vector space



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see also algebraic topology



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homological algebra

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For kk a field or a division ring, a vector space over kk (or a kk-vector space) is a module over the ring kk. When the vector space is fixed, its elements are called vectors, the field kk is referred to as the base field of the ground field of the vector space, and the elements of kk are called scalars.

Sometimes a vector space over kk is called a kk-linear space. (Compare ‘kk-linear map’.) If kk is only a division ring then we carefully distinguish the left kk-vector spaces and right kk-vector spaces.

The category of vector spaces is typically denoted Vect, or Vect kVect_k if we wish to make the field kk (the ground field) explicit. So

Vect kkMod. Vect_k \coloneqq k Mod \,.

This category has vector spaces over kk as objects, and kk-linear maps between these as morphisms.

Multisorted notion

Alternatively, one sometimes defines “vector space” as a two-sorted notion; taking the field kk as one of the sorts and a module over kk as the other. More generally, the notion of “module” can also be considered as two-sorted, involving a ring and a module over that ring.

This is occasionally convenient; for example, one may define the notion of topological vector space or topological module as an internalization in TopTop of the multisorted notion. This procedure is entirely straightforward for topological modules, as the notion of module can be given by a two-sorted Lawvere theory TT, whence a topological module (for instance) is just a product-preserving functor TTopT \to Top. One may then define a topological vector space as a topological module whose underlying (discretized) ring sort is a field.


By the basis theorem (and using the axiom of choice) every vector space admits a basis.


The vector spaces seem to have been first introduced in

  • Giuseppe Peano, Calcolo Geometrico secondo l’Ausdehnungslehre di H. Grassmann preceduto dalle Operazioni della Logica Deduttiva, Torino 1888

The literature on vector spaces is now extremely large, including lots of elementary linear algebra textbooks. Classics include

  • Michael Artin, Algebra
  • Israel M. Gelfand, Lectures on linear algebra
  • P. R. Halmos, Finite dimensional vector spaces
  • M M Postnikov, Lectures on geometry, semester 2: Linear algebra

Affine spaces are sets which are torsors over the abelian group of vectors of a vector space. Thus vector spaces may serve as a basis for the affine and for the Euclidean geometry. This approach has been invented by Hermann Weyl in 1918. Dieudonné wrote an influential book on such an approach to 2d and 3d Euclidian geometry, in which the basics of vector spaces in low dimension is introduced along the way (the book is intended for high school teachers):

  • Jean Alexandre Dieudonné, Linear algebra and geometry

Last revised on November 3, 2020 at 08:44:36. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.