Differentiable manifold

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A locally Euclidean space with a differentiable structure. Let be a topological Hausdorff space. is known as a locally Euclidean space or as a topological manifold of dimension if for each point a neighbourhood of can be found that is homeomorphic to an open set of . The pair , where is this homeomorphism, is known as a local chart of at . Thus, to each point corresponds a selection of real numbers , known as the coordinates of in the chart .

A family of charts , , is known as an -dimensional -atlas of if a) the totality of all covers , ; and b) for any such that , the mapping

belongs to the class of differentiability ; is a differentiable mapping with non-vanishing Jacobian and is known as a transformation of coordinates from the chart into the chart .

Two -atlases are said to be equivalent if their union is again a -atlas. The set of -atlases is thus subdivided into equivalence classes, known as -structures; if , they are known as differentiable (or smooth) structures, while if they are known as analytic structures. The topological manifold with a -structure is known as a -manifold, or as a differentiable manifold of class .

The concept of a differentiable structure may be introduced for an arbitrary set by replacing the homeomorphisms by bijective mappings on open sets of ; here, the topology of the -manifold is described as the topology of the union, constructed from an arbitrary atlas of the corresponding structure. In such a case -dimensional manifolds clearly have an -dimensional -structure.

Problems of analytical and algebraic geometry make it necessary to consider in the definition of a differentiable structure not only the space , but also more general spaces, such as or even where is a complete non-discretely normed field. Thus, if , the corresponding -structure, , invariably proves to be a -structure and is called complex-analytic, or simply complex, while the corresponding differentiable manifold is known as a complex manifold. Such a manifold also carries a natural real -structure.

Any -manifold contains a -structure, and there is a -structure on a -manifold, , if . Conversely, any paracompact -manifold, , may be provided with a -structure compatible with the given one, and this structure is unique, up to an isomorphism (see below). It may happen, however, that a -manifold cannot be provided with a -structure (i.e. there exist non-smoothable manifolds, cf. Non-smoothable manifold), and even if it can be provided with such a structure, the structure need not be unique. For example, the number of non-isomorphic structures on the -dimensional sphere is:

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
1 1 1 ? 1 1 28 2 8 6 992 1

Let be a continuous mapping of -manifolds ; it is known as a -morphism (or as a -mapping, , or as a mapping of class ) of differentiable manifolds if for any pair of charts on and on such that , the mapping

belongs to the class . A bijective mapping such that it and are -mappings is called a -isomorphism (or a diffeomorphism of class ). In such a case and and their determining -structures are said to be -diffeomorphic.

A subspace of an -dimensional -manifold is called a -submanifold of dimension in if for any point there exists a neighbourhood of it and a chart of the -structure such that and induces a homeomorphism of onto the intersection of with the closed subspace ; in other words, there exists a chart with coordinates such that is defined by the relations .

A mapping is said to be a -imbedding if is a -submanifold in and if is a -diffeomorphism. Any -dimensional -manifold permits an imbedding in and even in . Moreover, the set of such imbeddings is everywhere dense in the space of mappings with respect to the compact-open topology. Thus, regarding a differentiable manifold as a submanifold of a Euclidean space is one of the ways of interpreting the theory of differentiable manifolds; for example, the above theorems on -structures can be proved in this manner.

There are two fundamental problems in the topology of differentiable manifolds (which is also referred to as differential topology). The first problem is the classification of differentiable manifolds. There exist three main classes of differentiable manifolds — closed (or compact) manifolds, compact manifolds with boundary and open manifolds. Important invariants by which differentiable manifolds are distinguished are the homotopy type and the tangent bundle, in particular the characteristic classes (cf. Characteristic class). Using these a classification of smooth structures for simply-connected manifolds of given homotopy type has been given. Another invariant — the bordism class of a differentiable manifold — was used in solving the generalized Poincaré conjecture, in the study of fixed points under the action of a group on a manifold, etc. This involved the introduction of differentiable structures on manifolds with boundary and of a smoothing apparatus. Finally, methods of algebraic topology also proved useful in this context, since, for example, they permitted to establish that any -manifold can be triangulated.

The second problem is the classification of mappings of differentiable manifolds. The first class to be considered are immersions, which are a generalization of imbeddings; their classification is reduced to a homotopy problem, as distinct from imbeddings, which have not yet (1987) been completely classified (cf. Topology of imbeddings), and submersions, or fibrations, of one differentiable manifold into another. In particular, the concept of a transversal mapping along a submanifold plays an important role in problems of stability and in the study of typical singularities of mappings. The existence of transversal mappings is ensured by theorems such as Sard's theorem (cf. Sard theorem). All this, and problems in differential dynamics, dealing with the structure of various groups of diffeomorphisms (cf. Diffeomorphism), in particular of integral trajectories and singular points of vector fields on differentiable manifolds (dynamical systems), as well as the various equivalence relationships — isotopy, topological and -conjugacy, etc. — makes it necessary to study finite-dimensional spaces together with arbitrary Banach (or Hilbert) spaces and to determine corresponding differentiable structures. This implies finding additional conditions that are reasonable from the point of view of applications, e.g., a differentiable manifold is separable if and only if the coordinate transformations have a closed graph. In general, infinite-dimensional manifolds provided with such a structure — known as Banach or Hilbert manifolds, respectively, manifolds of mappings of finite-dimensional manifolds being their typical example — are a useful outcome of studies and geometrical interpretation of problems of approximation of mappings (as in the imbedding theorem above), in the analysis of loop spaces (a suitable domain for the construction of Morse theory, cf. Loop space), etc.

Differentiable manifolds form a natural base for developing differential geometry. Supplementary infinitesimal structures — orientation, metric, connections, etc. — are introduced on differentiable manifolds, after which a study is made of the objects which are invariant with respect to the group of diffeomorphisms which preserve the supplementary structure. Conversely, the use of a specific structure permits one to study the structure of the differential manifold itself. The simplest example is the expression of the characteristic classes in terms of the curvature of a differentiable manifold with a linear connection.


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See also the references to Differential topology.


Often the property of being paracompact is taken to be part of the definition of a topological or differentiable manifold. A space that is locally Euclidean is not necessarily paracompact.


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[a2] J.W. Milnor, "Toplogy from the differentiable viewpoint" , Univ. Virginia Press (1965)
[a3] J.W. Milnor, J.D. Stasheff, "Characteristic classes" , Princeton Univ. Press (1974) MR0440554 Zbl 0298.57008
[a4] M.R. Munkres, "Elementary differential topology" , Princeton Univ. Press (1963) MR0163320 Zbl 0107.17201
[a5] M.W. Hirsch, "Differential topology" , Springer (1976) pp. Chapt. 5, Sect. 3 MR0448362 Zbl 0356.57001
[a6] C.T.C. Wall, "Surgery on compact manifolds" , Acad. Press (1970) MR0431216 Zbl 0219.57024
[a7] D.S. Freed, K.K. Uhlenbeck, "Instantons and four-manifolds" , Springer (1984) MR0757358 Zbl 0559.57001
How to Cite This Entry:
Differentiable manifold. Encyclopedia of Mathematics. URL:
This article was adapted from an original article by M.I. Voitsekhovskii (originator), which appeared in Encyclopedia of Mathematics - ISBN 1402006098. See original article