This text is based on the two-semester course that I have taught over the years at Iowa State University. In the writing, as in my course, I attempt to convey my enthusiasm for the subject and my feelings that it is a worthy object of study for both graduate students and professional mathematicians.

In choosing the level of detail, I have taken my inspiration more from the tradition of first-year algebra texts such as van der Waerden, Lang, and Dummit and Foote, than from a typical research monograph. The book is addressed to newcomers to the field, whom I do not wish to overwhelm, more than to veterans seeking an encyclopedic reference work.

It is the job of the author to decide what to omit. One rule of thumb that I have always used ...

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