using a small font doesn't count. The entire bible was inscribed onto pinhead.

Surely a 100 pages long thesis could be inscribed on a fraction of that pinhead using similar font settings. ]]>

(I tend to check meta before MO and as there **wasn't** a comment here saying that the question had been posted then I assumed that it hadn't yet appeared on MO and so left my comment. I do think that if a question that has been discussed in advance on meta is posted then a link should be given here. As no one else did so, here it is.)

If this question appears on MO, I will vote to close.

]]>For what it's worth, my thesis was 29 pages (according to http://disexpress.umi.com/dxweb ; I don't have a copy of it). The published version was either 13 pages or 131 pages, depending on how you count it. The official thesis corresponds to Chapter 5 (13 pages) of the monograph (131 pages) that was eventually published. Since that chapter was largely independent of the rest of the work, I thought it would be less hassle to just turn that section in as my thesis. ]]>

Anyway, my rationale for saying that this question is appropriate for MO is that it's part of mathematical culture.

Mathematics dissertations tend to run short even on average, and I have trouble coming up with other disciplines in which

such low outliers might even happen. If you've ever had to deal with academics in other fields, you may end up having

to explain why this is so; not an easy task.

Having a specific reference to a record of conciseness can help there, and, as Timothy Chow rightly points out,

we've all heard stories, but verifiable claims are hard to come by. ]]>

I apologize for any confusion brought about by my earlier claim that it was Martens' thesis.

]]>Regarding the OP's query, I find this question to be very interesting. Having said that, I generally prefer fewer such questions (i.e., nontechnical) on MO. So I will sit on the fence.

]]>(It is certainly at least as good as a previous question of mine, "Which pair of mathematicians has the most joint papers?")

]]>SUPERSINGULAR PRIMES OF A GIVEN ELLIPTIC CURVE OVER A NUMBER FIELD

by ELKIES, NOAM DAVID Ph.D., Harvard University, 1987, 41 pages; AAT 8800772

Info from: http://disexpress.umi.com/dxweb

The question of what is the shortest PhD thesis is different from the question of what is the shortest paper originating from a PhD thesis. I think I could (but won't) find examples where the latter is the empty set. ]]>

MR2615548

Martens, Henrik Herman Buvik

A NEW PROOF OF TORELLI'S THEOREM.

Thesis (Ph.D.)–New York University. 1962. 12 pp.

The problem with the question is that we can always give examples but, unless someone presents us with an empty thesis, we can't guarantee it is an absolute minimum. Maybe someone with strong mathscinet-webscraping-fu (how about that for a neologism!) can find the minimum among the theses listed there. ]]>

For example, if the answer is a 1-line dissertation from the University of New Sarepta, Alberta, what would we have gained from that? ]]>

I'm also not sure that I agree with you that a short dissertation is not interesting. It's true that it isn't *necessarily* interesting. However, provided that the dissertation was produced in good faith (as opposed to being a publicity stunt or a mere formality or something), it is about as interesting as a "short proof" is. And don't most of us feel that short proofs are interesting? For example, the short papers listed here (search for "Nelson" to get to the list) are all pretty interesting in my mind. (By the way, note that the "shortest paper" question doesn't have the same urban-legend tendencies because it's much easier to verify the facts.)

But let me state explicitly my main reason for wanting to ask this question on MO: I'm kind of sick of hearing this question asked yet again and having no rebuttal to urban-legendy responses of the form, "So-and-so's dissertation was only epsilon pages long!" where epsilon is a positive real much less than 1. It would be nice to put this question to rest.

Having said all that, I'll refrain from posing the question if a couple other people say they don't like it.

]]>The question recently arose in conversation whether a dissertation of 2 lines could deserve and get a Fellowship. I had answered this for myself long before; in mathematics the answer is yes.

Cayley's projective definition of length is a clear case if we may interpret "2 lines" with reasonable latitude. With Picard's Theorem it could be literally 2, one of statement, one of proof.

(Theorem.) An integral function never 0 or 1 is constant.

(Proof.) exp{i Omega(f(z))} is a bounded integral function.

(tau = Omega(w) inverse to w = k^2(tau)).

The last bracket is needed solely because of the trivial accident that the function Omega, unlike its inverse k^2(tau), happens to have no unmistakable name.

Littlewood goes on to explain the k^2(tau) is the modular function etc., etc. ]]>

Moreover, although a short dissertation is kind of a novelty, it's not really all that interesting. The Fary-Milnor theorem is an interesting bit of mathematics and its history is significant. A short dissertation is not. ]]>

By the way, are there any serious contenders for longest thesis besides Kai-wen Lan's (which clocks in at a face-melting 1027 pages)? ]]>

MO seems like a good place to answer such a question definitively. It is similar in genre to a question recently asked by Greg Kuperberg that tries to straighten out the facts about a particular widely circulated urban legend.

However, after seeing several discussions here on meta about non-technical questions, I get the impression that a sizable number of regular participants don't want questions like this on MO. Should I pose it or not?

]]>