Let S be a closed Riemann surface of genus
g > 1,
so that Ŝ, the universal covering surface of S, is hyperbolic. We can then uniformize S by a discrete, nonabelian group Γ1 of Möbius transformations of the upper half-plane ℋ. It follows that N1 = NΩ(Γ1) is discrete; here N1is the normalizer of Γ in Ω, the group of (conformal) automorphisms of ℋ. An automorphism of S can be lifted to a coset of Nl/Γl. Hence C(S), the group of automorphisms of S, is isomorphic to Nl/Γ1. The order of C = C(S) equals the index of Γ1 in N1, which in turn equals ⃒Γ1⃒ / ⃒Nl⃒, where ⃒Nl⃒ is the hyperbolic area of a fundamental region of Nl. Since Γ1 uniformizes a surface, we have ⃒Γ1⃒ = 4π(g – 1), while, by Siegel's results [7], ⃒N1 ⃒ ≧ π/21 and N1 can only be the triangle group (2, 3, 7). Hence in all cases the order of C(S) is at most 84(g–1), an old result of Hurwitz [1]. The surfaces that permit a maximal automorphism group (= automorphism group of maximum order) can therefore be obtained by studying the finite factor groups of (2, 3, 7). Such a treatment, purely algebraic in nature, has been promised by Macbeath [5].