periodic table


Higher category theory

higher category theory

Basic concepts

Basic theorems





Universal constructions

Extra properties and structure

1-categorical presentations

Monoidal categories



In higher category theory, there are several periodic tables, analogous to the periodic table of chemical elements. Just as this table allowed Менделеев to predict the existence of undiscovered elements in the table's gaps, so these periodic tables sometimes inspire us to invent new varieties of n-categories.


The first periodic table of n-categories, due to John Baez and James Dolan, was a slightly distorted version of the periodic table of kk-tuply monoidal nn-categories.

Fully filled out, the table looked like this:

k k ↓\ n n 2 -2 1 -1 0 0 1 1 2 2 ...
0 0 trivialtruth valuesetcategory2-category...
1 1 "trivialmonoidmonoidal categorymonoidal 2-category...
2 2 ""abelian monoidbraided monoidal categorybraided monoidal 2-category...
3 3 """symmetric monoidal categorysylleptic monoidal 2-category...
4 4 """"symmetric monoidal 2-category...

Actually, the columns where n=1n = -1 and n=2n = -2 were not there, but they appeared to be required by the pattern of the table.

We now recognise that a 00-tuply monoidal nn-category should be pointed, leading to a slightly different table (see that page). Similarly, the definition given when k>0k \gt 0 didn't mention pointedness, giving essentially the definition of (k1)(k-1)-simply connected (n+k)(n+k)-category. This makes a difference to the notions of morphism and higher morphism between such structures.

Eugenia Cheng and Nick Gurski wrote a paper about how these don’t end up quite right if you just look at (k1)(k-1)-simply connected (n+k)(n+k)-categories, but in all cases we have analyzed they do come out correct if you look at the pointed versions. More on this can be found in the appendix to n-categories and cohomology.


… appearances in TWF, filling gaps, the first extension to small nn, the established literature on (n,r)(n,r)-categories, the stabilisation hypothesis, the tangle hypothesis, the table with Lie algebroids and the like, the appendix to John's and Mike's paper; most of these individual tables will have their own pages; …

Revised on December 14, 2016 07:20:38 by David Corfield (