides important insights. Still, while I can imagine thinking "what does Artin have to say about (blank)", I cannot imagine bothering to search a book so deliberately and thoroughly written to make the reader ask and answer their own questions.
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
An Evolved Approach to introductory Algebra 13 Dec. 2006
By longhorn24 - Published on
Format: Hardcover
One of the chapters in Artin's book has a quote from Hermann Weyl: "In these days the angel of topology and the devil of abstract algebra fight for the soul of every individual discipline of mathematics." If you've studied undergraduate algebra with any other book and then encountered this wonderful book, you'll understand what he meant.

While Artin provides a comprehensive treatment of introductory algebra, starting with the most basic concepts, he covers a tremendous range of topics including matrix (Lie) groups and representation theory and Riemann surfaces. This does come at the expense of the usually comprehensive treatment of the standard topics of undergraduate algebra - readers hoping for ample opportunity to apply the Sylow classification theorems to describe all groups of order less than 100 or to describe the Galois groups of fourth-order polynomials will be sorely disappointed.

Nonetheless, the reader mathematically mature enough to view these exercises as annoying as factoring polynomials was in high school algebra will appreciate this book. Artin's clear biases towards representation theory and algebraic geometry are obvious, but considering modern research in these fields is more active than in, say, the classification of finite groups or in Galois theory, this treatment makes sense.

While some of the topics are more advanced than normally taught at the undergraduate level, the purpose of the book isn't to teach the method of mathematical proof but to provide a flavor of algebra and more importantly, its applications to other fields. Some of the problems are trivial (or at least easy), and emphasis is on intuition - Artin would rather you be able to visualize the action of a low-order dihedral group and its symmetries than to list and classify the subgroups of higher-order groups up to isomorphism. While this is an important exercise, it's the advanced-undergraduate equivalent of (high-school) polynomial factorization - it neither reinforces the heart of the subject nor does it inspire further interest in it. Besides, students contemplating graduate study in math or physics shouldn't be wasting valuable time practicing the Sylow theorems or working through proofs of the Isomorphism Theorems for every algebraic structure.

Artin's book clearly represents a change in the way modern algebra should first be taught, and consequently makes the subject interesting - a difficult thing to do for what is typically a subject used only as a vehicle to teach basic techniques and mathematical rigor. For that reason it's not only the best book for the level, but one of the best math books ever written, and should be required not only by good math students but by physics students as well.
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