Archive of Albrecht Frhlich, 1916-2001

Scope and Content

This collection dates entirely from the period after Frhlich's arrival in Britain in 1945, covering the period, 1948-2006. It is particularly rich in documenting his mathematical researches, including mathematical workings, publications and correspondence with colleagues.

Biographical material includes obituaries and memoirs, material from the Celebration of Frhlich's life, held in the Chapel of Robinson College Cambridge, 10 February 2002, and other tributes. The career, honours and awards subsection includes his Ph.D. thesis 'On some topics in the theory of representation of groups and in class field theory', and correspondence and papers relating to his university appointments and some of his principal honours, including election to the Fellowship of the Royal Society.

Research records are chiefly mathematical workings, notes and drafts, mostly manuscript but some typescript, presented as far as possible in alphabetical order by heading or topic. Some of the material was found in titled folders or envelopes, but much was loose. The material often comprises a number of short paginated sequences, and it is possible some were written as early drafts for publication. Few are dated but the span appears to cover Frhlich's research career and includes work on Galois module theory and Gauss sums. The largest component is material relating to work on the decomposition of primes. Although undated this appears to be work probably begun in the 1950s.

There is comprehensive documentation of Frhlich's published output, from his first article 'The representation of a finite group as a group of automorphisms on a finite Abelian group', Quarterly Journal of Mathematics 2nd ser. vol. 1 (1950), to 'Equivariant Brauer groups' (with C.T.C. Wall), Contemporary Mathematics vol. 272 (2000). The largest single body relates to 'Strict factorisability and shadows', in Algebra and Number Theory, Essen 1992 (ed. G. Frey and J. Ritter), 1994. The material mainly takes the form of offprints, but there are also some drafts of papers and occasionally accompanying mathematical workings. The section also includes a few unpublished drafts, including work with C.T.C. Wall on Brauer groups, 'Galois modules and the functional equation', and a possible draft of a book on 'mathematical theory of ostensive and consequently of empirical predicates'.

Frhlich's conference attendance and overseas visits are covered patchily, 1956-1998, but includes documentation of his participation in influential mathematics meetings held at the Mathematisches Forschungsinstitut, Oberwolfach, Germany and some Visiting Professorships. The material in the main comprises invitations and programmes, and texts or abstracts of lectures delivered are few.

Frhlich's correspondence is arranged in an alphabetical sequence. It is international in scope, with many correspondents from North America, France and Germany. Correspondents particularly well represented include Frhlich's Ph.D. supervisor H.A. Heilbronn, colleagues J.-P. Serre, Olga Taussky-Todd, S.V. Ullom and C.T.C. Wall, and former research students C.J. Bushnell, M.J. Taylor and S.M.J. Wilson. Many of the letters focus on progress of research and include discussions of problems with mathematical workings, sometimes as separate documents, and drafts of papers. Although the correspondence spans 1950-2000, the bulk dates from the 1970s-1990s.

The collection also includes a set of theses of Ph.D. students supervised or examined by Frhlich, including his research students at King's College, together with a number of examination papers, some with Frhlich's manuscript calculations of answers.

Administrative / Biographical History

Frhlich was born on 22 May 1916 in Munich, Germany to Julius and Frieda Frhlich. The family were Jewish and Julius Frhlich was a cattle merchant. Albrecht was the youngest of three children. The eldest, his sister Betti, settled in Palestine in the 1920s and his elder brother Herbert was to become a distinguished physicist. After elementary school Frhlich went to the Wittelsbacher Gymnasium but with the rise to power of the Nazis Frhlich and his parents left Germany for France in 1933, and the following year moved to Palestine to join Betti (Herbert had gone to the University of Leningrad in 1934, then to the University of Bristol in 1935). In Palestine Frhlich worked as a plumber and then as an electrician in a railway workshop.

Frhlich had ended his formal education at the age of seventeen when he fled Germany. However, in 1945 Herbert, now Reader in Physics at the University of Bristol, arranged for his younger brother to join him at Bristol. Frhlich was accepted as a student and began his studies in mathematics in December 1945. He graduated with First Class Honours in 1948 and began post-graduate research under H.A. Heilbronn. Frhlich completed his doctoral thesis in October 1950 (Ph.D. awarded 1951). While an undergraduate at Bristol Frhlich met a medical student, Ruth Brooks, whom he married in 1950. She became a doctor in general practice, while also accompanying her husband on many of his visits abroad and bringing up their children.

Frhlich was Assistant Lecturer in Mathematics at the University of Leicester 1950-1952 and Lecturer in Pure Mathematics at the University College of North Staffordshire 1952-1955. In 1955 he was appointed Reader in Mathematics at King's College London. Subsequently he became Professor of Mathematics at King's (1962), Head of Department (1969) and, on retirement, Emeritus Professor (1981). He remained active in post-retirement research and appointments included Fellowship of Robinson College, Cambridge in 1982 (Emeritus Fellow 1984) and a Senior Research Fellowship at Imperial College London in 1982. During his career Frhlich held numerous Visiting Professorships, enjoying a particularly close relationship with the University of Bordeaux (Visiting Professor 1975 and 1984). He also made many conference visits to the USA, Germany and France.

Frhlich's contributions to algebraic number theory and to mathematics more widely were acknowledged in the citation for the de Morgan Medal of the London Mathematical Society, awarded in 1992.

'His research is characterised by a prodigious flow of highly original ideas, which still shows no sign of stopping. His work includes such topics as class two nilpotent Galois groups, class groups of abelian fields, genus theory, quadratic forms and orthogonal representations, and local Langlands theory. However, without any doubt his most important achievement is the creation of that body of knowledge now known as arithmetic Galois module theory: this seeks to exploit and develop the mysterious and wonderful relationship between certain analytic invariants, called Artin root numbers, and the purely arithmetic problem of determining the structure of the ring of integers of a Galois extension of number fields over the integral group ring of the Galois group. Although there were a few previous results due to Hilbert and Noether, the subject really took off with Frhlich's seminal work on tame Hs-extensions. Building on this, he then proceeded to develop a general theory and, in the process, produced a whole fund of new ideas and techniques. Through his work and direction this subject has helped keep British number theory at the forefront of mainstream research.

Frhlich has greatly influenced the development of algebraic number theory in many ways; he has published seven books, written over a hundred papers and, jointly with J.W.S. Cassels, he organised the renowned Brighton conference, which did so much to make class field theory more widely accessible.

Special mention should be made of the help and encouragement that he has consistently given to young mathematicians: in addition to his many own research students, there have been many French and German students to whom he has provided considerable help. His enthusiasm and love for mathematics are a source of inspiration to all who have worked with him'.

In addition to the de Morgan Medal of the London Mathematical Society, he had also received the Society's Senior Berwick Prize in 1976. Frhlich received honorary doctorates from the universities of Bordeaux (1986) and Bristol (1998) and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Humboldt Research Award for the Scientific Cooperation between Great Britain and Germany in 1992. He was elected a FRS in 1976. He died 8 November 2001.

For a full account of Frhlich's life and works see 'Albrecht Frhlich (22 May 1916 - 8 November 2001)' by B.J. Birch and M.J. Taylor, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society vol. 51 (2005), 149-168.


By section as follows: Biographical, Research, Publications, Visits, conferences and lectures, Correspondence, Theses and examinations. Index of correspondents.

Access Information

Access: Open to bona fide researchers by written appointment.

Acquisition Information

The archive was received for cataloguing from Dr Ruth Frhlich, widow of Professor Albrecht Frhlich, in February 2005 and April 2007.

Other Finding Aids

Printed Catalogue of the papers and correspondence of Albrecht Frhlich. NCUACS catalogue no. 153/3/07 81pp. Copies available from NCUACS, University of Bath

Archivist's Note

Description compiled by Dr Tim Powell, NCUACS, January 2009