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Topological space

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In mathematics, a topological space is an ordered pair where is a set and is a certain collection of subsets of called the open sets or the topology of . The topology of introduces an abstract structure of space in the set , which allows to define general notions such as of a point being surrounded by a set (by a neighborhood) or belonging to its boundary, of convergence of sequences of elements of , of connectedness, of a space or set being contractible, etc.


A topological space is an ordered pair where is a set and is a collection of subsets of (i.e., any element is a subset of X) with the following three properties:

  1. and (the empty set) are in
  2. The union of any family (infinite or otherwise) of elements of is again in
  3. The intersection of two elements of is again in

Elements of the set are called open sets of . We often simply write instead of once the topology is established.

Once we have a topology in , we define the closed sets of to be the complements (in ) of the open sets; the closed sets of have the following characteristic properties:

  1. and (the empty set) are closed
  2. The intersection of any family of closed sets is closed
  3. The union of two closed sets is closed

Alternatively, notice that we could have defined a structure of closed sets (having the properties above as axioms) and defined the open sets relative to that structure as complements of closed sets. Then such a family of open sets obeys the axioms for a topology; we obtain a one to one correspondence between topologies and structures of closed sets. Similarly, the axioms for systems of neighborhoods (described below) give rise to a collection of "open sets" verifying the axioms for a topology, and conversely --- every topology defines the systems of neighborhoods; for every set we obtain a one to one correspondence between topologies in and systems of neighborhoods in . These correspondences allow one to study the topological structure from different viewpoints.

The category of topological spaces

Given that topological spaces capture notions of geometry, a good notion of isomorphism in the category of topological spaces should require that equivalent spaces have equivalent topologies. The correct definition of morphisms in the category of topological spaces is the continuous homomorphism.

A function is continuous if is open in for every open in . Continuity can be shown to be invariant with respect to the representation of the underlying topology; e.g., if is closed in for each closed subset of Y, then is continuous in the sense just defined, and conversely.

Isomorphisms in the category of topological spaces (often referred to as a homeomorphism) are bijective and continuous with continuous inverses.

The category of topological spaces has a number of nice properties; there is an initial object (the empty set), subobjects (the subspace topology) and quotient objects (the quotient topology), and products and coproducts exist as well. The necessary topologies to define on the latter two objects become clear immediately; if they're going to be universal in the category of topological spaces, then the topologies should be the coarsest making the canonical maps commute.


1. Let where denotes the set of real numbers. The open interval ]a, b[ (where a < b) is the set of all numbers between a and b:

Then a topology can be defined on to consist of and all sets of the form:

where is any arbitrary index set, and and are real numbers satisfying for all . This is the familiar topology on and probably the most widely used in the applied sciences. However, in general one may define different inequivalent topologies on a particular set and in the next example another topology on , albeit a relatively obscure one, will be constructed.

2. Let as before. Let be a collection of subsets of defined by the requirement that if and only if or contains all except at most a finite number of real numbers. Then it is straightforward to verify that defined in this way has the three properties required to be a topology on . This topology is known as the cofinite topology or Zariski topology.

3. Every metric on gives rise to a topology on . The open ball with centre and radius is defined to be the set

A set is open if and only if for every , there is an open ball with centre contained in . The resulting topology is called the topology induced by the metric . The standard topology on , discussed in Example 1, is induced by the metric .

4. For a given set , the family is a topology: the indiscrete or weakest topology.

5. For a given set , the family of all subsets of is a topology: the discrete topology.


Given a topological space of opens, we say that a subset of is a neighborhood of a point if contains an open set containing the point [1]

If denotes the system of neighborhoods of relative to the topology , then the following properties hold:

  1. is not empty for any
  2. If is in then
  3. The intersection of two elements of is again in
  4. If is in and contains , then is again in
  5. If is in then there exists a such that is a subset of and for all

Conversely, if we define a topology of neighborhoods on via the above properties, then we can recover a topology of opens whose neighborhoods relative to that topology give rise to the neighborhood topology we started from: is open if it is in for all . Moreover, the opens relative to a topology of neighborhoods form a topology of opens whose neighborhoods are the same as those we started from. All this just means that a given topological space is the same, regardless of which axioms we choose to start from.

The neighborhood axioms lend themselves especially well to the study of topological abelian groups and topological rings because knowing the neighborhoods of any point is equivalent to knowing the neighborhoods of 0 (since the operations are presumed continuous). For example, the -adic topology on a ring is Hausdorff if and only if , thus a topological property is equivalent to an algebraic property which becomes clear when thinking in terms of neighborhoods.

Bases and sub-bases

A basis for the topology on X is a collection of open sets such that every open set is a union of elements of . For example, in a metric space the open balls form a basis for the metric topology. A sub-basis is a collection of open sets such that the finite intersections of elements of form a basis for .

Some topological notions

This section introduces some important topological notions. Throughout, will denote a topological space with the topology .

Partial list of topological notions
For more information, see: Closure (topology).

The closure in of a subset is the intersection of all closed sets of which contain as a subset.

For more information, see: Interior (topology).

The interior in of a subset is the union of all open sets of which are contained in as a subset.

Limit point 
For more information, see: Limit point.

A point is a limit point of a subset of if any open set in containing also contains a point with . An equivalent definition is that is a limit point of if every neighbourhood of contains a point different from .

Open cover 
A collection of open sets of is said to be an open cover for if each point belongs to at least one of the open sets in .
A path is a continuous function . The point is said to be the starting point of and is said to be the end point. A path joins its starting point to its end point.
Hausdorff/separability property
For more information, see: Separation axioms.

has the Hausdorff (or separability, or T2) property if for any pair there exist disjoint sets and with and .

For more information, see: Noetherian space.

is noetherian if it satisfies the descending chain condition for closed set: any descending chain of closed subsets is eventually stationary; i.e., if there is an index such that for all .

For more information, see: Connected space.

is connected if given any two disjoint open sets and such that , then either or .

is path-connected if for any pair there exists a path joining to . A path connected topological space is also connected, but the converse need not be true.
For more information, see: Compactness axioms.

is said to be compact if any open cover of has a finite sub-cover. That is, any open cover has a finite number of elements which again constitute an open cover for .

A topological space with the Hausdorff, connectedness, path-connectedness property is called, respectively, a Hausdorff (or separable), connected, path-connected topological space.

Induced topologies

A topological space can be used to define a topology on any particular subset or on another set. These "derived" topologies are referred to as induced topologies. Descriptions of some induced topologies are given below. Throughout, will denote a topological space.

Some induced topologies

Relative topology

For more information, see: Subspace topology.

If is a subset of then open sets may be defined on as sets of the form where is any open set in . The collection of all such open sets defines a topology on called the relative topology of as a subset of

Quotient topology

For more information, see: Quotient topology.

If is another set and is a surjective function from to then open sets may be defined on as subsets of such that . The collection of all such open sets defines a topology on called the quotient topology induced by .

Product topology

For more information, see: Product topology.

If is a family of topological spaces, then the product topology on the Cartesian product has as sub-basis the sets of the form where each and for all but finitely many .

See also


  1. Some authors use a different definition, in which a neighborhood N of x is an open set containing x.


  1. K. Yosida, Functional Analysis (6 ed.), ser. Classics in Mathematics, Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer-Verlag, 1980
  2. D. Wilkins, Lecture notes for Course 212 - Topology, Trinity College Dublin, URL: [1]