In operator theory, the Gelfand–Mazur theorem is a theorem named after Israel Gelfand and Stanisław Mazur which states that a Banach algebra with unit over the complex numbers in which every nonzero element is invertible is isometrically isomorphic to the complex numbers, i. e., the only complex Banach algebra that is a division algebra is the complex numbers C.
The theorem follows from the fact that the spectrum of any element of a complex Banach algebra is nonempty: for every element a of a complex Banach algebra A there is some complex number λ such that λ1 − a is not invertible. This is a consequence of the complex-analycity of the resolvent function. By assumption, λ1 − a = 0. So a = λ · 1. This gives an isomorphism from A to C.
A stronger and harder theorem was proved first by Stanisław Mazur alone, but it was published in France without a proof, when the author refused the editor's request to shorten his already short proof. Mazur's theorem states that there are (up to isomorphism) exactly three real Banach division algebras: the fields of reals R, of complex numbers C, and the division algebra of quaternions H. Gelfand proved (independently) the easier, special, complex version a few years later, after Mazur. However, it was Gelfand's work which influenced the further progress in the area.
- Rudin, Walter (1973), Functional analysis, Tata MacGraw-Hill.