In the 1960s, John Conway came up with a skein relation for a version of the Alexander polynomial, usually referred to as the Alexander–Conway polynomial. The significance of this skein relation was not realized until the early 1980s, when Vaughan Jones discovered the Jones polynomial. This led to the discovery of more knot polynomials, such as the so-called HOMFLY polynomial.
Soon after Jones' discovery, Louis Kauffman noticed the Jones polynomial could be computed by means of a state-sum model, which involved the bracket polynomial, an invariant of framed knots. This opened up avenues of research linking knot theory and statistical mechanics.
In the late 1980s, two related breakthroughs were made. Edward Witten demonstrated that the Jones polynomial, and similar Jones-type invariants, had an interpretation in Chern–Simons theory. Viktor Vassiliev and Mikhail Goussarov started the theory of finite type invariants of knots. The coefficients of the previously named polynomials are known to be of finite type (after perhaps a suitable "change of variables").
Specific knot polynomials
- skein relationship for a formal definition of the Alexander polynomial, with a worked-out example.
- Colin Adams, The Knot Book, American Mathematical Society, ISBN 0-8050-7380-9
- W. B. R. Lickorish, An introduction to knot theory. Graduate Texts in Mathematics, 175. Springer-Verlag, New York, 1997. ISBN 0-387-98254-X
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