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The subject's real founder, in the days when it was called ideal theory, should be considered to be David Hilbert. He seems to have thought of it (around 1900) as an alternate approach that could replace the thenfashionable complex function theory. In line with his thinking, computational aspects were secondary to the structural. The additional module concept, present in some form in Kronecker's work, is technically an improvement on working always directly on the special case of ideals. Its adoption is attributed to Emmy Noether's influence.
Given the scheme concept, commutative algebra is reasonably thought of as either the local theory or the affine theory of algebraic geometry.
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