Let $F$ be a field of arbitrary characteristic, $a\in F$, and $p$ a prime number. Show that $$f(X)=X^p-a$$ is irreducible in $F[X]$ if it has no root in $F$.

This answer to a related question mentions the result is due to Capelli.

I can prove the result if $F$ has characteristic $p$ as follows. Suppose $f$ is reducible: $f(X)=g(X)h(X)$ with $g(X)$ an irreducible factor of degree $m$, $1\le m<p$. Then if $\alpha$ is a root of $g$ in some extension field $K$ of $F$, we have $$f(X)=X^p-\alpha^p=(X-\alpha)^p$$ so its divisor $g(X)$ must be of the form $(X-\alpha)^m$. Since the coefficient of $X^{m-1}$ in $g$ is in $F$, we have $m\alpha\in F$. So $\alpha\in F$ because $m$ is invertible modulo $p$.

How would you show the result in other characteristics?


A proof of this result can be found on page 297 of Lang's Algebra and goes as follows.

Let $F$ be a field of characteristic $q \neq p$. If $f(x)$ has no root in $F$, then it must be the case that $a$ is not a $p$ - th power in $F$. Suppose that $f(x)$ is reducible. By passing the larger extension $K = F(\alpha)$ , we see that $\alpha$ must have degree $d$ where $d < p$. Then $\alpha^p = a$ and by applying $N_{K/F}(-)$ gives that $N_{K/F}(\alpha)^p = a^d$ by multiplicativity of the field norm. Since $(d,p) = 1$ this means that $a$ is a power of $p$ in $F$, a contradiction.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm curious though because I don't see where the hypothesis that the characteristic is not equal to $p$ is used. $\endgroup$ – user38268 Dec 28 '12 at 1:33
  • $\begingroup$ What I think: If the field is of characteristic $p$ then for any $a\in F$ there is $b\in F$ s.t $b^p=a$ hence $F(b)=b^p-a=a-a=0$ hence the polynomial is reducible $\endgroup$ – Belgi Dec 28 '12 at 1:39
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    $\begingroup$ @Belgi The Frobenius automorphism is surjective IIRC iff the field is finite. $\endgroup$ – user38268 Dec 28 '12 at 1:40
  • $\begingroup$ hmm yes, but we are not given that $F$ is not finite $\endgroup$ – Belgi Dec 28 '12 at 1:41
  • $\begingroup$ @Belgi Nor are we given that $F$ is finite. The point now is that $F$ is an arbitrary field of arbitrary characteristic. $\endgroup$ – user38268 Dec 28 '12 at 1:42

Suppose the characteristic of $F$ is not $p$. Let $\Omega$ be the algebraic closure of $F$. By the assumption on the characteristic of $F$, $\Omega$ has a primitive $p$-th root of unity $\zeta$. Let $\alpha$ be a root of $x^p - a$ in $\Omega$. Since $\alpha$ is not contained in $F$, $\alpha \neq 0$. Hence $\alpha, \alpha\zeta, \cdots, \alpha\zeta^{p-1}$ are distinct roots of $x^p - a$. Suppose $x^p - a = g(x)h(x)$, where $g(x)$ and $h(x)$ are monic polynomials in $F[x]$ and $1 \le$ deg $g(x) \lt p$. Let $k =$ deg $g(x)$. Let $b$ be the constant term of $g(x)$. Then $b = (-1)^k \alpha^k \zeta^m$, where $m$ is an integer. Hence $b^p = (-1)^{kp} a^k$ If $(-1)^{kp} = 1$, then let $c = b$. Suppose $(-1)^{kp} = -1$. If $p$ is odd, then let $c = -b$. If $p = 2$, then let $c = b$. In either case, $c^p = a^k$.

Let $\Gamma$ be the multiplicative group of $F$. Let $\Gamma^p = \{x^p |\ x \in \Gamma\}$. $\Gamma^p$ is a subgroup of $\Gamma$. Let $\pi$ be the canonical homomorophism $\Gamma \rightarrow \Gamma/\Gamma^p$. Let $\beta = \pi(a)$. Since $x^p - a$ does not have a root in $F$, $\beta \neq 1$. On the other hand, $\beta^p = \pi(a^p) = 1$. Hence the order of $\beta$ is $p$. However, since $c^p = a^k$, $\beta^k = 1$. This is a contradiction. Hence $x^p - a$ is irreducible in $F[x]$.


1) I can give you the details of a paper by Chebotarev translated from russian to german in which appears the Capelli Lemma, yet

2) There's also a paper in italian by Capelli, from 1904, which details I can give you, yet

3) The book "Algebra I", by Rédei, has the same lemma with extensions. Alas, the book was written in hungarian, though it seems to be there's a translation to german with, perhaps, the help of Halmös.

Googling around a little there are several references to that lemma but, as far as I could see, none of the first ones, at least, brings the version you want.


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