Kummer made several contributions to mathematics in different areas; he codified some of the relations between different hypergeometric series (contiguity relations). The Kummer surface results from taking the quotient of a two-dimensional abelian variety by the cyclic group {1, -1} (an early orbifold: it has 16 singular points, and its geometry was intensively studied in the nineteenth century).

Kummer also proved Fermat's last theorem for a considerable class of prime exponents (see regular prime, ideal class group). His methods were closer, perhaps, to p-adic ones than to ideal theory as understood later, though the term 'ideal' arose here. He studied what were later called Kummer extensions of fields: that is, extensions generated by adjoining an n-th root to a field already containing a primitive n-th root of unity. This is a significant extension of the theory of quadratic extensions, and the genus theory of quadratic forms (linked to the 2-torsion of the class group). As such, it is still foundational for class field theory.