Preface When I started graduate school at Harvard in 1960,1 knew essentially no abstract algebra. I had seen the definition of a group when I was an undergraduate, but I doubt that I had ever seen a factor group, and I am sure that I had never even heard of modules. Despite my ignorance of algebra (or perhaps because of it), I decided to register for thefirsthalf of the graduate algebra sequence, which was being taught that year by Professor Lynn Loomis. I found the course exciting and beautiful, and by the end of the semester I had decided that I wanted to be an algebraist. This decision was reinforced by an equally spectacular second semester. I have now been teaching mathematics for more than a quarter-century, and I have taught the two-semesterfirst-yeargraduate algebra course many times. (This has been mostly at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, but I also taught parts of the corresponding courses at Chicago and at Berkeley.) I have never forgotten Professor Loomis's course at Harvard, and in many ways, I try to imitate it. Loomis, for example, used the first semester mostly for noncommutative algebra, and he discussed commutative algebra in the second half of the course. I too divide the year this way, which is reflected in the organization of this book: Part 1 covers group theory and noncommutative rings, and Part 2 deals withfieldtheory and commutative rings. The course that I took at Harvard "sold" me on algebra, and when I teach it, I likewise try to "sell" the subject. This affects my choice of topics, since I seldom teach a definition, for example, unless it leads to some exciting (or at least interesting) theorem. This philosophy carries over from my teaching into this book, in which I have tried to capture as well as I can the "feel" of my lectures. I would like to make my students and my readers as excited about algebra as I became during my first year of graduate school. Students in my class are expected to have had an undergraduate algebra course in which they have seen the most basic ideas of group theory, ring theory, and field IV

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