Thomason model structure



Category theory

Model category theory

model category



Universal constructions


Producing new model structures

Presentation of (,1)(\infty,1)-categories

Model structures

for \infty-groupoids

for ∞-groupoids

for rational \infty-groupoids

for nn-groupoids

for \infty-groups

for \infty-algebras



for stable/spectrum objects

for (,1)(\infty,1)-categories

for stable (,1)(\infty,1)-categories

for (,1)(\infty,1)-operads

for (n,r)(n,r)-categories

for (,1)(\infty,1)-sheaves / \infty-stacks

Homotopy theory

homotopy theory, (∞,1)-category theory, homotopy type theory

flavors: stable, equivariant, rational, p-adic, proper, geometric, cohesive, directed

models: topological, simplicial, localic, …

see also algebraic topology



Paths and cylinders

Homotopy groups

Basic facts




By regarding a simplicial set as an object in the standard model structure on simplicial sets, one effectively identifies it (up to weak equivalence) with that ∞-groupoid that it presents under Kan fibrant replacement.

If the original simplicial set is the nerve of a category, the corresponding Kan fibrant replacement is something like the \infty-groupoidification of that category: see geometric realization of categories.

This way each ordinary category models an ∞-groupoid. The Thomason model category structure on Cat exhibits this: in this model category a morphism between two categories is a weak equivalence, precisely if it induces a weak equivalence of the corresponding \infty-groupoids.

It turns out the Thomason model structure on Cat is Quillen equivalent to the standard model structure on simplicial sets.

This is remarkable, in that it says that every homotopy type, i. e. every weak equivalence class of \infty-groupoids, is obtained by \infty-groupoidifying just categories.

In fact, every cofibrant object in this structure is a poset. Since every object in a model category is weakly equivalent to a cofibrant one, this means that even the nerves of just posets are sufficient to model all homotopy types.

This is a rather curious aspect of the Thomason model on Cat: it does not really have anything intrinsically to do with categories, but rather uses these as a way to present ∞-groupoids. In particular, it does not see the equivalences of categories. There is a different model structure on Cat in which weak equivalences are the “true” weak equivalences of categories (not of anything constructed from them). This is called the canonical model structure on Cat.


The original reference is

  • R. W. Thomason, Cat as a closed model category, Cahiers Topologie Géom. Différentielle 21, no. 3 (1980), pp. 305–324. MR0591388 (82b:18005) numdam scan

A correction to this article was made in

  • Denis-Charles Cisinski, Les morphisme de Dwyer ne sont pas stables par rétractes, Cahiers Topologie et Géom. Différentielle Catégoriques, 40 no. 3 (1999), pp. 227–231. (Numdam)

There it was clarified that every cofibrant object in the Thomason model structure is a poset (although this is already explicitly mentioned in Thomason’s paper – see the beginning of section 5).

A useful review of the Thomason model structure and a generalization of the model structure to n-fold categories is given in

  • Thomas M. Fiore, Simona Paoli, A Thomason model structure on the category of small n-fold categories (arXiv)

The following article gives a large class of categories which are fibrant in the Thomason model structure.

Some posets that are cofibrant in the Thomason model structure are studied in

  • Roman Bruckner, Christoph Pegel, Cofibrant objects in the Thomason Model Structure, arXiv

The analog of the Thomason model structure for the stable case – an equivalence between connective stable homotopy theory and nerves of symmetric monoidal categories – is discussed in

  • Robert Thomason, Symmetric monoidal categories model all connective spectra, Theory and Applications of Categories, Vol. 1, No. 5, (1995) pp. 78-118

Last revised on April 12, 2020 at 01:59:16. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.