This article defines a natural context where a group occurs, or is associated, with another algebraic, topological or analytic structure
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Let be a number field (viz an algebraic extension of of finite degree). Let be the ring of integers in (viz the elements of that satisfy monic polynomials with integer coefficients). Then, the ideal class group can be defined in the following steps:
- We can consider the set of all fractional ideals on . A fractional ideal is a subset of such that there exists for which is an ordinary ideal in .
- We can define a multiplication on fractional ideals and . The product of two fractional ideals is the ideal generated by all products of elements from the two ideals. Under this multiplication, the set of all fractional ideals gets the structure of a monoid.
- The subset of this comprising principal fractional ideals, is a submonoid
- The quotient of the monoid of all fractional ideals by the submonoid of principal fractional ideals, turns out to be a group, and this group is the ideal class group.
See here for more details on what finite abelian groups can be realized as ideal class groups.