Mathematics Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people studying math at any level and professionals in related fields. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In my studies so far, I have had the word 'ramification' come up in Algebraic Number Theory and Complex Analysis.

The Wikipedia article tells me that 'ramification' is also used in some other fields.

I was wondering when the term 'ramification' was first used in literature, and also the field it was first used in.

share|cite|improve this question
Unfortunately, ‘ramification’ does not seem to appear on Jeff Miller's pages. I believe it was originally used in the theory of Riemann surfaces, and its use spread elsewhere by analogy. (The ring of integers of an algebraic number field, after all, is a Dedekind domain, and so akin to a smooth affine algebraic curve...) – Zhen Lin Dec 15 '11 at 5:02
Thanks for the link to the page. – Rankeya Dec 15 '11 at 5:04
It’s also used in infinite partition calculus and thence in set-theoretic topology: roughly speaking, a ramification argument shows the existence of an object by building an infinite tree whose branches are better approximations to it the higher they reach and showing that there is a branch that hits every non-empty level and so is the desired object. In this context the name goes back at least to P. Erdős, A. Hajnal, & R. Rado, Partition relations for cardinal numbers, Acta Math. Acad. Sci. Hung. 16 (1965), 93-196. – Brian M. Scott Dec 15 '11 at 5:45
@KCd: I realize that. I was not suggesting that this use was earlier; I was merely adding to the list of fields in which the term is used, in case that turned out also to be of interest for the OP. – Brian M. Scott Dec 15 '11 at 7:07
In Riemann's collected works, available here, the word Verzweigung seems to appear first in his Beiträge zur Theorie der durch die Gauss'sche Reihe $F(\alpha,\beta,\gamma,x)$ darstellbaren Functionen (1854), last paragraph of the introduction. – t.b. Dec 15 '11 at 9:19

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.