Ken Ribet’s love note from Serge Lang
I took at graduate algebra course at Brown when I was an undergraduate. I bought a copy of Lang’s “Algebra,” 3rd edition around that time. It was the bible of graduate algebra, and I suppose that it still is. When I was at Harvard, I studied very hard for the written qualifying exam that we sat for at the end of our first year of graduate work. I spent months mastering the core material in algebra, topology and analysis. I got a little frustrated by Lang’s style and wrote the comment that you see in black ink. Years later, Serge had my office in Princeton while I was away in Paris. As usual, he consulted his own books, and he found my comment. He added his own (bottom of the page) and told me about it when I returned to the US. We both had a good laugh.
I was amazed, years later, when a German mathematician asked me about this page when we were at the Canadian number theory meeting in Vancouver — this must have been 20 years ago. How did the guy know? Serge or I must have talked, and word had gotten around.
I made this image in July, 2001 by pointing my first digital camera at the page and pressing the shutter. Serge was in town, and I told him that I wanted to link this image to the web page for the graduate algebra course (Math 250A) that I was about to teach. That way the students could see it. “Of course!” As the semester progressed, mathematicians around the world found out about the link on my web page and began forwarding the URL to their friends. One day Serge phoned me in my office: “You mean anyone in the world can see this? Take it down!!” So I did.