Abstract. We find sharp upper and lower bounds for the degree of an algebraic number in terms of the Q-dimension of the space spanned by its conjugates. For all but seven nonnegative integers n the largest degree of an algebraic number whose conjugates span a vector space of dimension n is equal to 2 n n!. The proof, which covers also the seven exceptional cases, uses a result of Feit on the maximal order of finite subgroups of GLn(Q); this result depends on the classification of finite simple groups. In particular, we construct an algebraic number of degree 1152 whose conjugates span a vector space of dimension only 4. We extend our results in two directions. We consider the problem when Q is replaced by an arbitrary field, and prove some general results. In particular, we again obtain sharp bounds when the ground field is a finite field, or a cyclotomic extension Q(ωℓ) of Q. Also, we look at a multiplicative version of the problem by considering the analogous rank problem for the multiplicative group generated by the conjugates of an algebraic number. 1
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