Group (mathematics)
Overview
 
In mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

, a group is an algebraic structure
Algebraic structure
In abstract algebra, an algebraic structure consists of one or more sets, called underlying sets or carriers or sorts, closed under one or more operations, satisfying some axioms. Abstract algebra is primarily the study of algebraic structures and their properties...

 consisting of a set together with an operation
Binary operation
In mathematics, a binary operation is a calculation involving two operands, in other words, an operation whose arity is two. Examples include the familiar arithmetic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division....

 that combines any two of its elements to form a third element. To qualify as a group, the set and the operation must satisfy a few conditions called group axiom
Axiom
In traditional logic, an axiom or postulate is a proposition that is not proven or demonstrated but considered either to be self-evident or to define and delimit the realm of analysis. In other words, an axiom is a logical statement that is assumed to be true...

s, namely closure
Closure (mathematics)
In mathematics, a set is said to be closed under some operation if performance of that operation on members of the set always produces a unique member of the same set. For example, the real numbers are closed under subtraction, but the natural numbers are not: 3 and 8 are both natural numbers, but...

, associativity
Associativity
In mathematics, associativity is a property of some binary operations. It means that, within an expression containing two or more occurrences in a row of the same associative operator, the order in which the operations are performed does not matter as long as the sequence of the operands is not...

, identity
Identity element
In mathematics, an identity element is a special type of element of a set with respect to a binary operation on that set. It leaves other elements unchanged when combined with them...

 and invertibility
Inverse element
In abstract algebra, the idea of an inverse element generalises the concept of a negation, in relation to addition, and a reciprocal, in relation to multiplication. The intuition is of an element that can 'undo' the effect of combination with another given element...

. Many familiar mathematical structure
Mathematical structure
In mathematics, a structure on a set, or more generally a type, consists of additional mathematical objects that in some manner attach to the set, making it easier to visualize or work with, or endowing the collection with meaning or significance....

s such as number systems obey these axioms: for example, the integer
Integer
The integers are formed by the natural numbers together with the negatives of the non-zero natural numbers .They are known as Positive and Negative Integers respectively...

s endowed with the addition
Addition
Addition is a mathematical operation that represents combining collections of objects together into a larger collection. It is signified by the plus sign . For example, in the picture on the right, there are 3 + 2 apples—meaning three apples and two other apples—which is the same as five apples....

 operation form a group.
Encyclopedia
In mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

, a group is an algebraic structure
Algebraic structure
In abstract algebra, an algebraic structure consists of one or more sets, called underlying sets or carriers or sorts, closed under one or more operations, satisfying some axioms. Abstract algebra is primarily the study of algebraic structures and their properties...

 consisting of a set together with an operation
Binary operation
In mathematics, a binary operation is a calculation involving two operands, in other words, an operation whose arity is two. Examples include the familiar arithmetic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division....

 that combines any two of its elements to form a third element. To qualify as a group, the set and the operation must satisfy a few conditions called group axiom
Axiom
In traditional logic, an axiom or postulate is a proposition that is not proven or demonstrated but considered either to be self-evident or to define and delimit the realm of analysis. In other words, an axiom is a logical statement that is assumed to be true...

s, namely closure
Closure (mathematics)
In mathematics, a set is said to be closed under some operation if performance of that operation on members of the set always produces a unique member of the same set. For example, the real numbers are closed under subtraction, but the natural numbers are not: 3 and 8 are both natural numbers, but...

, associativity
Associativity
In mathematics, associativity is a property of some binary operations. It means that, within an expression containing two or more occurrences in a row of the same associative operator, the order in which the operations are performed does not matter as long as the sequence of the operands is not...

, identity
Identity element
In mathematics, an identity element is a special type of element of a set with respect to a binary operation on that set. It leaves other elements unchanged when combined with them...

 and invertibility
Inverse element
In abstract algebra, the idea of an inverse element generalises the concept of a negation, in relation to addition, and a reciprocal, in relation to multiplication. The intuition is of an element that can 'undo' the effect of combination with another given element...

. Many familiar mathematical structure
Mathematical structure
In mathematics, a structure on a set, or more generally a type, consists of additional mathematical objects that in some manner attach to the set, making it easier to visualize or work with, or endowing the collection with meaning or significance....

s such as number systems obey these axioms: for example, the integer
Integer
The integers are formed by the natural numbers together with the negatives of the non-zero natural numbers .They are known as Positive and Negative Integers respectively...

s endowed with the addition
Addition
Addition is a mathematical operation that represents combining collections of objects together into a larger collection. It is signified by the plus sign . For example, in the picture on the right, there are 3 + 2 apples—meaning three apples and two other apples—which is the same as five apples....

 operation form a group. However, the abstract formalization of the group axioms, detached as it is from the concrete nature of any particular group and its operation, allows entities with highly diverse mathematical origins in abstract algebra
Abstract algebra
Abstract algebra is the subject area of mathematics that studies algebraic structures, such as groups, rings, fields, modules, vector spaces, and algebras...

 and beyond to be handled in a flexible way, while retaining their essential structural aspects. The ubiquity of groups in numerous areas within and outside mathematics makes them a central organizing principle of contemporary mathematics.

Groups share a fundamental kinship with the notion of symmetry
Symmetry
Symmetry generally conveys two primary meanings. The first is an imprecise sense of harmonious or aesthetically pleasing proportionality and balance; such that it reflects beauty or perfection...

. A symmetry group
Symmetry group
The symmetry group of an object is the group of all isometries under which it is invariant with composition as the operation...

 encodes symmetry features of a geometrical
Geometry
Geometry arose as the field of knowledge dealing with spatial relationships. Geometry was one of the two fields of pre-modern mathematics, the other being the study of numbers ....

 object: it consists of the set of transformations that leave the object unchanged, and the operation of combining two such transformations by performing one after the other. Such symmetry groups, particularly the continuous Lie group
Lie group
In mathematics, a Lie group is a group which is also a differentiable manifold, with the property that the group operations are compatible with the smooth structure...

s, play an important role in many academic disciplines. Matrix group
Matrix group
In mathematics, a matrix group is a group G consisting of invertible matrices over some field K, usually fixed in advance, with operations of matrix multiplication and inversion. More generally, one can consider n × n matrices over a commutative ring R...

s, for example, can be used to understand fundamental physical
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

 laws underlying special relativity
Special relativity
Special relativity is the physical theory of measurement in an inertial frame of reference proposed in 1905 by Albert Einstein in the paper "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies".It generalizes Galileo's...

 and symmetry phenomena in molecular chemistry
Chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

.

The concept of a group arose from the study of polynomial equations, starting with Évariste Galois
Évariste Galois
Évariste Galois was a French mathematician born in Bourg-la-Reine. While still in his teens, he was able to determine a necessary and sufficient condition for a polynomial to be solvable by radicals, thereby solving a long-standing problem...

 in the 1830s. After contributions from other fields such as number theory
Number theory
Number theory is a branch of pure mathematics devoted primarily to the study of the integers. Number theorists study prime numbers as well...

 and geometry, the group notion was generalized and firmly established around 1870. Modern group theory
Group theory
In mathematics and abstract algebra, group theory studies the algebraic structures known as groups.The concept of a group is central to abstract algebra: other well-known algebraic structures, such as rings, fields, and vector spaces can all be seen as groups endowed with additional operations and...

—a very active mathematical discipline—studies groups in their own right. To explore groups, mathematicians have devised various notions
Glossary of group theory
A group is a set G closed under a binary operation • satisfying the following 3 axioms:* Associativity: For all a, b and c in G, • c = a • ....

 to break groups into smaller, better-understandable pieces, such as subgroup
Subgroup
In group theory, given a group G under a binary operation *, a subset H of G is called a subgroup of G if H also forms a group under the operation *. More precisely, H is a subgroup of G if the restriction of * to H x H is a group operation on H...

s, quotient group
Quotient group
In mathematics, specifically group theory, a quotient group is a group obtained by identifying together elements of a larger group using an equivalence relation...

s and simple group
Simple group
In mathematics, a simple group is a nontrivial group whose only normal subgroups are the trivial group and the group itself. A group that is not simple can be broken into two smaller groups, a normal subgroup and the quotient group, and the process can be repeated...

s. In addition to their abstract properties, group theorists also study the different ways in which a group can be expressed concretely (its group representation
Group representation
In the mathematical field of representation theory, group representations describe abstract groups in terms of linear transformations of vector spaces; in particular, they can be used to represent group elements as matrices so that the group operation can be represented by matrix multiplication...

s), both from a theoretical
Representation theory
Representation theory is a branch of mathematics that studies abstract algebraic structures by representing their elements as linear transformations of vector spaces, and studiesmodules over these abstract algebraic structures...

 and a computational point of view
Computational group theory
In mathematics, computational group theory is the study ofgroups by means of computers. It is concernedwith designing and analysing algorithms anddata structures to compute information about groups...

. A particularly rich theory has been developed for finite group
Finite group
In mathematics and abstract algebra, a finite group is a group whose underlying set G has finitely many elements. During the twentieth century, mathematicians investigated certain aspects of the theory of finite groups in great depth, especially the local theory of finite groups, and the theory of...

s, which culminated with the monumental classification of finite simple groups
Classification of finite simple groups
In mathematics, the classification of the finite simple groups is a theorem stating that every finite simple group belongs to one of four categories described below. These groups can be seen as the basic building blocks of all finite groups, in much the same way as the prime numbers are the basic...

 announced in 1983. Since the mid-1980s, geometric group theory
Geometric group theory
Geometric group theory is an area in mathematics devoted to the study of finitely generated groups via exploring the connections between algebraic properties of such groups and topological and geometric properties of spaces on which these groups act .Another important...

, which studies finitely generated groups as geometric objects, has become a particularly active area in group theory.

First example: the integers

One of the most familiar groups is the set of integers Z which consists of the numbers
..., −4, −3, −2, −1, 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, ...

The following properties of integer addition
Addition
Addition is a mathematical operation that represents combining collections of objects together into a larger collection. It is signified by the plus sign . For example, in the picture on the right, there are 3 + 2 apples—meaning three apples and two other apples—which is the same as five apples....

 serve as a model for the abstract group axioms given in the definition below.
  1. For any two integers a and b, the sum
    Summation
    Summation is the operation of adding a sequence of numbers; the result is their sum or total. If numbers are added sequentially from left to right, any intermediate result is a partial sum, prefix sum, or running total of the summation. The numbers to be summed may be integers, rational numbers,...

     a + b is also an integer. Thus, adding two integers never yields some other type of number, such as a fraction
    Fraction (mathematics)
    A fraction represents a part of a whole or, more generally, any number of equal parts. When spoken in everyday English, we specify how many parts of a certain size there are, for example, one-half, five-eighths and three-quarters.A common or "vulgar" fraction, such as 1/2, 5/8, 3/4, etc., consists...

    . This property is known as closure
    Closure (mathematics)
    In mathematics, a set is said to be closed under some operation if performance of that operation on members of the set always produces a unique member of the same set. For example, the real numbers are closed under subtraction, but the natural numbers are not: 3 and 8 are both natural numbers, but...

     under addition.
  2. For all integers a, b and c, (a + b) + c = a + (b + c). Expressed in words, adding a to b first, and then adding the result to c gives the same final result as adding a to the sum of b and c, a property known as associativity
    Associativity
    In mathematics, associativity is a property of some binary operations. It means that, within an expression containing two or more occurrences in a row of the same associative operator, the order in which the operations are performed does not matter as long as the sequence of the operands is not...

    .
  3. If a is any integer, then 0 + a = a + 0 = a. Zero is called the identity element
    Identity element
    In mathematics, an identity element is a special type of element of a set with respect to a binary operation on that set. It leaves other elements unchanged when combined with them...

    of addition because adding it to any integer returns the same integer.
  4. For every integer a, there is an integer b such that a + b = b + a = 0. The integer b is called the inverse element
    Inverse element
    In abstract algebra, the idea of an inverse element generalises the concept of a negation, in relation to addition, and a reciprocal, in relation to multiplication. The intuition is of an element that can 'undo' the effect of combination with another given element...

    of the integer a and is denoted −a.


The integers, together with the operation +, form a mathematical object belonging to a broad class sharing similar structural aspects. To appropriately understand these structures as a collective, the following abstract definition
Definition
A definition is a passage that explains the meaning of a term , or a type of thing. The term to be defined is the definiendum. A term may have many different senses or meanings...

 is developed.

Definition

A group is a set, G, together with an operation
Binary operation
In mathematics, a binary operation is a calculation involving two operands, in other words, an operation whose arity is two. Examples include the familiar arithmetic operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division....

 • (called the group law of G) that combines any two elements a and b to form another element, denoted or ab. To qualify as a group, the set and operation, , must satisfy four requirements known as the group axioms:

Closure: For all a, b in G, the result of the operation, ab, is also in G.
Associativity: For all a, b and c in G, (ab) • c = a • (bc).
Identity element: There exists an element e in G, such that for every element a in G, the equation ea = ae = a holds. The identity element of a group G is often written as 1 or 1G, a notation inherited from the multiplicative identity.
Inverse element: For each a in G, there exists an element b in G such that ab = ba = 1G.

The order in which the group operation is carried out can be significant. In other words, the result of combining element a with element b need not yield the same result as combining element b with element a; the equation
ab = ba

may not always be true. This equation does always hold in the group of integers under addition, because a + b = b + a for any two integers (commutativity
Commutativity
In mathematics an operation is commutative if changing the order of the operands does not change the end result. It is a fundamental property of many binary operations, and many mathematical proofs depend on it...

 of addition). However, it does not always hold in the symmetry group below. Groups for which the equation ab = ba always holds are called abelian
Abelian group
In abstract algebra, an abelian group, also called a commutative group, is a group in which the result of applying the group operation to two group elements does not depend on their order . Abelian groups generalize the arithmetic of addition of integers...

(in honor of Niels Abel). Thus, the integer addition group is abelian, but the symmetry group in the following section is not.

The set G is called the underlying set of the group . Often the group's underlying set G is used as a short name for the group . Along the same lines, shorthand expressions such as "a subset of the group G" or "an element of group G" are used when what is actually meant is "a subset of the underlying set G of the group " or "an element of the underlying set G of the group ". Usually, it is clear from the context whether a symbol like G refers to a group or to an underlying set.

Second example: a symmetry group

Two figures in the plane are congruent
Congruence (geometry)
In geometry, two figures are congruent if they have the same shape and size. This means that either object can be repositioned so as to coincide precisely with the other object...

 if one can be changed into the other using a combination of rotation
Rotation (mathematics)
In geometry and linear algebra, a rotation is a transformation in a plane or in space that describes the motion of a rigid body around a fixed point. A rotation is different from a translation, which has no fixed points, and from a reflection, which "flips" the bodies it is transforming...

s, reflection
Reflection (mathematics)
In mathematics, a reflection is a mapping from a Euclidean space to itself that is an isometry with a hyperplane as set of fixed points; this set is called the axis or plane of reflection. The image of a figure by a reflection is its mirror image in the axis or plane of reflection...

s, and translation
Translation (geometry)
In Euclidean geometry, a translation moves every point a constant distance in a specified direction. A translation can be described as a rigid motion, other rigid motions include rotations and reflections. A translation can also be interpreted as the addition of a constant vector to every point, or...

s. Any figure is congruent to itself. However, some figures are congruent to themselves in more than one way, and these extra congruences are called symmetries
Symmetry
Symmetry generally conveys two primary meanings. The first is an imprecise sense of harmonious or aesthetically pleasing proportionality and balance; such that it reflects beauty or perfection...

. A square has eight symmetries. These are:

id (keeping it as is)

r1 (rotation by 90° right)

r2 (rotation by 180° right)

r3 (rotation by 270° right)

fv (vertical flip)

fh (horizontal flip)

fd (diagonal flip)

fc (counter-diagonal flip)
The elements of the symmetry group of the square (D4). The vertices are colored and numbered only to visualize the operations.
  • the identity operation leaving everything unchanged, denoted id;
  • rotations of the square around its center by 90° right, 180° right, and 270° right, denoted by r1, r2 and r3, respectively;
  • reflections about the vertical and horizontal middle line (fh and fv), or through the two diagonal
    Diagonal
    A diagonal is a line joining two nonconsecutive vertices of a polygon or polyhedron. Informally, any sloping line is called diagonal. The word "diagonal" derives from the Greek διαγώνιος , from dia- and gonia ; it was used by both Strabo and Euclid to refer to a line connecting two vertices of a...

    s (fd and fc).

These symmetries are represented by functions. Each of these functions sends a point in the square to the corresponding point under the symmetry. For example, r1 sends a point to its rotation 90° right around the square's center, and fh sends a point to its reflection across the square's vertical middle line. Composing two of these symmetry functions gives another symmetry function. These symmetries determine a group called the dihedral group
Dihedral group
In mathematics, a dihedral group is the group of symmetries of a regular polygon, including both rotations and reflections. Dihedral groups are among the simplest examples of finite groups, and they play an important role in group theory, geometry, and chemistry.See also: Dihedral symmetry in three...

 of degree 4 and denoted D4. The underlying set of the group is the above set of symmetry functions, and the group operation is function composition
Function composition
In mathematics, function composition is the application of one function to the results of another. For instance, the functions and can be composed by computing the output of g when it has an argument of f instead of x...

. Two symmetries are combined by composing them as functions, that is, applying the first one to the square, and the second one to the result of the first application. The result of performing first a and then b is written symbolically from right to left as
ba ("apply the symmetry b after performing the symmetry a").

The right-to-left notation is the same notation that is used for composition of functions.

The group table on the right lists the results of all such compositions possible. For example, rotating by 270° right (r3) and then flipping horizontally (fh) is the same as performing a reflection along the diagonal (fd). Using the above symbols, highlighted in blue in the group table:
fh • r3 = fd.

Group table
Cayley table
A Cayley table, after the 19th century British mathematician Arthur Cayley, describes the structure of a finite group by arranging all the possible products of all the group's elements in a square table reminiscent of an addition or multiplication table...

 of D4
id r1 r2 r3 fv fh fd fc
id id r1 r2 r3 fv fh fd fc
r1 r1 r2 r3 id fc fd fv fh
r2 r2 r3 id r1 fh fv fc fd
r3 r3 id r1 r2 fd fc fh fv
fv fv fd fh fc id r2 r1 r3
fh fh fc fv fd r2 id r3 r1
fd fd fh fc fv r3 r1 id r2
fc fc fv fd fh r1 r3 r2 id
The elements id, r1, r2, and r3 form a subgroup
Subgroup
In group theory, given a group G under a binary operation *, a subset H of G is called a subgroup of G if H also forms a group under the operation *. More precisely, H is a subgroup of G if the restriction of * to H x H is a group operation on H...

, highlighted in red (upper left region). A left and right coset
Coset
In mathematics, if G is a group, and H is a subgroup of G, and g is an element of G, thenA coset is a left or right coset of some subgroup in G...

 of this subgroup is highlighted in green (in the last row) and yellow (last column), respectively.

Given this set of symmetries and the described operation, the group axioms can be understood as follows:

  1. The closure axiom demands that the composition ba of any two symmetries a and b is also a symmetry. Another example for the group operation is
    r3 • fh = fc,

    i.e. rotating 270° right after flipping horizontally equals flipping along the counter-diagonal (fc). Indeed every other combination of two symmetries still gives a symmetry, as can be checked using the group table.

  2. The associativity constraint deals with composing more than two symmetries: Starting with three elements a, b and c of D4, there are two possible ways of using these three symmetries in this order to determine a symmetry of the square. One of these ways is to first compose a and b into a single symmetry, then to compose that symmetry with c. The other way is to first compose b and c, then to compose the resulting symmetry with a. The associativity condition
    (ab) • c = a • (bc)

    means that these two ways are the same, i.e., a product of many group elements can be simplified in any order.
    For example, (fd • fv) • r2 = fd • (fv • r2) can be checked using the group table at the right
    (fd • fv) • r2  =  r3 • r2  =  r1, which equals
    fd • (fv • r2)  =  fd • fh  =  r1.

    While associativity is true for the symmetries of the square and addition of numbers, it is not true for all operations. For instance, subtraction of numbers is not associative: (7 − 3) − 2 = 2 is not the same as 7 − (3 − 2) = 6.

  3. The identity element is the symmetry id leaving everything unchanged: for any symmetry a, performing id after a (or a after id) equals a, in symbolic form,
    id • a = a,
    a • id = a.


  4. An inverse element undoes the transformation of some other element. Every symmetry can be undone: each of the following transformations—identity id, the flips fh, fv, fd, fc and the 180° rotation r2—is its own inverse, because performing it twice brings the square back to its original orientation. The rotations r3 and r1 are each other's inverses, because rotating 90° and then rotation 270° (or vice versa) yields a rotation over 360° which leaves the square unchanged. In symbols,
    fh • fh = id,
    r3 • r1 = r1 • r3 = id.



In contrast to the group of integers above, where the order of the operation is irrelevant, it does matter in D4: fh • r1 = fc but r1 • fh = fd. In other words, D4 is not abelian, which makes the group structure more difficult than the integers introduced first.

History

The modern concept of an abstract group developed out of several fields of mathematics. The original motivation for group theory was the quest for solutions of polynomial equations of degree higher than 4. The 19th-century French mathematician Évariste Galois
Évariste Galois
Évariste Galois was a French mathematician born in Bourg-la-Reine. While still in his teens, he was able to determine a necessary and sufficient condition for a polynomial to be solvable by radicals, thereby solving a long-standing problem...

, extending prior work of Paolo Ruffini
Paolo Ruffini
Paolo Ruffini was an Italian mathematician and philosopher.By 1788 he had earned university degrees in philosophy, medicine/surgery, and mathematics...

 and Joseph-Louis Lagrange, gave a criterion for the solvability of a particular polynomial equation in terms of the symmetry group
Symmetry group
The symmetry group of an object is the group of all isometries under which it is invariant with composition as the operation...

 of its roots (solutions). The elements of such a Galois group
Galois group
In mathematics, more specifically in the area of modern algebra known as Galois theory, the Galois group of a certain type of field extension is a specific group associated with the field extension...

 correspond to certain permutation
Permutation
In mathematics, the notion of permutation is used with several slightly different meanings, all related to the act of permuting objects or values. Informally, a permutation of a set of objects is an arrangement of those objects into a particular order...

s of the roots. At first, Galois' ideas were rejected by his contemporaries, and published only posthumously. More general permutation group
Permutation group
In mathematics, a permutation group is a group G whose elements are permutations of a given set M, and whose group operation is the composition of permutations in G ; the relationship is often written as...

s were investigated in particular by Augustin Louis Cauchy
Augustin Louis Cauchy
Baron Augustin-Louis Cauchy was a French mathematician who was an early pioneer of analysis. He started the project of formulating and proving the theorems of infinitesimal calculus in a rigorous manner, rejecting the heuristic principle of the generality of algebra exploited by earlier authors...

. Arthur Cayley
Arthur Cayley
Arthur Cayley F.R.S. was a British mathematician. He helped found the modern British school of pure mathematics....

's On the theory of groups, as depending on the symbolic equation θn = 1 (1854) gives the first abstract definition of a finite group
Finite group
In mathematics and abstract algebra, a finite group is a group whose underlying set G has finitely many elements. During the twentieth century, mathematicians investigated certain aspects of the theory of finite groups in great depth, especially the local theory of finite groups, and the theory of...

.

Geometry was a second field in which groups were used systematically, especially symmetry groups as part of Felix Klein
Felix Klein
Christian Felix Klein was a German mathematician, known for his work in group theory, function theory, non-Euclidean geometry, and on the connections between geometry and group theory...

's 1872 Erlangen program
Erlangen program
An influential research program and manifesto was published in 1872 by Felix Klein, under the title Vergleichende Betrachtungen über neuere geometrische Forschungen...

. After novel geometries such as hyperbolic
Hyperbolic geometry
In mathematics, hyperbolic geometry is a non-Euclidean geometry, meaning that the parallel postulate of Euclidean geometry is replaced...

 and projective geometry
Projective geometry
In mathematics, projective geometry is the study of geometric properties that are invariant under projective transformations. This means that, compared to elementary geometry, projective geometry has a different setting, projective space, and a selective set of basic geometric concepts...

 had emerged, Klein used group theory to organize them in a more coherent way. Further advancing these ideas, Sophus Lie
Sophus Lie
Marius Sophus Lie was a Norwegian mathematician. He largely created the theory of continuous symmetry, and applied it to the study of geometry and differential equations.- Biography :...

 founded the study of Lie group
Lie group
In mathematics, a Lie group is a group which is also a differentiable manifold, with the property that the group operations are compatible with the smooth structure...

s in 1884.

The third field contributing to group theory was number theory
Number theory
Number theory is a branch of pure mathematics devoted primarily to the study of the integers. Number theorists study prime numbers as well...

. Certain abelian group
Abelian group
In abstract algebra, an abelian group, also called a commutative group, is a group in which the result of applying the group operation to two group elements does not depend on their order . Abelian groups generalize the arithmetic of addition of integers...

 structures had been used implicitly in Carl Friedrich Gauss
Carl Friedrich Gauss
Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss was a German mathematician and scientist who contributed significantly to many fields, including number theory, statistics, analysis, differential geometry, geodesy, geophysics, electrostatics, astronomy and optics.Sometimes referred to as the Princeps mathematicorum...

' number-theoretical work Disquisitiones Arithmeticae
Disquisitiones Arithmeticae
The Disquisitiones Arithmeticae is a textbook of number theory written in Latin by Carl Friedrich Gauss in 1798 when Gauss was 21 and first published in 1801 when he was 24...

(1798), and more explicitly by Leopold Kronecker
Leopold Kronecker
Leopold Kronecker was a German mathematician who worked on number theory and algebra.He criticized Cantor's work on set theory, and was quoted by as having said, "God made integers; all else is the work of man"...

. In 1847, Ernst Kummer
Ernst Kummer
Ernst Eduard Kummer was a German mathematician. Skilled in applied mathematics, Kummer trained German army officers in ballistics; afterwards, he taught for 10 years in a gymnasium, the German equivalent of high school, where he inspired the mathematical career of Leopold Kronecker.-Life:Kummer...

 led early attempts to prove Fermat's Last Theorem
Fermat's Last Theorem
In number theory, Fermat's Last Theorem states that no three positive integers a, b, and c can satisfy the equation an + bn = cn for any integer value of n greater than two....

 to a climax by developing groups describing factorization into prime number
Prime number
A prime number is a natural number greater than 1 that has no positive divisors other than 1 and itself. A natural number greater than 1 that is not a prime number is called a composite number. For example 5 is prime, as only 1 and 5 divide it, whereas 6 is composite, since it has the divisors 2...

s.

The convergence of these various sources into a uniform theory of groups started with Camille Jordan
Camille Jordan
Marie Ennemond Camille Jordan was a French mathematician, known both for his foundational work in group theory and for his influential Cours d'analyse. He was born in Lyon and educated at the École polytechnique...

's Traité des substitutions et des équations algébriques (1870). Walther von Dyck
Walther von Dyck
Walther Franz Anton von Dyck , born Dyck and later ennobled, was a German mathematician...

 (1882) gave the first statement of the modern definition of an abstract group. As of the 20th century, groups gained wide recognition by the pioneering work of Ferdinand Georg Frobenius
Ferdinand Georg Frobenius
Ferdinand Georg Frobenius was a German mathematician, best known for his contributions to the theory of differential equations and to group theory...

 and William Burnside
William Burnside
William Burnside was an English mathematician. He is known mostly as an early contributor to the theory of finite groups....

, who worked on representation theory
Representation theory
Representation theory is a branch of mathematics that studies abstract algebraic structures by representing their elements as linear transformations of vector spaces, and studiesmodules over these abstract algebraic structures...

 of finite groups, Richard Brauer
Richard Brauer
Richard Dagobert Brauer was a leading German and American mathematician. He worked mainly in abstract algebra, but made important contributions to number theory...

's modular representation theory
Modular representation theory
Modular representation theory is a branch of mathematics, and that part of representation theory that studies linear representations of finite group G over a field K of positive characteristic...

 and Issai Schur
Issai Schur
Issai Schur was a mathematician who worked in Germany for most of his life. He studied at Berlin...

's papers. The theory of Lie groups, and more generally locally compact group
Locally compact group
In mathematics, a locally compact group is a topological group G which is locally compact as a topological space. Locally compact groups are important because they have a natural measure called the Haar measure. This allows one to define integrals of functions on G.Many of the results of finite...

s was pushed by Hermann Weyl
Hermann Weyl
Hermann Klaus Hugo Weyl was a German mathematician and theoretical physicist. Although much of his working life was spent in Zürich, Switzerland and then Princeton, he is associated with the University of Göttingen tradition of mathematics, represented by David Hilbert and Hermann Minkowski.His...

, Élie Cartan
Élie Cartan
Élie Joseph Cartan was an influential French mathematician, who did fundamental work in the theory of Lie groups and their geometric applications...

 and many others. Its algebraic counterpart, the theory of algebraic group
Algebraic group
In algebraic geometry, an algebraic group is a group that is an algebraic variety, such that the multiplication and inverse are given by regular functions on the variety...

s, was first shaped by Claude Chevalley
Claude Chevalley
Claude Chevalley was a French mathematician who made important contributions to number theory, algebraic geometry, class field theory, finite group theory, and the theory of algebraic groups...

 (from the late 1930s) and later by pivotal work of Armand Borel
Armand Borel
Armand Borel was a Swiss mathematician, born in La Chaux-de-Fonds, and was a permanent professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, United States from 1957 to 1993...

 and Jacques Tits
Jacques Tits
Jacques Tits is a Belgian and French mathematician who works on group theory and geometry and who introduced Tits buildings, the Tits alternative, and the Tits group.- Career :Tits received his doctorate in mathematics at the age of 20...

.

The University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

's 1960–61 Group Theory Year brought together group theorists such as Daniel Gorenstein
Daniel Gorenstein
Daniel E. Gorenstein was an American mathematician. He earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees at Harvard University, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1950 under Oscar Zariski, introducing in his dissertation Gorenstein rings...

, John G. Thompson
John G. Thompson
John Griggs Thompson is a mathematician at the University of Florida noted for his work in the field of finite groups. He was awarded the Fields Medal in 1970, the Wolf Prize in 1992 and the 2008 Abel Prize....

 and Walter Feit
Walter Feit
Walter Feit was a Jewish Austrian-American mathematician who worked in finite group theory and representation theory....

, laying the foundation of a collaboration that, with input from numerous other mathematicians, classified all finite simple group
Classification of finite simple groups
In mathematics, the classification of the finite simple groups is a theorem stating that every finite simple group belongs to one of four categories described below. These groups can be seen as the basic building blocks of all finite groups, in much the same way as the prime numbers are the basic...

s in 1982. This project exceeded previous mathematical endeavours by its sheer size, in both length of proof and number of researchers. Research is ongoing to simplify the proof of this classification. These days, group theory is still a highly active mathematical branch crucially impacting many other fields.

Elementary consequences of the group axioms

Basic facts about all groups that can be obtained directly from the group axioms are commonly subsumed under elementary group theory. For example, repeated
Mathematical induction
Mathematical induction is a method of mathematical proof typically used to establish that a given statement is true of all natural numbers...

 applications of the associativity axiom show that the unambiguity of
abc = (ab) • c = a • (bc)

generalizes to more than three factors. Because this implies that parentheses can be inserted anywhere within such a series of terms, parentheses are usually omitted.

The axioms may be weakened to assert only the existence of a left identity and left inverses. Both can be shown to be actually two-sided, so the resulting definition is equivalent to the one given above.

Uniqueness of identity element and inverses

Two important consequences of the group axioms are the uniqueness of the identity element and the uniqueness of inverse elements. There can be only one identity element in a group, and each element in a group has exactly one inverse element. Thus, it is customary to speak of the identity, and the inverse of an element.

To prove the uniqueness of an inverse element of a, suppose that a has two inverses, denoted l and r, in a group (G, •). Then
l = l1G      as 1G is the identity element
= l • (ar)      because r is an inverse of a, so 1G = ar
= (la) • r      by associativity, which allows to rearrange the parentheses
= 1Gr      since l is an inverse of a, i.e. la = 1G
= r      for 1G is the identity element


The two extremal terms l and r are equal, since they are connected by a chain of equalities. In other words there is only one inverse element of a. Similarly, to prove that the identity element of a group is unique, assume G is a group with two identity elements 1G and e. Then 1G = 1Ge = e, hence 1G and e are equal.

Division

In groups, it is possible to perform division
Division (mathematics)
right|thumb|200px|20 \div 4=5In mathematics, especially in elementary arithmetic, division is an arithmetic operation.Specifically, if c times b equals a, written:c \times b = a\,...

: given elements a and b of the group G, there is exactly one solution x in G to the equation
Equation
An equation is a mathematical statement that asserts the equality of two expressions. In modern notation, this is written by placing the expressions on either side of an equals sign , for examplex + 3 = 5\,asserts that x+3 is equal to 5...

 xa = b. In fact, right multiplication of the equation by a−1 gives the solution x = xaa−1 = ba−1. Similarly there is exactly one solution y in G to the equation ay = b, namely y = a−1b. In general, x and y need not agree.

A consequence of this is that multiplying by a group element g is a bijection
Bijection
A bijection is a function giving an exact pairing of the elements of two sets. A bijection from the set X to the set Y has an inverse function from Y to X. If X and Y are finite sets, then the existence of a bijection means they have the same number of elements...

. Specifically, if g is an element of the group G, there is a bijection from G to itself called left translation by g sending h ∈ G to g • h. Similarly, right translation by g is a bijection from G to itself sending h to h • g. If G is abelian, left and right translation by a group element are the same.

Basic concepts

To understand groups beyond the level of mere symbolic manipulations as above, more structural concepts have to be employed. There is a conceptual principle underlying all of the following notions: to take advantage of the structure offered by groups (which sets, being "structureless", do not have), constructions related to groups have to be compatible with the group operation. This compatibility manifests itself in the following notions in various ways. For example, groups can be related to each other via functions called group homomorphisms. By the mentioned principle, they are required to respect the group structures in a precise sense. The structure of groups can also be understood by breaking them into pieces called subgroups and quotient groups. The principle of "preserving structures"—a recurring topic in mathematics throughout—is an instance of working in a category
Category (mathematics)
In mathematics, a category is an algebraic structure that comprises "objects" that are linked by "arrows". A category has two basic properties: the ability to compose the arrows associatively and the existence of an identity arrow for each object. A simple example is the category of sets, whose...

, in this case the category of groups
Category of groups
In mathematics, the category Grp has the class of all groups for objects and group homomorphisms for morphisms. As such, it is a concrete category...

.

Group homomorphisms

Group homomorphisms are functions that preserve group structure. A function a: GH between two groups (G,•) and (H,*) is called a homomorphism if the equation
a(gk) = a(g) * a(k)

holds for all elements g, k in G. In other words, the result is the same when performing the group operation after or before applying the map a. This requirement ensures that a(1G) = 1H, and also a(g)−1 = a(g−1) for all g in G. Thus a group homomorphism respects all the structure of G provided by the group axioms.

Two groups G and H are called isomorphic
Isomorphism
In abstract algebra, an isomorphism is a mapping between objects that shows a relationship between two properties or operations.  If there exists an isomorphism between two structures, the two structures are said to be isomorphic.  In a certain sense, isomorphic structures are...

 if there exist group homomorphisms a: GH and b: HG, such that applying the two functions one after another
Function composition
In mathematics, function composition is the application of one function to the results of another. For instance, the functions and can be composed by computing the output of g when it has an argument of f instead of x...

 in each of the two possible orders gives the identity function
Identity function
In mathematics, an identity function, also called identity map or identity transformation, is a function that always returns the same value that was used as its argument...

s of G and H. That is, a(b(h)) = h and b(a(g)) = g for any g in G and h in H. From an abstract point of view, isomorphic groups carry the same information. For example, proving that gg = 1G for some element g of G is equivalent
Logical equivalence
In logic, statements p and q are logically equivalent if they have the same logical content.Syntactically, p and q are equivalent if each can be proved from the other...

 to proving that a(g) * a(g) = 1H, because applying a to the first equality yields the second, and applying b to the second gives back the first.

Subgroups

Informally, a subgroup is a group H contained within a bigger one, G. Concretely, the identity element of G is contained in H, and whenever h1 and h2 are in H, then so are and h1−1, so the elements of H, equipped with the group operation on G restricted to H, indeed form a group.

In the example above, the identity and the rotations constitute a subgroup R = {id, r1, r2, r3}, highlighted in red in the group table above: any two rotations composed are still a rotation, and a rotation can be undone by (i.e. is inverse to) the complementary rotations 270° for 90°, 180° for 180°, and 90° for 270° (note that rotation in the opposite direction is not defined). The subgroup test
Subgroup test
In Abstract Algebra, the one-step subgroup test is a theorem that states that for any group, a nonempty subset of that group is itself a group if the inverse of any element in the subset multiplied with any other element in the subset is also in the subset...

 is a necessary and sufficient condition
Necessary and sufficient conditions
In logic, the words necessity and sufficiency refer to the implicational relationships between statements. The assertion that one statement is a necessary and sufficient condition of another means that the former statement is true if and only if the latter is true.-Definitions:A necessary condition...

 for a subset H of a group G to be a subgroup: it is sufficient to check that for all elements g, hH. Knowing the subgroups
Lattice of subgroups
In mathematics, the lattice of subgroups of a group G is the lattice whose elements are the subgroups of G, with the partial order relation being set inclusion....

 is important in understanding the group as a whole.

Given any subset S of a group G, the subgroup generated by S consists of products of elements of S and their inverses. It is the smallest subgroup of G containing S. In the introductory example above, the subgroup generated by r2 and fv consists of these two elements, the identity element id and fh = fv • r2. Again, this is a subgroup, because combining any two of these four elements or their inverses (which are, in this particular case, these same elements) yields an element of this subgroup.

Cosets

In many situations it is desirable to consider two group elements the same if they differ by an element of a given subgroup. For example, in D4 above, once a flip is performed, the square never gets back to the r2 configuration by just applying the rotation operations (and no further flips), i.e. the rotation operations are irrelevant to the question whether a flip has been performed. Cosets are used to formalize this insight: a subgroup H defines left and right cosets, which can be thought of as translations of H by arbitrary group elements g. In symbolic terms, the left and right cosets of H containing g are
gH = {g • h, hH} and Hg = {h • g, hH}, respectively.


The cosets of any subgroup H form a partition
Partition of a set
In mathematics, a partition of a set X is a division of X into non-overlapping and non-empty "parts" or "blocks" or "cells" that cover all of X...

 of G; that is, the union
Union (set theory)
In set theory, the union of a collection of sets is the set of all distinct elements in the collection. The union of a collection of sets S_1, S_2, S_3, \dots , S_n\,\! gives a set S_1 \cup S_2 \cup S_3 \cup \dots \cup S_n.- Definition :...

 of all left cosets is equal to G and two left cosets are either equal or have an empty
Empty set
In mathematics, and more specifically set theory, the empty set is the unique set having no elements; its size or cardinality is zero. Some axiomatic set theories assure that the empty set exists by including an axiom of empty set; in other theories, its existence can be deduced...

 intersection
Intersection (set theory)
In mathematics, the intersection of two sets A and B is the set that contains all elements of A that also belong to B , but no other elements....

. The first case g1H = g2H happens precisely when
If and only if
In logic and related fields such as mathematics and philosophy, if and only if is a biconditional logical connective between statements....

 , i.e. if the two elements differ by an element of H. Similar considerations apply to the right cosets of H. The left and right cosets of H may or may not be equal. If they are, i.e. for all g in G, gH = Hg, then H is said to be a normal subgroup
Normal subgroup
In abstract algebra, a normal subgroup is a subgroup which is invariant under conjugation by members of the group. Normal subgroups can be used to construct quotient groups from a given group....

.

In D4, the introductory symmetry group, the left cosets gR of the subgroup R consisting of the rotations are either equal to R, if g is an element of R itself, or otherwise equal to U = fcR = {fc, fv, fd, fh} (highlighted in green). The subgroup R is also normal, because fcR = U = Rfc and similarly for any element other than fc.

Quotient groups

In some situations the set of cosets of a subgroup can be endowed with a group law, giving a quotient group or factor group. For this to be possible, the subgroup has to be normal
Normal subgroup
In abstract algebra, a normal subgroup is a subgroup which is invariant under conjugation by members of the group. Normal subgroups can be used to construct quotient groups from a given group....

. Given any normal subgroup N, the quotient group is defined by
G / N = {gN, gG}, "G modulo N".

This set inherits a group operation (sometimes called coset multiplication, or coset addition) from the original group G: (gN) • (hN) = (gh)N for all g and h in G. This definition is motivated by the idea (itself an instance of general structural considerations outlined above) that the map that associates to any element g its coset gN be a group homomorphism, or by general abstract considerations called universal properties
Universal property
In various branches of mathematics, a useful construction is often viewed as the “most efficient solution” to a certain problem. The definition of a universal property uses the language of category theory to make this notion precise and to study it abstractly.This article gives a general treatment...

. The coset eN = N serves as the identity in this group, and the inverse of gN in the quotient group is (gN)−1 = (g−1)N.
R U
R R U
U U R
Group table of the quotient group .

The elements of the quotient group are R itself, which represents the identity, and U = fvR. The group operation on the quotient is shown at the right. For example, UU = fvR • fvR = (fv • fv)R = R. Both the subgroup R = {id, r1, r2, r3}, as well as the corresponding quotient are abelian, whereas D4 is not abelian. Building bigger groups by smaller ones, such as D4 from its subgroup R and the quotient is abstracted by a notion called semidirect product
Semidirect product
In mathematics, specifically in the area of abstract algebra known as group theory, a semidirect product is a particular way in which a group can be put together from two subgroups, one of which is a normal subgroup. A semidirect product is a generalization of a direct product...

.

Quotient groups and subgroups together form a way of describing every group by its presentation
Presentation of a group
In mathematics, one method of defining a group is by a presentation. One specifies a set S of generators so that every element of the group can be written as a product of powers of some of these generators, and a set R of relations among those generators...

: any group is the quotient of the free group
Free group
In mathematics, a group G is called free if there is a subset S of G such that any element of G can be written in one and only one way as a product of finitely many elements of S and their inverses...

 over the generators
Generating set of a group
In abstract algebra, a generating set of a group is a subset that is not contained in any proper subgroup of the group. Equivalently, a generating set of a group is a subset such that every element of the group can be expressed as the combination of finitely many elements of the subset and their...

of the group, quotiented by the subgroup of relations. The dihedral group D4, for example, can be generated by two elements r and f (for example, r = r1, the right rotation and f = fv the vertical (or any other) flip), which means that every symmetry of the square is a finite composition of these two symmetries or their inverses. Together with the relations
r 4 = f 2 = (rf)2 = 1,

the group is completely described. A presentation of a group can also be used to construct the Cayley graph
Cayley graph
In mathematics, a Cayley graph, also known as a Cayley colour graph, Cayley diagram, group diagram, or colour group is a graph that encodes the abstract structure of a group. Its definition is suggested by Cayley's theorem and uses a specified, usually finite, set of generators for the group...

, a device used to graphically capture discrete group
Discrete group
In mathematics, a discrete group is a group G equipped with the discrete topology. With this topology G becomes a topological group. A discrete subgroup of a topological group G is a subgroup H whose relative topology is the discrete one...

s.

Sub- and quotient groups are related in the following way: a subset H of G can be seen as an injective map , i.e. any element of the target has at most one element that maps to it. The counterpart to injective maps are surjective maps (every element of the target is mapped onto), such as the canonical map . Interpreting subgroup and quotients in light of these homomorphisms emphasizes the structural concept inherent to these definitions alluded to in the introduction. In general, homomorphisms are neither injective nor surjective. Kernel
Kernel (algebra)
In the various branches of mathematics that fall under the heading of abstract algebra, the kernel of a homomorphism measures the degree to which the homomorphism fails to be injective. An important special case is the kernel of a matrix, also called the null space.The definition of kernel takes...

 and image
Image (mathematics)
In mathematics, an image is the subset of a function's codomain which is the output of the function on a subset of its domain. Precisely, evaluating the function at each element of a subset X of the domain produces a set called the image of X under or through the function...

 of group homomorphisms and the first isomorphism theorem address this phenomenon.

Examples and applications

Examples and applications of groups abound. A starting point is the group Z of integers with addition as group operation, introduced above. If instead of addition multiplication
Multiplication
Multiplication is the mathematical operation of scaling one number by another. It is one of the four basic operations in elementary arithmetic ....

 is considered, one obtains multiplicative group
Multiplicative group
In mathematics and group theory the term multiplicative group refers to one of the following concepts, depending on the context*any group \scriptstyle\mathfrak \,\! whose binary operation is written in multiplicative notation ,*the underlying group under multiplication of the invertible elements of...

s. These groups are predecessors of important constructions in abstract algebra
Abstract algebra
Abstract algebra is the subject area of mathematics that studies algebraic structures, such as groups, rings, fields, modules, vector spaces, and algebras...

.

Groups are also applied in many other mathematical areas. Mathematical objects are often examined by associating
Functor
In category theory, a branch of mathematics, a functor is a special type of mapping between categories. Functors can be thought of as homomorphisms between categories, or morphisms when in the category of small categories....

 groups to them and studying the properties of the corresponding groups. For example, Henri Poincaré
Henri Poincaré
Jules Henri Poincaré was a French mathematician, theoretical physicist, engineer, and a philosopher of science...

 founded what is now called algebraic topology
Algebraic topology
Algebraic topology is a branch of mathematics which uses tools from abstract algebra to study topological spaces. The basic goal is to find algebraic invariants that classify topological spaces up to homeomorphism, though usually most classify up to homotopy equivalence.Although algebraic topology...

 by introducing the fundamental group
Fundamental group
In mathematics, more specifically algebraic topology, the fundamental group is a group associated to any given pointed topological space that provides a way of determining when two paths, starting and ending at a fixed base point, can be continuously deformed into each other...

. By means of this connection, topological properties such as proximity
Neighbourhood (mathematics)
In topology and related areas of mathematics, a neighbourhood is one of the basic concepts in a topological space. Intuitively speaking, a neighbourhood of a point is a set containing the point where you can move that point some amount without leaving the set.This concept is closely related to the...

 and continuity
Continuous function
In mathematics, a continuous function is a function for which, intuitively, "small" changes in the input result in "small" changes in the output. Otherwise, a function is said to be "discontinuous". A continuous function with a continuous inverse function is called "bicontinuous".Continuity of...

 translate into properties of groups. For example, elements of the fundamental group are represented by loops. The second image at the right shows some loops in a plane minus a point. The blue loop is considered null-homotopic (and thus irrelevant), because it can be continuously shrunk
Homotopy
In topology, two continuous functions from one topological space to another are called homotopic if one can be "continuously deformed" into the other, such a deformation being called a homotopy between the two functions...

 to a point. The presence of the hole prevents the orange loop from being shrunk to a point. The fundamental group of the plane with a point deleted turns out to be infinite cyclic, generated by the orange loop (or any other loop winding once
Winding number
In mathematics, the winding number of a closed curve in the plane around a given point is an integer representing the total number of times that curve travels counterclockwise around the point...

 around the hole). This way, the fundamental group detects the hole.

In more recent applications, the influence has also been reversed to motivate geometric constructions by a group-theoretical background. In a similar vein, geometric group theory
Geometric group theory
Geometric group theory is an area in mathematics devoted to the study of finitely generated groups via exploring the connections between algebraic properties of such groups and topological and geometric properties of spaces on which these groups act .Another important...

 employs geometric concepts, for example in the study of hyperbolic group
Hyperbolic group
In group theory, a hyperbolic group, also known as a word hyperbolic group, Gromov hyperbolic group, negatively curved group is a finitely generated group equipped with a word metric satisfying certain properties characteristic of hyperbolic geometry. The notion of a hyperbolic group was introduced...

s. Further branches crucially applying groups include algebraic geometry
Algebraic geometry
Algebraic geometry is a branch of mathematics which combines techniques of abstract algebra, especially commutative algebra, with the language and the problems of geometry. It occupies a central place in modern mathematics and has multiple conceptual connections with such diverse fields as complex...

 and number theory
Number theory
Number theory is a branch of pure mathematics devoted primarily to the study of the integers. Number theorists study prime numbers as well...

.

In addition to the above theoretical applications, many practical applications of groups exist. Cryptography
Cryptography
Cryptography is the practice and study of techniques for secure communication in the presence of third parties...

 relies on the combination of the abstract group theory approach together with algorithm
Algorithm
In mathematics and computer science, an algorithm is an effective method expressed as a finite list of well-defined instructions for calculating a function. Algorithms are used for calculation, data processing, and automated reasoning...

ical knowledge obtained in computational group theory
Computational group theory
In mathematics, computational group theory is the study ofgroups by means of computers. It is concernedwith designing and analysing algorithms anddata structures to compute information about groups...

, in particular when implemented for finite groups. Applications of group theory are not restricted to mathematics; sciences such as physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

, chemistry
Chemistry
Chemistry is the science of matter, especially its chemical reactions, but also its composition, structure and properties. Chemistry is concerned with atoms and their interactions with other atoms, and particularly with the properties of chemical bonds....

 and computer science
Computer science
Computer science or computing science is the study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation and of practical techniques for their implementation and application in computer systems...

 benefit from the concept.

Numbers

Many number systems, such as the integers and the rationals enjoy a naturally given group structure. In some cases, such as with the rationals, both addition and multiplication operations give rise to group structures. Such number systems are predecessors to more general algebraic structures known as rings
Ring (mathematics)
In mathematics, a ring is an algebraic structure consisting of a set together with two binary operations usually called addition and multiplication, where the set is an abelian group under addition and a semigroup under multiplication such that multiplication distributes over addition...

 and fields
Field (mathematics)
In abstract algebra, a field is a commutative ring whose nonzero elements form a group under multiplication. As such it is an algebraic structure with notions of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, satisfying certain axioms...

. Further abstract algebra
Abstract algebra
Abstract algebra is the subject area of mathematics that studies algebraic structures, such as groups, rings, fields, modules, vector spaces, and algebras...

ic concepts such as module
Module (mathematics)
In abstract algebra, the concept of a module over a ring is a generalization of the notion of vector space, wherein the corresponding scalars are allowed to lie in an arbitrary ring...

s, vector space
Vector space
A vector space is a mathematical structure formed by a collection of vectors: objects that may be added together and multiplied by numbers, called scalars in this context. Scalars are often taken to be real numbers, but one may also consider vector spaces with scalar multiplication by complex...

s and algebras
Algebra over a field
In mathematics, an algebra over a field is a vector space equipped with a bilinear vector product. That is to say, it isan algebraic structure consisting of a vector space together with an operation, usually called multiplication, that combines any two vectors to form a third vector; to qualify as...

 also form groups.

Integers

The group of integers Z under addition, denoted (Z, +), has been described above. The integers, with the operation of multiplication
Multiplication
Multiplication is the mathematical operation of scaling one number by another. It is one of the four basic operations in elementary arithmetic ....

 instead of addition, (Z, ·) do not form a group. The closure, associativity and identity axioms are satisfied, but inverses do not exist: for example, a = 2 is an integer, but the only solution to the equation a · b = 1 in this case is b = 1/2, which is a rational number, but not an integer. Hence not every element of Z has a (multiplicative) inverse.

Rationals

The desire for the existence of multiplicative inverses suggests considering fractions
Fraction (mathematics)
A fraction represents a part of a whole or, more generally, any number of equal parts. When spoken in everyday English, we specify how many parts of a certain size there are, for example, one-half, five-eighths and three-quarters.A common or "vulgar" fraction, such as 1/2, 5/8, 3/4, etc., consists...

\frac{a}{b}.

Fractions of integers (with b nonzero) are known as rational number
Rational number
In mathematics, a rational number is any number that can be expressed as the quotient or fraction a/b of two integers, with the denominator b not equal to zero. Since b may be equal to 1, every integer is a rational number...

s. The set of all such fractions is commonly denoted Q. There is still a minor obstacle for the rationals with multiplication, being a group: because the rational number 0
0 (number)
0 is both a numberand the numerical digit used to represent that number in numerals.It fulfills a central role in mathematics as the additive identity of the integers, real numbers, and many other algebraic structures. As a digit, 0 is used as a placeholder in place value systems...

 does not have a multiplicative inverse (i.e., there is no x such that x · 0 = 1), (Q, ·) is still not a group.

However, the set of all nonzero rational numbers Q \ {0} = {qQ, q ≠ 0} does form an abelian group under multiplication, denoted . Associativity and identity element axioms follow from the properties of integers. The closure requirement still holds true after removing zero, because the product of two nonzero rationals is never zero. Finally, the inverse of a/b is b/a, therefore the axiom of the inverse element is satisfied.

The rational numbers (including 0) also form a group under addition. Intertwining addition and multiplication operations yields more complicated structures called rings and—if division is possible, such as in Q—fields, which occupy a central position in abstract algebra
Abstract algebra
Abstract algebra is the subject area of mathematics that studies algebraic structures, such as groups, rings, fields, modules, vector spaces, and algebras...

. Group theoretic arguments therefore underlie parts of the theory of those entities.

Nonzero integers modulo a prime

For any prime number
Prime number
A prime number is a natural number greater than 1 that has no positive divisors other than 1 and itself. A natural number greater than 1 that is not a prime number is called a composite number. For example 5 is prime, as only 1 and 5 divide it, whereas 6 is composite, since it has the divisors 2...

 p, modular arithmetic
Modular arithmetic
In mathematics, modular arithmetic is a system of arithmetic for integers, where numbers "wrap around" after they reach a certain value—the modulus....

 furnishes the multiplicative group of integers modulo p
Multiplicative group of integers modulo n
In modular arithmetic the set of congruence classes relatively prime to the modulus n form a group under multiplication called the multiplicative group of integers modulo n. It is also called the group of primitive residue classes modulo n. In the theory of rings, a branch of abstract algebra, it...

. Its elements are integers not divisible by p, considered modulo
Modular arithmetic
In mathematics, modular arithmetic is a system of arithmetic for integers, where numbers "wrap around" after they reach a certain value—the modulus....

 p, i.e. two numbers are considered equivalent if their difference is divisible by p. For example, if p = 5, there are exactly four group elements 1, 2, 3, 4: multiple
Multiple (mathematics)
In mathematics, a multiple is the product of any quantity and an integer. In other words, for the quantities a and b, we say that b is a multiple of a if b = na for some integer n , which is called the multiplier or coefficient. If a is not zero, this is equivalent to saying that b/a is an integer...

s of 5 are excluded and 6 and −4 are both equivalent to 1 etc. The group operation is given by multiplication. Therefore, 4 · 4 = 1, because the usual product 16 is equivalent to 1, for 5 divides 16 − 1 = 15, denoted
16 ≡ 1 (mod 5).

The primality of p ensures that the product of two integers neither of which is divisible by p is not divisible by p either, hence the indicated set of classes is closed under multiplication. The identity element is 1, as usual for a multiplicative group, and the associativity follows from the corresponding property of integers. Finally, the inverse element axiom requires that given an integer a not divisible by p, there exists an integer b such that
a · b ≡ 1 (mod p), i.e. p divides the difference .

The inverse b can be found by using Bézout's identity
Bézout's identity
In number theory, Bézout's identity for two integers a, b is an expressionwhere x and y are integers , such that d is a common divisor of a and b. Bézout's lemma states that such coefficients exist for every pair of nonzero integers...

 and the fact that the greatest common divisor
Greatest common divisor
In mathematics, the greatest common divisor , also known as the greatest common factor , or highest common factor , of two or more non-zero integers, is the largest positive integer that divides the numbers without a remainder.For example, the GCD of 8 and 12 is 4.This notion can be extended to...

  equals 1. In the case p = 5 above, the inverse of 4 is 4, and the inverse of 3 is 2, as 3 · 2 = 6 ≡ 1 (mod 5). Hence all group axioms are fulfilled. Actually, this example is similar to (Q\{0}, ·) above, because it turns out to be the multiplicative group of nonzero elements in the finite field Fp, denoted Fp×. These groups are crucial to public-key cryptography
Public-key cryptography
Public-key cryptography refers to a cryptographic system requiring two separate keys, one to lock or encrypt the plaintext, and one to unlock or decrypt the cyphertext. Neither key will do both functions. One of these keys is published or public and the other is kept private...

.

Cyclic groups

A cyclic group is a group all of whose elements are powers (when the group operation is written additively, the term 'multiple' can be used) of a particular element a. In multiplicative notation, the elements of the group are:
..., a−3, a−2, a−1, a0 = e, a, a2, a3, ...,

where a2 means aa, and a−3 stands for a−1a−1a−1=(aaa)−1 etc. Such an element a is called a generator or a primitive element
Primitive root modulo n
In modular arithmetic, a branch of number theory, a primitive root modulo n is any number g with the property that any number coprime to n is congruent to a power of g modulo n. In other words, g is a generator of the multiplicative group of integers modulo n...

 of the group.

A typical example for this class of groups is the group of n-th complex roots of unity
Root of unity
In mathematics, a root of unity, or de Moivre number, is any complex number that equals 1 when raised to some integer power n. Roots of unity are used in many branches of mathematics, and are especially important in number theory, the theory of group characters, field theory, and the discrete...

, given by complex number
Complex number
A complex number is a number consisting of a real part and an imaginary part. Complex numbers extend the idea of the one-dimensional number line to the two-dimensional complex plane by using the number line for the real part and adding a vertical axis to plot the imaginary part...

s z satisfying zn = 1 (and whose operation is multiplication). Any cyclic group with n elements is isomorphic to this group. Using some field theory
Field theory (mathematics)
Field theory is a branch of mathematics which studies the properties of fields. A field is a mathematical entity for which addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are well-defined....

, the group Fp× can be shown to be cyclic: for example, if p = 5, 3 is a generator since 31 = 3, 32 = 9 ≡ 4, 33 ≡ 2, and 34 ≡ 1.

Some cyclic groups have an infinite number of elements. In these groups, for every non-zero element a, all the powers of a are distinct; despite the name "cyclic group", the powers of the elements do not cycle. An infinite cyclic group is isomorphic to (Z, +), the group of integers under addition introduced above. As these two prototypes are both abelian, so is any cyclic group.

The study of abelian groups is quite mature, including the fundamental theorem of finitely generated abelian groups; and reflecting this state of affairs, many group-related notions, such as center
Center (group theory)
In abstract algebra, the center of a group G, denoted Z,The notation Z is from German Zentrum, meaning "center". is the set of elements that commute with every element of G. In set-builder notation,...

 and commutator
Commutator
In mathematics, the commutator gives an indication of the extent to which a certain binary operation fails to be commutative. There are different definitions used in group theory and ring theory.-Group theory:...

, describe the extent to which a given group is not abelian.

Symmetry groups

Symmetry groups are groups consisting of symmetries
Symmetry
Symmetry generally conveys two primary meanings. The first is an imprecise sense of harmonious or aesthetically pleasing proportionality and balance; such that it reflects beauty or perfection...

 of given mathematical objects—be they of geometric nature, such as the introductory symmetry group of the square, or of algebraic nature, such as polynomial equations and their solutions. Conceptually, group theory can be thought of as the study of symmetry. Symmetries in mathematics
Symmetry in mathematics
Symmetry occurs not only in geometry, but also in other branches of mathematics. It is actually the same as invariance: the property that something does not change under a set of transformations....

 greatly simplify the study of geometrical
Geometry
Geometry arose as the field of knowledge dealing with spatial relationships. Geometry was one of the two fields of pre-modern mathematics, the other being the study of numbers ....

 or analytical objects
Analysis
Analysis is the process of breaking a complex topic or substance into smaller parts to gain a better understanding of it. The technique has been applied in the study of mathematics and logic since before Aristotle , though analysis as a formal concept is a relatively recent development.The word is...

. A group is said to act
Group action
In algebra and geometry, a group action is a way of describing symmetries of objects using groups. The essential elements of the object are described by a set, and the symmetries of the object are described by the symmetry group of this set, which consists of bijective transformations of the set...

 on another mathematical object X if every group element performs some operation on X compatibly to the group law. In the rightmost example below, an element of order 7 of the (2,3,7) triangle group
(2,3,7) triangle group
In the theory of Riemann surfaces and hyperbolic geometry, the triangle group is particularly important. This importance stems from its connection to Hurwitz surfaces, namely Riemann surfaces of genus g with the largest possible order, 84, of its automorphism group.A note on terminology – the "...

 acts on the tiling by permuting the highlighted warped triangles (and the other ones, too). By a group action, the group pattern is connected to the structure of the object being acted on.

In chemical fields, such as crystallography
Crystallography
Crystallography is the experimental science of the arrangement of atoms in solids. The word "crystallography" derives from the Greek words crystallon = cold drop / frozen drop, with its meaning extending to all solids with some degree of transparency, and grapho = write.Before the development of...

, space group
Space group
In mathematics and geometry, a space group is a symmetry group, usually for three dimensions, that divides space into discrete repeatable domains.In three dimensions, there are 219 unique types, or counted as 230 if chiral copies are considered distinct...

s and point group
Point group
In geometry, a point group is a group of geometric symmetries that keep at least one point fixed. Point groups can exist in a Euclidean space with any dimension, and every point group in dimension d is a subgroup of the orthogonal group O...

s describe molecular symmetries
Molecular symmetry
Molecular symmetry in chemistry describes the symmetry present in molecules and the classification of molecules according to their symmetry. Molecular symmetry is a fundamental concept in chemistry, as it can predict or explain many of a molecule's chemical properties, such as its dipole moment...

 and crystal symmetries. These symmetries underlie the chemical and physical behavior of these systems, and group theory enables simplification of quantum mechanical
Quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics, also known as quantum physics or quantum theory, is a branch of physics providing a mathematical description of much of the dual particle-like and wave-like behavior and interactions of energy and matter. It departs from classical mechanics primarily at the atomic and subatomic...

 analysis of these properties. For example, group theory is used to show that optical transitions between certain quantum levels cannot occur simply because of the symmetry of the states involved.

Not only are groups useful to assess the implications of symmetries in molecules, but surprisingly they also predict that molecules sometimes can change symmetry. The Jahn-Teller effect
Jahn-Teller effect
The Jahn–Teller effect, sometimes also known as Jahn–Teller distortion, or the Jahn–Teller theorem, describes the geometrical distortion of non-linear molecules under certain situations. This electronic effect is named after Hermann Arthur Jahn and Edward Teller, who proved, using group theory,...

 is a distortion of a molecule of high symmetry when it adopts a particular ground state of lower symmetry from a set of possible ground states that are related to each other by the symmetry operations of the molecule.

Likewise, group theory helps predict the changes in physical properties that occur when a material undergoes a phase transition
Phase transition
A phase transition is the transformation of a thermodynamic system from one phase or state of matter to another.A phase of a thermodynamic system and the states of matter have uniform physical properties....

, for example, from a cubic to a tetrahedral crystalline form. An example is ferroelectric materials, where the change from a paraelectric to a ferroelectric state occurs at the Curie temperature and is related to a change from the high-symmetry paraelectric state to the lower symmetry ferroelectic state, accompanied by a so-called soft phonon
Phonon
In physics, a phonon is a collective excitation in a periodic, elastic arrangement of atoms or molecules in condensed matter, such as solids and some liquids...

 mode, a vibrational lattice mode that goes to zero frequency at the transition.

Such spontaneous symmetry breaking
Spontaneous symmetry breaking
Spontaneous symmetry breaking is the process by which a system described in a theoretically symmetrical way ends up in an apparently asymmetric state....

 has found further application in elementary particle physics, where its occurrence is related to the appearance of Goldstone boson
Goldstone boson
In particle and condensed matter physics, Goldstone bosons or Nambu–Goldstone bosons are bosons that appear necessarily in models exhibiting spontaneous breakdown of continuous symmetries...

s.
Buckminsterfullerene
Buckminsterfullerene
Buckminsterfullerene is a spherical fullerene molecule with the formula . It was first intentionally prepared in 1985 by Harold Kroto, James Heath, Sean O'Brien, Robert Curl and Richard Smalley at Rice University...

 displays
icosahedral symmetry
Icosahedral symmetry
A regular icosahedron has 60 rotational symmetries, and a symmetry order of 120 including transformations that combine a reflection and a rotation...

.
Ammonia
Ammonia
Ammonia is a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen with the formula . It is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent odour. Ammonia contributes significantly to the nutritional needs of terrestrial organisms by serving as a precursor to food and fertilizers. Ammonia, either directly or...

, N
Nitrogen
Nitrogen is a chemical element that has the symbol N, atomic number of 7 and atomic mass 14.00674 u. Elemental nitrogen is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and mostly inert diatomic gas at standard conditions, constituting 78.08% by volume of Earth's atmosphere...

H3
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

. Its symmetry group is of order 6, generated by a 120° rotation and a reflection.
Cubane
Cubane
Cubane is a synthetic hydrocarbon molecule that consists of eight carbon atoms arranged at the corners of a cube, with one hydrogen atom attached to each carbon atom. A solid crystalline substance, cubane is one of the Platonic hydrocarbons. It was first synthesized in 1964 by Philip Eaton, a...

 C8
Carbon
Carbon is the chemical element with symbol C and atomic number 6. As a member of group 14 on the periodic table, it is nonmetallic and tetravalent—making four electrons available to form covalent chemical bonds...

H8
Hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

 features
octahedral symmetry
Octahedral symmetry
150px|thumb|right|The [[cube]] is the most common shape with octahedral symmetryA regular octahedron has 24 rotational symmetries, and a symmetry order of 48 including transformations that combine a reflection and a rotation...

.
Hexaaquacopper(II) complex ion, [Cu
Copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

(O
Oxygen
Oxygen is the element with atomic number 8 and represented by the symbol O. Its name derives from the Greek roots ὀξύς and -γενής , because at the time of naming, it was mistakenly thought that all acids required oxygen in their composition...

H2)6]2+. Compared to a perfectly symmetrical shape, the molecule is vertically dilated by about 22% (Jahn-Teller effect).
The (2,3,7) triangle group, a hyperbolic group, acts on this tiling
Tessellation
A tessellation or tiling of the plane is a pattern of plane figures that fills the plane with no overlaps and no gaps. One may also speak of tessellations of parts of the plane or of other surfaces. Generalizations to higher dimensions are also possible. Tessellations frequently appeared in the art...

 of the hyperbolic
Hyperbolic geometry
In mathematics, hyperbolic geometry is a non-Euclidean geometry, meaning that the parallel postulate of Euclidean geometry is replaced...

 plane.


Finite symmetry groups such as the Mathieu group
Mathieu group
In the mathematical field of group theory, the Mathieu groups, named after the French mathematician Émile Léonard Mathieu, are five finite simple groups he discovered and reported in papers in 1861 and 1873; these were the first sporadic simple groups discovered...

s are used in coding theory
Coding theory
Coding theory is the study of the properties of codes and their fitness for a specific application. Codes are used for data compression, cryptography, error-correction and more recently also for network coding...

, which is in turn applied in error correction
Forward error correction
In telecommunication, information theory, and coding theory, forward error correction or channel coding is a technique used for controlling errors in data transmission over unreliable or noisy communication channels....

 of transmitted data, and in CD players. Another application is differential Galois theory
Differential Galois theory
In mathematics, differential Galois theory studies the Galois groups of differential equations.Whereas algebraic Galois theory studies extensions of algebraic fields, differential Galois theory studies extensions of differential fields, i.e. fields that are equipped with a derivation, D. Much of...

, which characterizes functions having antiderivative
Antiderivative
In calculus, an "anti-derivative", antiderivative, primitive integral or indefinite integralof a function f is a function F whose derivative is equal to f, i.e., F ′ = f...

s of a prescribed form, giving group-theoretic criteria for when solutions of certain differential equation
Differential equation
A differential equation is a mathematical equation for an unknown function of one or several variables that relates the values of the function itself and its derivatives of various orders...

s are well-behaved. Geometric properties that remain stable under group actions are investigated in (geometric)
Geometric invariant theory
In mathematics Geometric invariant theory is a method for constructing quotients by group actions in algebraic geometry, used to construct moduli spaces...

 invariant theory
Invariant theory
Invariant theory is a branch of abstract algebra dealing with actions of groups on algebraic varieties from the point of view of their effect on functions...

.

General linear group and representation theory

Matrix group
Matrix group
In mathematics, a matrix group is a group G consisting of invertible matrices over some field K, usually fixed in advance, with operations of matrix multiplication and inversion. More generally, one can consider n × n matrices over a commutative ring R...

s consist of matrices
Matrix (mathematics)
In mathematics, a matrix is a rectangular array of numbers, symbols, or expressions. The individual items in a matrix are called its elements or entries. An example of a matrix with six elements isMatrices of the same size can be added or subtracted element by element...

 together with matrix multiplication
Matrix multiplication
In mathematics, matrix multiplication is a binary operation that takes a pair of matrices, and produces another matrix. If A is an n-by-m matrix and B is an m-by-p matrix, the result AB of their multiplication is an n-by-p matrix defined only if the number of columns m of the left matrix A is the...

. The general linear group GL(n, R) consists of all invertible n-by-n matrices with real
Real number
In mathematics, a real number is a value that represents a quantity along a continuum, such as -5 , 4/3 , 8.6 , √2 and π...

 entries. Its subgroups are referred to as matrix groups or linear groups. The dihedral group example mentioned above can be viewed as a (very small) matrix group. Another important matrix group is the special orthogonal group SO(n). It describes all possible rotations in n dimensions. Via Euler angles
Euler angles
The Euler angles are three angles introduced by Leonhard Euler to describe the orientation of a rigid body. To describe such an orientation in 3-dimensional Euclidean space three parameters are required...

, rotation matrices are used in computer graphics
Computer graphics
Computer graphics are graphics created using computers and, more generally, the representation and manipulation of image data by a computer with help from specialized software and hardware....

.

Representation theory is both an application of the group concept and important for a deeper understanding of groups. It studies the group by its group action
Group action
In algebra and geometry, a group action is a way of describing symmetries of objects using groups. The essential elements of the object are described by a set, and the symmetries of the object are described by the symmetry group of this set, which consists of bijective transformations of the set...

s on other spaces. A broad class of group representation
Group representation
In the mathematical field of representation theory, group representations describe abstract groups in terms of linear transformations of vector spaces; in particular, they can be used to represent group elements as matrices so that the group operation can be represented by matrix multiplication...

s are linear representations, i.e. the group is acting on a vector space
Vector space
A vector space is a mathematical structure formed by a collection of vectors: objects that may be added together and multiplied by numbers, called scalars in this context. Scalars are often taken to be real numbers, but one may also consider vector spaces with scalar multiplication by complex...

, such as the three-dimensional Euclidean space
Euclidean space
In mathematics, Euclidean space is the Euclidean plane and three-dimensional space of Euclidean geometry, as well as the generalizations of these notions to higher dimensions...

 R3. A representation of G on an n-dimension
Dimension
In physics and mathematics, the dimension of a space or object is informally defined as the minimum number of coordinates needed to specify any point within it. Thus a line has a dimension of one because only one coordinate is needed to specify a point on it...

al real vector space is simply a group homomorphism
ρ: GGL(n, R)

from the group to the general linear group. This way, the group operation, which may be abstractly given, translates to the multiplication of matrices making it accessible to explicit computations.

Given a group action, this gives further means to study the object being acted on. On the other hand, it also yields information about the group. Group representations are an organizing principle in the theory of finite groups, Lie groups, algebraic group
Algebraic group
In algebraic geometry, an algebraic group is a group that is an algebraic variety, such that the multiplication and inverse are given by regular functions on the variety...

s and topological group
Topological group
In mathematics, a topological group is a group G together with a topology on G such that the group's binary operation and the group's inverse function are continuous functions with respect to the topology. A topological group is a mathematical object with both an algebraic structure and a...

s, especially (locally) compact group
Compact group
In mathematics, a compact group is a topological group whose topology is compact. Compact groups are a natural generalisation of finite groups with the discrete topology and have properties that carry over in significant fashion...

s.

Galois groups

Galois groups have been developed to help solve polynomial equations by capturing their symmetry features. For example, the solutions of the quadratic equation
Quadratic equation
In mathematics, a quadratic equation is a univariate polynomial equation of the second degree. A general quadratic equation can be written in the formax^2+bx+c=0,\,...

 ax2 + bx + c = 0 are given by
x = \frac{-b \pm \sqrt {b^2-4ac}}{2a}.

Exchanging "+" and "−" in the expression, i.e. permuting the two solutions of the equation can be viewed as a (very simple) group operation. Similar formulae are known for cubic and quartic equations, but do not exist in general for degree 5
Quintic equation
In mathematics, a quintic function is a function of the formg=ax^5+bx^4+cx^3+dx^2+ex+f,\,where a, b, c, d, e and f are members of a field, typically the rational numbers, the real numbers or the complex numbers, and a is nonzero...

 and higher. Abstract properties of Galois groups associated with polynomials (in particular their solvability
Solvable group
In mathematics, more specifically in the field of group theory, a solvable group is a group that can be constructed from abelian groups using extensions...

) give a criterion for polynomials that have all their solutions expressible by radicals, i.e. solutions expressible using solely addition, multiplication, and roots
Nth root
In mathematics, the nth root of a number x is a number r which, when raised to the power of n, equals xr^n = x,where n is the degree of the root...

 similar to the formula above.

The problem can be dealt with by shifting to field theory
Field theory (mathematics)
Field theory is a branch of mathematics which studies the properties of fields. A field is a mathematical entity for which addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are well-defined....

 and considering the splitting field
Splitting field
In abstract algebra, a splitting field of a polynomial with coefficients in a field is a smallest field extension of that field over which the polynomial factors into linear factors.-Definition:...

 of a polynomial. Modern Galois theory
Galois theory
In mathematics, more specifically in abstract algebra, Galois theory, named after Évariste Galois, provides a connection between field theory and group theory...

 generalizes the above type of Galois groups to field extension
Field extension
In abstract algebra, field extensions are the main object of study in field theory. The general idea is to start with a base field and construct in some manner a larger field which contains the base field and satisfies additional properties...

s and establishes—via the fundamental theorem of Galois theory
Fundamental theorem of Galois theory
In mathematics, the fundamental theorem of Galois theory is a result that describes the structure of certain types of field extensions.In its most basic form, the theorem asserts that given a field extension E /F which is finite and Galois, there is a one-to-one correspondence between its...

—a precise relationship between fields and groups, underlining once again the ubiquity of groups in mathematics.

Finite groups

A group is called finite if it has a finite number of elements. The number of elements is called the order
Order (group theory)
In group theory, a branch of mathematics, the term order is used in two closely related senses:* The order of a group is its cardinality, i.e., the number of its elements....

 of the group. An important class is the symmetric group
Symmetric group
In mathematics, the symmetric group Sn on a finite set of n symbols is the group whose elements are all the permutations of the n symbols, and whose group operation is the composition of such permutations, which are treated as bijective functions from the set of symbols to itself...

s
SN, the groups of permutation
Permutation
In mathematics, the notion of permutation is used with several slightly different meanings, all related to the act of permuting objects or values. Informally, a permutation of a set of objects is an arrangement of those objects into a particular order...

s of N letters. For example, the symmetric group on 3 letters S3
Dihedral group of order 6
The smallest non-abelian group has 6 elements. It is a dihedral group with notation D3 and the symmetric group of degree 3, with notation S3....

 is the group consisting of all possible orderings of the three letters ABC, i.e. contains the elements ABC, ACB, ..., up to CBA, in total 6 (or 3 factorial
Factorial
In mathematics, the factorial of a non-negative integer n, denoted by n!, is the product of all positive integers less than or equal to n...

) elements. This class is fundamental insofar as any finite group can be expressed as a subgroup of a symmetric group SN for a suitable integer N (Cayley's theorem
Cayley's theorem
In group theory, Cayley's theorem, named in honor of Arthur Cayley, states that every group G is isomorphic to a subgroup of the symmetric group acting on G...

). Parallel to the group of symmetries of the square above, S3 can also be interpreted as the group of symmetries of an equilateral triangle.

The order of an element a in a group G is the least positive integer n such that a n = e, where a n represents


i.e. application of the operation • to n copies of a. (If • represents multiplication, then an corresponds to the nth power of a.) In infinite groups, such an n may not exist, in which case the order of a is said to be infinity. The order of an element equals the order of the cyclic subgroup generated by this element.


More sophisticated counting techniques, for example counting cosets, yield more precise statements about finite groups: Lagrange's Theorem
Lagrange's theorem (group theory)
Lagrange's theorem, in the mathematics of group theory, states that for any finite group G, the order of every subgroup H of G divides the order of G. The theorem is named after Joseph Lagrange....

 states that for a finite group G the order of any finite subgroup H divides
Divisor
In mathematics, a divisor of an integer n, also called a factor of n, is an integer which divides n without leaving a remainder.-Explanation:...

 the order of G. The Sylow theorems give a partial converse.

The dihedral group
Dihedral group
In mathematics, a dihedral group is the group of symmetries of a regular polygon, including both rotations and reflections. Dihedral groups are among the simplest examples of finite groups, and they play an important role in group theory, geometry, and chemistry.See also: Dihedral symmetry in three...

 (discussed above) is a finite group of order 8. The order of r1 is 4, as is the order of the subgroup R it generates (see above). The order of the reflection elements fv etc. is 2. Both orders divide 8, as predicted by Lagrange's Theorem. The groups Fp× above have order .

Classification of finite simple groups

Mathematicians often strive for a complete classification (or list) of a mathematical notion. In the context of finite groups, this aim quickly leads to difficult and profound mathematics. According to Lagrange's theorem, finite groups of order p, a prime number, are necessarily cyclic (abelian) groups Zp. Groups of order p2 can also be shown to be abelian, a statement which does not generalize to order p3, as the non-abelian group D4 of order 8 = 23 above shows. Computer algebra system
Computer algebra system
A computer algebra system is a software program that facilitates symbolic mathematics. The core functionality of a CAS is manipulation of mathematical expressions in symbolic form.-Symbolic manipulations:...

s can be used to list small groups, but there is no classification of all finite groups. An intermediate step is the classification of finite simple groups. A nontrivial group is called simple
Simple group
In mathematics, a simple group is a nontrivial group whose only normal subgroups are the trivial group and the group itself. A group that is not simple can be broken into two smaller groups, a normal subgroup and the quotient group, and the process can be repeated...

if its only normal subgroups are the trivial group
Trivial group
In mathematics, a trivial group is a group consisting of a single element. All such groups are isomorphic so one often speaks of the trivial group. The single element of the trivial group is the identity element so it usually denoted as such, 0, 1 or e depending on the context...

 and the group itself. The Jordan–Hölder theorem exhibits finite simple groups as the building blocks for all finite groups. Listing all finite simple groups was a major achievement in contemporary group theory. 1998 Fields Medal
Fields Medal
The Fields Medal, officially known as International Medal for Outstanding Discoveries in Mathematics, is a prize awarded to two, three, or four mathematicians not over 40 years of age at each International Congress of the International Mathematical Union , a meeting that takes place every four...

 winner Richard Borcherds
Richard Borcherds
Richard Ewen Borcherds is a British mathematician specializing in lattices, number theory, group theory, and infinite-dimensional algebras. He was awarded the Fields Medal in 1998.- Personal life :...

 succeeded to prove the monstrous moonshine
Monstrous moonshine
In mathematics, monstrous moonshine, or moonshine theory, is a term devised by John Horton Conway and Simon P. Norton in 1979, used to describe the connection between the monster group M and modular functions .- History :Specifically, Conway and Norton, following an initial observationby John...

 conjectures, a surprising and deep relation of the largest finite simple sporadic group
Sporadic group
In the mathematical field of group theory, a sporadic group is one of the 26 exceptional groups in the classification of finite simple groups. A simple group is a group G that does not have any normal subgroups except for the subgroup consisting only of the identity element, and G itself...

—the "monster group
Monster group
In the mathematical field of group theory, the Monster group M or F1 is a group of finite order:...

"—with certain modular functions, a piece of classical complex analysis
Complex analysis
Complex analysis, traditionally known as the theory of functions of a complex variable, is the branch of mathematical analysis that investigates functions of complex numbers. It is useful in many branches of mathematics, including number theory and applied mathematics; as well as in physics,...

, and string theory
String theory
String theory is an active research framework in particle physics that attempts to reconcile quantum mechanics and general relativity. It is a contender for a theory of everything , a manner of describing the known fundamental forces and matter in a mathematically complete system...

, a theory supposed to unify the description of many physical phenomena.

Groups with additional structure

Many groups are simultaneously groups and examples of other mathematical structures. In the language of category theory
Category theory
Category theory is an area of study in mathematics that examines in an abstract way the properties of particular mathematical concepts, by formalising them as collections of objects and arrows , where these collections satisfy certain basic conditions...

, they are group object
Group object
In category theory, a branch of mathematics, group objects are certain generalizations of groups which are built on more complicated structures than sets...

s in a category
Category (mathematics)
In mathematics, a category is an algebraic structure that comprises "objects" that are linked by "arrows". A category has two basic properties: the ability to compose the arrows associatively and the existence of an identity arrow for each object. A simple example is the category of sets, whose...

, meaning that they are objects (that is, examples of another mathematical structure) which come with transformations (called morphism
Morphism
In mathematics, a morphism is an abstraction derived from structure-preserving mappings between two mathematical structures. The notion of morphism recurs in much of contemporary mathematics...

s) that mimic the group axioms. For example, every group (as defined above) is also a set, so a group is a group object in the category of sets
Category of sets
In the mathematical field of category theory, the category of sets, denoted as Set, is the category whose objects are sets. The arrows or morphisms between sets A and B are all functions from A to B...

.

Topological groups


Some topological space
Topological space
Topological spaces are mathematical structures that allow the formal definition of concepts such as convergence, connectedness, and continuity. They appear in virtually every branch of modern mathematics and are a central unifying notion...

s may be endowed with a group law. In order for the group law and the topology to interweave well, the group operations must be continuous function
Continuous function
In mathematics, a continuous function is a function for which, intuitively, "small" changes in the input result in "small" changes in the output. Otherwise, a function is said to be "discontinuous". A continuous function with a continuous inverse function is called "bicontinuous".Continuity of...

s, that is, and g−1 must not vary wildly if g and h vary only little. Such groups are called topological groups, and they are the group objects in the category of topological spaces
Category of topological spaces
In mathematics, the category of topological spaces, often denoted Top, is the category whose objects are topological spaces and whose morphisms are continuous maps. This is a category because the composition of two continuous maps is again continuous...

. The most basic examples are the reals
Real number
In mathematics, a real number is a value that represents a quantity along a continuum, such as -5 , 4/3 , 8.6 , √2 and π...

 R under addition, , and similarly with any other topological field such as the complex number
Complex number
A complex number is a number consisting of a real part and an imaginary part. Complex numbers extend the idea of the one-dimensional number line to the two-dimensional complex plane by using the number line for the real part and adding a vertical axis to plot the imaginary part...

s or p-adic numbers
P-adic number
In mathematics, and chiefly number theory, the p-adic number system for any prime number p extends the ordinary arithmetic of the rational numbers in a way different from the extension of the rational number system to the real and complex number systems...

. All of these groups are locally compact, so they have Haar measure
Haar measure
In mathematical analysis, the Haar measure is a way to assign an "invariant volume" to subsets of locally compact topological groups and subsequently define an integral for functions on those groups....

s and can be studied via harmonic analysis
Harmonic analysis
Harmonic analysis is the branch of mathematics that studies the representation of functions or signals as the superposition of basic waves. It investigates and generalizes the notions of Fourier series and Fourier transforms...

. The former offer an abstract formalism of invariant integral
Integral
Integration is an important concept in mathematics and, together with its inverse, differentiation, is one of the two main operations in calculus...

s. Invariance
Invariant (mathematics)
In mathematics, an invariant is a property of a class of mathematical objects that remains unchanged when transformations of a certain type are applied to the objects. The particular class of objects and type of transformations are usually indicated by the context in which the term is used...

 means, in the case of real numbers for example:

for any constant c. Matrix groups over these fields fall under this regime, as do adele ring
Adele ring
In algebraic number theory and topological algebra, the adele ring is a topological ring which is built on the field of rational numbers . It involves all the completions of the field....

s and adelic algebraic group
Adelic algebraic group
In abstract algebra, an adelic algebraic group is a topological group defined by an algebraic group G over a number field K, and the adele ring A = A of K. It consists of the points of G having values in A; the definition of the appropriate topology is straightforward only in case G is a linear...

s, which are basic to number theory. Galois groups of infinite field extensions such as the absolute Galois group
Absolute Galois group
In mathematics, the absolute Galois group GK of a field K is the Galois group of Ksep over K, where Ksep is a separable closure of K. Alternatively it is the group of all automorphisms of the algebraic closure of K that fix K. The absolute Galois group is unique up to isomorphism...

 can also be equipped with a topology, the so-called Krull topology, which in turn is central to generalize the above sketched connection of fields and groups to infinite field extensions. An advanced generalization of this idea, adapted to the needs of algebraic geometry
Algebraic geometry
Algebraic geometry is a branch of mathematics which combines techniques of abstract algebra, especially commutative algebra, with the language and the problems of geometry. It occupies a central place in modern mathematics and has multiple conceptual connections with such diverse fields as complex...

, is the étale fundamental group
Étale fundamental group
The étale fundamental group is an analogue in algebraic geometry, for schemes, of the usual fundamental group of topological spaces.-Topological analogue:In algebraic topology, the fundamental group\pi_1...

.

Lie groups

Lie groups (in honor of Sophus Lie
Sophus Lie
Marius Sophus Lie was a Norwegian mathematician. He largely created the theory of continuous symmetry, and applied it to the study of geometry and differential equations.- Biography :...

) are groups which also have a manifold
Manifold
In mathematics , a manifold is a topological space that on a small enough scale resembles the Euclidean space of a specific dimension, called the dimension of the manifold....

 structure, i.e. they are spaces looking locally like
Diffeomorphism
In mathematics, a diffeomorphism is an isomorphism in the category of smooth manifolds. It is an invertible function that maps one differentiable manifold to another, such that both the function and its inverse are smooth.- Definition :...

 some Euclidean space
Euclidean space
In mathematics, Euclidean space is the Euclidean plane and three-dimensional space of Euclidean geometry, as well as the generalizations of these notions to higher dimensions...

 of the appropriate dimension
Dimension
In physics and mathematics, the dimension of a space or object is informally defined as the minimum number of coordinates needed to specify any point within it. Thus a line has a dimension of one because only one coordinate is needed to specify a point on it...

. Again, the additional structure, here the manifold structure, has to be compatible, i.e. the maps corresponding to multiplication and the inverse have to be smooth.

A standard example is the general linear group introduced above: it is an open subset of the space of all n-by-n matrices, because it is given by the inequality
det (A) ≠ 0,

where A denotes an n-by-n matrix.

Lie groups are of fundamental importance in physics: Noether's theorem
Noether's theorem
Noether's theorem states that any differentiable symmetry of the action of a physical system has a corresponding conservation law. The theorem was proved by German mathematician Emmy Noether in 1915 and published in 1918...

 links continuous symmetries to conserved quantities. Rotation
Rotation
A rotation is a circular movement of an object around a center of rotation. A three-dimensional object rotates always around an imaginary line called a rotation axis. If the axis is within the body, and passes through its center of mass the body is said to rotate upon itself, or spin. A rotation...

, as well as translations
Translation (geometry)
In Euclidean geometry, a translation moves every point a constant distance in a specified direction. A translation can be described as a rigid motion, other rigid motions include rotations and reflections. A translation can also be interpreted as the addition of a constant vector to every point, or...

 in space
Space
Space is the boundless, three-dimensional extent in which objects and events occur and have relative position and direction. Physical space is often conceived in three linear dimensions, although modern physicists usually consider it, with time, to be part of a boundless four-dimensional continuum...

 and time
Time
Time is a part of the measuring system used to sequence events, to compare the durations of events and the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change such as the motions of objects....

 are basic symmetries of the laws of mechanics
Mechanics
Mechanics is the branch of physics concerned with the behavior of physical bodies when subjected to forces or displacements, and the subsequent effects of the bodies on their environment....

. They can, for instance, be used to construct simple models—imposing, say, axial symmetry on a situation will typically lead to significant simplification in the equations one needs to solve to provide a physical description. Another example are the Lorentz transformation
Lorentz transformation
In physics, the Lorentz transformation or Lorentz-Fitzgerald transformation describes how, according to the theory of special relativity, two observers' varying measurements of space and time can be converted into each other's frames of reference. It is named after the Dutch physicist Hendrik...

s, which relate measurements of time and velocity of two observers in motion relative to each other. They can be deduced in a purely group-theoretical way, by expressing the transformations as a rotational symmetry of Minkowski space
Minkowski space
In physics and mathematics, Minkowski space or Minkowski spacetime is the mathematical setting in which Einstein's theory of special relativity is most conveniently formulated...

. The latter serves—in the absence of significant gravitation
Gravitation
Gravitation, or gravity, is a natural phenomenon by which physical bodies attract with a force proportional to their mass. Gravitation is most familiar as the agent that gives weight to objects with mass and causes them to fall to the ground when dropped...

—as a model of space time in special relativity
Special relativity
Special relativity is the physical theory of measurement in an inertial frame of reference proposed in 1905 by Albert Einstein in the paper "On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies".It generalizes Galileo's...

. The full symmetry group of Minkowski space, i.e. including translations, is known as the Poincaré group
Poincaré group
In physics and mathematics, the Poincaré group, named after Henri Poincaré, is the group of isometries of Minkowski spacetime.-Simple explanation:...

. By the above, it plays a pivotal role in special relativity and, by implication, for quantum field theories. Symmetries that vary with location
Local symmetry
In physics, a local symmetry is symmetry of some physical quantity, which smoothly depends on the point of the base manifold. Such quantities can be for example an observable, a tensor or the Lagrangian of a theory....

 are central to the modern description of physical interactions with the help of gauge theory
Gauge theory
In physics, gauge invariance is the property of a field theory in which different configurations of the underlying fundamental but unobservable fields result in identical observable quantities. A theory with such a property is called a gauge theory...

.

Generalizations

In abstract algebra
Abstract algebra
Abstract algebra is the subject area of mathematics that studies algebraic structures, such as groups, rings, fields, modules, vector spaces, and algebras...

, more general structures are defined by relaxing some of the axioms defining a group. For example, if the requirement that every element has an inverse is eliminated, the resulting algebraic structure is called a monoid
Monoid
In abstract algebra, a branch of mathematics, a monoid is an algebraic structure with a single associative binary operation and an identity element. Monoids are studied in semigroup theory as they are naturally semigroups with identity. Monoids occur in several branches of mathematics; for...

. The natural number
Natural number
In mathematics, the natural numbers are the ordinary whole numbers used for counting and ordering . These purposes are related to the linguistic notions of cardinal and ordinal numbers, respectively...

s N (including 0) under addition form a monoid, as do the nonzero integers under multiplication , see above. There is a general method to formally add inverses to elements to any (abelian) monoid, much the same way as is derived from , known as the Grothendieck group
Grothendieck group
In mathematics, the Grothendieck group construction in abstract algebra constructs an abelian group from a commutative monoid in the best possible way...

.
Groupoid
Groupoid
In mathematics, especially in category theory and homotopy theory, a groupoid generalises the notion of group in several equivalent ways. A groupoid can be seen as a:...

s are similar to groups except that the composition a • b need not be defined for all a and b. They arise in the study of more complicated forms of symmetry, often in topological
Topology
Topology is a major area of mathematics concerned with properties that are preserved under continuous deformations of objects, such as deformations that involve stretching, but no tearing or gluing...

 and analytical
Mathematical analysis
Mathematical analysis, which mathematicians refer to simply as analysis, has its beginnings in the rigorous formulation of infinitesimal calculus. It is a branch of pure mathematics that includes the theories of differentiation, integration and measure, limits, infinite series, and analytic functions...

 structures, such as the fundamental groupoid or stacks
Stack (descent theory)
In mathematics a stack is a concept used to formalise some of the main constructions of descent theory.Descent theory is concerned with generalisations of situations where geometrical objects can be "glued together" when they are isomorphic when restricted to intersections of the sets in an open...

. Finally, it is possible to generalize any of these concepts by replacing the binary operation with an arbitrary n-ary
Arity
In logic, mathematics, and computer science, the arity of a function or operation is the number of arguments or operands that the function takes. The arity of a relation is the dimension of the domain in the corresponding Cartesian product...

 one (i.e. an operation taking n arguments). With the proper generalization of the group axioms this gives rise to an n-ary group
N-ary group
In mathematics, an n-ary group is a generalization of a group to a set G with a n-ary operation instead of a binary operation. The axioms for an n-ary group are defined in such a way as to reduce to those of a group in the case .-Associativity:The easiest axiom to generalize is the associative law...

. The table gives a list of several structures generalizing groups.

See also

  • Abelian group
    Abelian group
    In abstract algebra, an abelian group, also called a commutative group, is a group in which the result of applying the group operation to two group elements does not depend on their order . Abelian groups generalize the arithmetic of addition of integers...

  • Group ring
    Group ring
    In algebra, a group ring is a free module and at the same time a ring, constructed in a natural way from any given ring and any given group. As a free module, its ring of scalars is the given ring and its basis is one-to-one with the given group. As a ring, its addition law is that of the free...

  • Group algebra
    Group algebra
    In mathematics, the group algebra is any of various constructions to assign to a locally compact group an operator algebra , such that representations of the algebra are related to representations of the group...

  • Euclidean group
    Euclidean group
    In mathematics, the Euclidean group E, sometimes called ISO or similar, is the symmetry group of n-dimensional Euclidean space...

  • Free group
    Free group
    In mathematics, a group G is called free if there is a subset S of G such that any element of G can be written in one and only one way as a product of finitely many elements of S and their inverses...

  • Finitely presented group
  • Fundamental group
    Fundamental group
    In mathematics, more specifically algebraic topology, the fundamental group is a group associated to any given pointed topological space that provides a way of determining when two paths, starting and ending at a fixed base point, can be continuously deformed into each other...

  • Non-abelian group
  • Grothendieck group
    Grothendieck group
    In mathematics, the Grothendieck group construction in abstract algebra constructs an abelian group from a commutative monoid in the best possible way...

  • Symmetry in physics
    Symmetry in physics
    In physics, symmetry includes all features of a physical system that exhibit the property of symmetry—that is, under certain transformations, aspects of these systems are "unchanged", according to a particular observation...



General references

, Chapter 2 contains an undergraduate-level exposition of the notions covered in this article., Chapter 5 provides a layman-accessible explanation of groups.., an elementary introduction.......

Special references

........ ... ........................

Historical references

... . (Galois work was first published by Joseph Liouville
Joseph Liouville
- Life and work :Liouville graduated from the École Polytechnique in 1827. After some years as an assistant at various institutions including the Ecole Centrale Paris, he was appointed as professor at the École Polytechnique in 1838...

in 1843). .. ...
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