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The middle of the twentieth-century featured several famous papers with two authors. For example, Eilenberg and Mac Lane's papers introducing categories and Eilenberg-MacLane spaces appeared in 1945. The Feit-Thompson Odd Order Theorem appeared in 1962. Atiyah and Singer published their index theorem in 1963.

I can't think of any important papers with two or more authors before the Eilenberg-Mac Lane collaboration, which could just be a lacuna in my historical knowledge. My question is: what are the first math papers with two or more authors? (A subsidiary question is: why were collaborations so rare before that?)

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Hardy-Littlewood? –  Olivier Feb 20 '11 at 20:33
Whitehead-Russell –  Balazs Feb 20 '11 at 20:37
The question is subjective - among all the multi-author papers, how do we determine which was the first important one? If we're just compiling a list of early multi-author papers, the question should be community wiki. –  Gerry Myerson Feb 20 '11 at 22:47
-1, because I don't like this kind of question. –  Theo Johnson-Freyd Feb 21 '11 at 2:35
This thread is long enough. I've started a meta discussion: tea.mathoverflow.net/discussion/965/oldest-joint-paper Please vote for this comment so that it appears above the fold. –  Loop Space Feb 21 '11 at 9:59

8 Answers 8

The famous paper of Dedekind and Weber:

R. Dedekind, H. Weber: Theorie der algebraischen Funktionen einer Veraendlichen, J. Reine Angew. Math 92 (1882) 181-290.

is the first place where the points of a Riemann surface are described in terms of ideals of the ring of functions. To put this into context, Dedekind had only invented the notion of ideal a few years earlier. They also give an algebraic proof of the Riemann-Roch theorem.

I think the analogy between function fields and number fields started here.

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Already Gauss, in his unpublished part of the Disquisitiones [published later by Dedekind in Gauss's Werke), observed that the proof of unique factorization in $F_p[X]$ is very similar to that in ${\mathbb Z}$. This analogy was extended to the quadratic reciprocity law and forms over $F_p[x]$ by various writers such as Schoenemann, Serret, Heine, and Dedekind way before Dedekind-Weber. –  Franz Lemmermeyer Feb 21 '11 at 16:48
Dedekind and Weber's paper developed the analogy in more depth than the earlier authors. –  KConrad Feb 22 '11 at 2:48

The Brill--Noether paper appeared in 1874: "Ueber die algebraischen Functionen und ihre Anwendung in der Geometrie". Math. Annalen 7, 269–316.

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I never realized that the Noether of "Brill-Noether" referred to Max Noether, not Emmy Noether. –  user332 Feb 20 '11 at 21:51
@Rex: 1874 is a bit early for Emmy Noether, gifted as she was. –  Jim Humphreys Feb 20 '11 at 22:57
Yes, of course. I had not been aware that Brill-Noether theory was that old. –  user332 Feb 20 '11 at 23:09
the famous "brill noether" number occurs already in riemann for r=1. hence "brill noether" theory is even older than they are. –  roy smith Feb 21 '11 at 3:15

Abraham Ecchellensis (Ibrahim Al-Haqilani) and Giovanni Alfonso Borelli published in 1661 a Latin translation of the 5th, 6th and 7th books of the Conics by Apollonius of Perga. Both Ecchellensis's and Borelli's names are on the title page, a highly unusual feature at the time.

For more details, see the paper Authorship and Teamwork Around the Cimento Academy by Domenico Bertoloni Meli, available here.

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link is not working? –  Mark Sapir Feb 21 '11 at 14:43
Weird. It works for me. –  arsmath Feb 21 '11 at 14:49
indiana.edu/~hpscdept/Fac-MeliPublications.shtml (go to Research articles and look for a paper published in 2001 in Early Science and Medicine). –  Did Feb 21 '11 at 15:24
That's a really interesting paper. It directly addresses the question of how collaboration worked differently in the 1600s. –  arsmath Feb 21 '11 at 22:24
I don't think a jointly prepared translation of someone else's earlier work is in the spirit of the OP's question. –  KConrad Feb 22 '11 at 2:52

Aufgaben und Lehrsätze, erstere aufzulösen, letztere zu beweisen by N.H. Abel, Th. Clausen, J. Steiner, published in 1827, Journal für die reine und angewandte Mathematik. Volume 1827, Issue 2, Pages 286–292. I think every paper by Abel must be important.


Nouvelles formules analogues aux séries de Taylor et de Maclaurin. by B. Clapeyron G. Lamé, in Journal für die reine und angewandte Mathematik. Volume 1830, Issue 6, Pages 40–44.

I do not know who was Clapeyron, but Lamé is well known. These two papers may be the first collaborative journal papers because Crelle was the first math journal (or one of the first journals). But this site: http://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/B/Bernoulli.html talks about a joint paper in astronomy produced by Bernoulli family. At that time (~1730) astronomy and mathematics were not that far apart.

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Clapeyron is probably the Physicist: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beno%C3%AEt_Paul_%C3%89mile_Clapeyron In France, he seems mostly remembered for work in Thermodynamics. –  Thierry Zell Feb 20 '11 at 22:43
@Thierry: Of course, I only just realized who he was. Before now, I only saw Russian transcription of his name. Thanks! –  Mark Sapir Feb 20 '11 at 22:54
The "Aufgaben und Lehrsätze" is not a joint paper, it is a collection of problems to be solved by the readers, of which the first four were submitted by Abel, the next few by Clausen etc. –  Franz Lemmermeyer Feb 21 '11 at 17:32
As for the Bernoulli paper, wikipedia (mathematik.ch/mathematiker/daniel_bernoulli.php) has this to say: "Daniel Bernoulli submitted an entry for the Grand Prize of the Paris Academy for 1734 giving an application of his ideas to astronomy. This had unfortunate consequences since Daniel's father, Johann Bernoulli, also entered for the prize and their entries were declared joint winners of the Grand Prize." –  Franz Lemmermeyer Feb 21 '11 at 17:37
@Franz: you are right about Abel's paper, but was it a joint venture or the journal combined three papers together? That is why I included the second paper in my answer. That one seems really collaborative. –  Mark Sapir Feb 21 '11 at 17:42

Sturm and Liouville published joint papers in 1836-1837.

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The paper springerlink.com/content/k28765tu63333677/fulltext.pdf on the development of Sturm--Liouville theory says they published only one joint paper on S--L theory, in 1837. The paper they published together in 1836, also mentioned in that article, was about counting complex roots of a polynomial inside a contour. The bibliography lists a paper by Colladon and Sturm from 1834 about compression of liquids. –  KConrad Feb 22 '11 at 4:03

Here is one from the eighteenth century. There must be others.

Theoria motuum lunae, nova methodo pertractata una cum tabulis astronomicis, unde ad quodvis tempus loca lunae expedite computari possunt incredibili studio atque indefesso labore trium academicorum: Johannis Alberti Euler, Wolffgangi Ludovici Krafft, Johannis Andreae Lexell. Opus dirigente Leonhardo Eulero acad. scient. Borussicae directore vicennali et socio acad. Petrop. Parisin. et Lond. Petropoli, typis academiae imperialis scientiarum. 1772.

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Translation, anyone? "Theory of the motion of the moon...something" –  David Roberts Feb 21 '11 at 8:09
Here's my clumsy translation: 'A theory of the movements of the moon, treated by means of a single new method with astronomical tables, by which the position of the moon at any given time may be easily calculated thanks to the marvellous studies and indefatigable efforts of three academicians.' –  Finn Lawler Feb 21 '11 at 15:11
Euler's son, Krafft and Lexell were among the "scribes" responsible for writing up Euler's work after he had become blind. –  Franz Lemmermeyer Feb 21 '11 at 17:40
I don't think a jointly prepared write-up of another (blind) person's work is in the spirit of the OP's question. –  KConrad Feb 22 '11 at 2:54
Lexell published 66 papers, only 4 of them were coauthored with Euler. He was eventually appointed as Euler's successor. I don't think he should be labelled a "scribe." Wikipedia has an article about Lexell: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anders_Johan_Lexell. –  Michael Renardy Feb 22 '11 at 13:15

In differential geometry a fundamental collaborative paper is: Ricci, Gregorio, Levi-Civita, Tullio (March 1900). "Méthodes de calcul différentiel absolu et leurs applications". Mathematische Annalen (Springer) 54 (1–2): 125–201. doi:10.1007/BF01454201.

Its digitalization is freely available here.

Edit: I replaced the link to a pay-walled copy with another to the GDZ repository.

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Very important joint work one of whose authors is a somewhat well-known mathematician, but not a mathematics paper was the construction of the first electromagnetic telegraph by C. F. Gauss and W. E. Weber (1833), and then:

Gauss, Carl Friedrich; Weber, Wilhelm Eduard (1840). Atlas Des Erdmagnetismus: Nach Den Elementen Der Theorie Entworfen. Leipzig: Weidmann'sche Buchhandlung.

Don't know if that counts, but I don't know of any joint work of Gauss in pure mathematics...

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