[FOM] Only one proof
joeshipman@aol.com
joeshipman at aol.com
Sat Aug 29 22:37:22 EDT 2009
Almost all the important theorems of mathematics, over time, acquire
multiple proofs. There are many reasons for this; but I am interested
in important theorems which, long after they are discovered, have
"essentially" only one proof. (Only important theorems, because they
are the ones which one would expect to be revisited enough that other
proofs would be found.)
The best candidates I have are Dirichlet's 1837 theorem that every
arithmetic progression with no common factor contains infinitely many
primes, and the 1960 Feit-Thompson theorem that every group with odd
order is solvable.
Can anyone think of other examples of comparable significance, or
explain what is special about these theorems, or argue that one of
these is not special because an essentially different proof than the
original one has been found?
-- JS
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