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date: 22 September 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article discusses the first four decades of the history of random matrix theory (RMT), that is, until about 1990. It first considers Niels Bohr's formulation of the concept of the compound nucleus, which is at the root of the use of random matrices in physics, before analysing the development of the theory of spectral fluctuations. In particular, it examines the Wishart ensemble; Dyson's classification leading to the three canonical ensembles — Gaussian Orthogonal Ensemble (GOE), Gaussian Unitary Ensemble (GUE), and Gaussian Symplectic Ensemble (GSE); and the breaking of a symmetry or an invariance. It also describes how random matrix models emerged from quantum physics, more specifically from a statistical approach to the strongly interacting many-body system of the atomic nucleus. The article concludes with an overview of data on nuclear resonances, many-body theory, chaos, number theory, scattering theory, replica trick and supersymmetry, disordered solids, and interacting fermions and field theory.

Keywords: random matrix theory (RMT), Niels Bohr, compound nucleus, random matrices, spectral fluctuation, quantum physics, nuclear resonance, many-body theory, chaos, number theory

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