nLab Poincaré lemma





Special and general types

Special notions


Extra structure



Differential geometry

synthetic differential geometry


from point-set topology to differentiable manifolds

geometry of physics: coordinate systems, smooth spaces, manifolds, smooth homotopy types, supergeometry



smooth space


The magic algebraic facts




infinitesimal cohesion

tangent cohesion

differential cohesion

graded differential cohesion

singular cohesion

id id fermionic bosonic bosonic Rh rheonomic reduced infinitesimal infinitesimal & étale cohesive ʃ discrete discrete continuous * \array{ && id &\dashv& id \\ && \vee && \vee \\ &\stackrel{fermionic}{}& \rightrightarrows &\dashv& \rightsquigarrow & \stackrel{bosonic}{} \\ && \bot && \bot \\ &\stackrel{bosonic}{} & \rightsquigarrow &\dashv& \mathrm{R}\!\!\mathrm{h} & \stackrel{rheonomic}{} \\ && \vee && \vee \\ &\stackrel{reduced}{} & \Re &\dashv& \Im & \stackrel{infinitesimal}{} \\ && \bot && \bot \\ &\stackrel{infinitesimal}{}& \Im &\dashv& \& & \stackrel{\text{étale}}{} \\ && \vee && \vee \\ &\stackrel{cohesive}{}& \esh &\dashv& \flat & \stackrel{discrete}{} \\ && \bot && \bot \\ &\stackrel{discrete}{}& \flat &\dashv& \sharp & \stackrel{continuous}{} \\ && \vee && \vee \\ && \emptyset &\dashv& \ast }


Lie theory, ∞-Lie theory

differential equations, variational calculus

Chern-Weil theory, ∞-Chern-Weil theory

Cartan geometry (super, higher)



The Poincaré Lemma in differential geometry and complex analytic geometry asserts that “every differential form ω\omega which is closed, d dRω=0d_{dR}\omega = 0, is locally exact, ω| U=d dRκ\omega|_U = d_{dR}\kappa.”

In more detail: if XX is contractible then for every closed differential form ωΩ cl k(X)\omega \in \Omega^k_{cl}(X) with k1k \geq 1 there exists a differential form λΩ k1(X)\lambda \in \Omega^{k-1}(X) such that

ω=d dRλ. \omega \,=\, d_{dR} \lambda \,.

Moreover, for ω\omega a smooth family of closed forms, there is a smooth family of λ\lambdas satisfying this condition.

This statement has several more abstract incarnations. One is that it says that on a Cartesian space (or a complex polydisc) the de Rham cohomology (the holomorphic de Rham cohomology) vanishes in positive degree.

Still more abstractly this says that the canonical morphisms of sheaves of chain complexes

Ω dR \mathbb{R} \to \Omega^\bullet_{dR}
Ω hol \mathbb{C} \to \Omega^\bullet_{hol}

from the locally constant sheaf on the real numbers (the complex numbers) to the de Rham complex (holomorphic de Rham complex) is a stalk-wise quasi-isomorphism – hence an equivalence in the derived category and hence induce an equivalence in hyper-abelian sheaf cohomology. (The latter statement fails in general in complex algebraic geometry, see (Illusie 12, 1.) and see also at GAGA.) (A variant of such resolutions of constant sheaves for the case over Klein geometries are BGG resolutions.)

The Poincaré lemma is a special case of the more general statement that the pullbacks of differential forms along homotopic smooth function are related by a chain homotopy.


Over contractible domains



Then there is a chain homotopy between the induced operations of pullback of differential forms:

f 0 *,f 1 *:Ω (Y)Ω (X) f_0^*, f_1^* \;\colon\; \Omega^\bullet(Y) \to \Omega^\bullet(X)

on the de Rham complexes of XX and YY, an explicit formula for which is given by the following “homotopy operator”:

ψ:ω(x [0,1](ι tΨ *ω)(x))dt). \psi \;\colon\; \omega \mapsto \Big( x \mapsto \textstyle{\int}_{[0,1]} \big( \iota_{\partial_t} \Psi^*\omega)(x) \big) d t \Big) \,.

In particular, f 0 *f_0^* and f 1 *f_1^* coincide on de Rham cohomology:

H dR (f 0 *)H dR (f 1 *). H_{dR}^\bullet(f_0^*) \,\simeq\, H_{dR}^\bullet(f_1^*) \,.

Here ι t\iota_{\partial t} denotes contraction (cf. Cartan calculus) with the canonical vector field tangent to [0,1][0,1], and the integration is that of functions with values in the vector space of differential forms.


We compute as follows:

d Xψ(ω)+ψ(d Yω) = [0,1]d Xι tΨ *(ω)dt+ [0,1]ι tΨ *(d Yω)dt = [0,1]d Xι tΨ *(ω)dt+ [0,1]ι t(d X+d [0,1])Ψ *(ω)dt = [0,1]ι td [0,1]Ψ *(ω)dt = [0,1]d [0,1]Ψ *(ω) =Ψ 1 *(ω)Ψ 0 *(ω) =f 1 *ωf 0 *ω, \begin{array}{l} \mathrm{d}_{X} \psi(\omega) + \psi( \mathrm{d}_Y \omega ) \\ \;=\; \textstyle{\int}_{[0,1]} \mathrm{d}_{X} \iota_{\partial_t} \Psi^*(\omega) d t + \textstyle{\int}_{[0,1]} \iota_{\partial_t} \Psi^*(\mathrm{d}_Y \omega) d t \\ \;=\; \textstyle{\int}_{[0,1]} \mathrm{d}_{X} \iota_{\partial_t} \Psi^*(\omega) d t + \textstyle{\int}_{[0,1]} \iota_{\partial_t} \big(\mathrm{d}_X + \mathrm{d}_{[0,1]}\big) \Psi^*( \omega) d t \\ \;=\; \textstyle{\int}_{[0,1]} \iota_{\partial_t} \mathrm{d}_{[0,1]} \Psi^*(\omega) d t \\ \;=\; \textstyle{\int}_{[0,1]} \mathrm{d}_{[0,1]} \Psi^*(\omega) \\ \;=\; \Psi_1^\ast(\omega) - \Psi_0^\ast(\omega) \\ \;=\; f_1^\ast \omega - f_0^\ast \omega \,, \end{array}

where in the second step we used that exterior differential commutes with pullback of differential forms (this Prop.), and in the last step the Stokes theorem.

The Poincaré lemma proper is the special case of this statement for the case that f 2=const yf_2 = const_y is a function constant on a point yYy \in Y:


If a smooth manifold XX admits a smooth contraction

X (id,0) id X×[0,1] Ψ X (id,1) const x X \array{ X \\ \downarrow^{\mathrlap{(id,0)}} & \searrow^{\mathrlap{id}} \\ X \times [0,1] & \stackrel{\Psi}{\to} & X \\ \uparrow^{\mathrlap{(id,1)}} & \nearrow_{\mathrlap{const_x}} \\ X }

then the de Rham cohomology of XX is concentrated on the ground field in degree 0. Moreover, for ω\omega any closed form on XX in positive degree, an explicit formula for a form λ\lambda with dλ=ωd \lambda = \omega is given by

λ= [0,1]ι tΨ *(ω)dt. \lambda \,=\, - \textstyle{\int}_{[0,1]} \iota_{\partial_t}\Psi^*(\omega) d t \,.


This is the special case of Prop. where f 0 *=idf_0^\ast = id and f 1 *=0f_1^* = 0 in positive degree.

Over nn-connected domains

More generally, the conclusion of the Poincaré lemma for differential forms of bounded degree n\leq n follows already on n n -connected spaces (for instance by combining the Hurewicz theorem first with the universal coefficient theorem and then with the de Rham theorem).



On a simply-connected (i.e.: 1-connected) smooth manifold, a closed differential 1-form ω\omega is exact, with potential function given at xXx \in X by the integral of ω\omega from any fixed base point along any smooth path to xx.

This follows locally for instance by the fiberwise Stokes theorem (here) and then globally due to the independence of the choice of path, by the assumption of simple-connectivity and the plain Stokes theorem.

Textbook accounts which make this explicit include do Carmo 1994, Prop. 3 (p. 24) in §3. Exposition is also in Armstrong 2017.


Textbook account:

Course notes:

Discussion in complex analytic geometry:

  • Luc Illusie, Around the Poincaré lemma, after Beilinson, talk notes 2012 (pdf)


  • Alexander Beilinson, pp-adic periods and de Rham cohomology, J. of the AMS 25 (2012), 715-738

Last revised on January 3, 2024 at 14:22:26. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.