On several occasions I and colleagues have found ourselves teaching a o- semester course for students at the second year of graduate study in ma- ematics who want to gain a general perspective on Jordan algebras, their structure, and their role in mathematics, or want to gain direct experience with nonassociative algebra. These students typically have a solid grounding in ?rst-year graduate algebra and the Artin-Wedderburn theory of assoc- tive algebras, and a few have been introduced to Lie algebras (perhaps even Cayley algebras, in an o?hand way), but otherwise they have not seen any nonassociative algebras.
Most of them will not go on to do research in non- sociative algebra, so the course is not primarily meant to be a training or breeding ground for research, though the instructor often hopes that one or two will be motivated to pursue the subject further. This text is meant to serve as an accompaniment to such a course. It is designed ?rst and foremost to be read by students on their own without assistance by a teacher. It is a direct mathematical conversation between the author and a reader whose mind (as far as nonassociative algebra goes) is a tabula rasa. In keeping with the tone of a private conversation, I give more heuristicandexplanatorycommentthanisusualingraduatetextsatthislevel (pep talks, philosophical pronouncements on the proper way to think about certain concepts, historical anecdotes, mention of some mathematicians who have contributed to our understanding of Jordan algebras, etc.