Especially in geometric contexts, an automorphism group is also called a symmetry group. A subgroup of an automorphism group is sometimes called a transformation group.
Automorphism groups are studied in a general way in the field of category theory.
If X is a set with no additional structure, then any bijection from X to itself is an automorphism, and hence the automorphism group of X in this case is precisely the symmetric group of X. If the set X has additional structure, then it may be the case that not all bijections on the set preserve this structure, in which case the automorphism group will be a subgroup of the symmetric group on X. Some examples of this include the following:
The automorphism group of a field extension is the group consisting of field automorphisms of L that fixK. If the field extension is Galois, the automorphism group is called the Galois group of the field extension.
The automorphism group of a finite-dimensional real Lie algebra has the structure of a (real) Lie group (in fact, it is even a linear algebraic group: see below). If G is a Lie group with Lie algebra , then the automorphism group of G has a structure of a Lie group induced from that on the automorphism group of .[a]
If G is a group acting on a set X, the action amounts to a group homomorphism from G to the automorphism group of X amounts to a group action on X. Indeed, each left G-action on a set X determines , and, conversely, each homomorphism defines an action by . This extends to the case when the set X has more structure than just a set. For example, if X is a vector space, then a group action of G on X is a group representation of the group G, representing G as a group of linear transformations (automorphisms) of X; these representations are the main object of study in the field of representation theory.
Here are some other facts about automorphism groups:
If are objects in some category, then the set of all is a left -torsor. In practical terms, this says that a different choice of a base point of differs unambiguously by an element of , or that each choice of a base point is precisely a choice of a trivialization of the torsor.
If and are objects in categories and , and if is a functor mapping to , then induces a group homomorphism , as it maps invertible morphisms to invertible morphisms.
In particular, if G is a group viewed as a category with a single object * or, more generally, if G is a groupoid, then each functor , C a category, is called an action or a representation of G on the object , or the objects . Those objects are then said to be -objects (as they are acted by ); cf. -object. If is a module category like the category of finite-dimensional vector spaces, then -objects are also called -modules.
Automorphism group functorEdit
Let be a finite-dimensional vector space over a field k that is equipped with some algebraic structure (that is, M is a finite-dimensional algebra over k). It can be, for example, an associative algebra or a Lie algebra.
Now base extensions applied to the above discussion determines a functor: namely, for each commutative ringR over k, consider the R-linear maps preserving the algebraic structure: denote it by . Then the unit group of the matrix ring over R is the automorphism group and is a group functor: a functor from the category of commutative rings over k to the category of groups. Even better, it is represented by a scheme (since the automorphism groups are defined by polynomials): this scheme is called the automorphism group scheme and is denoted by .
In general, however, an automorphism group functor may not be represented by a scheme.
^First, if G is simply connected, the automorphism group of G is that of . Second, every connected Lie group is of the form where is a simply connected Lie group and C is a central subgroup and the automorphism group of G is the automorphism group of that preserves C. Third, by convention, a Lie group is second countable and has at most coutably many connected components; thus, the general case reduces to the connected case.