Connections on a manifold

From Encyclopedia of Mathematics
Revision as of 17:04, 7 February 2011 by (talk) (Importing text file)
(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search

Differential-geometric structures (cf. Differential-geometric structure) on a smooth manifold that are connections (cf. Connection) on smooth fibre bundles with homogeneous spaces of the same dimension as as typical fibres over the base . Depending on the choice of the homogeneous space one obtains, for example, affine, projective, conformal, etc., connections on (cf. Affine connection; Conformal connection; Projective connection). The general notion of a connection on a manifold was introduced by E. Cartan [1], who called a manifold with a connection defined on it a "non-holonomic space with a fundamental groupnon-holonomic space with a fundamental group" .

The modern definition of a connection on a manifold is based on the concept of a smooth fibre bundle over the base . Let be a homogeneous space of the same dimension as (for example, an affine space, a projective space, etc.). Let be a smooth locally trivial fibration with typical fibre and suppose that in this fibration there is fixed a smooth section , that is, a smooth mapping such that for every . The last condition ensures that is a diffeomorphism of onto , and therefore and can be identified, if desired. In other words, to each point there is associated a copy of the homogeneous space of the same dimension as (that is, the fibre of over ) with a fixed point that can be identified with .

A connection on a manifold is a special case of the more general concept of a connection; it can be defined independently as follows. Suppose that for each piecewise-smooth curve on a manifold there is an isomorphism of the tangent homogeneous spaces at the end points of the curve (for example, if is an affine or projective space, then is, respectively, an affine or projective mapping). In addition, suppose that

1) for , , , and one has , ;

2) for each point and for each tangent vector the isomorphism , where denotes the image of under the parametrization of with tangent vector , tends to the identity isomorphism as , and its deviation from the latter depends in its principal part only on and , and this dependence is smooth.

In this case it is said that a connection of type is defined on ; the isomorphism is called the parallel displacement along . For each curve its evolute is defined, that is, the curve in that consists of the image of the points of under parallel displacement along . It follows from 2) that curves with common tangent vector at a point have evolutes with common tangent vector that depends smoothly on and . A consequence of this is that for each point there is a mapping

The connections on a manifold that have been studied most are linear connections, which have the following additional property:

3) the element in the Lie algebra of the structure group that defines the principal part of the deviation of the isomorphism from the identity isomorphism as relative to a certain field of frames, depends linearly on .

In this case is a linear mapping. If is an isomorphism for any point , then one speaks about a non-degenerate connection on a manifold, or about a Cartan connection; in this case the isomorphism is also treated as a glueing of the fibration to the base (along a given section ). A Cartan connection on is called complete if for each point , any smooth curve in that begins at is the evolute of a curve on .

There is another point of view of the general theory of connections, where a linear connection in the fibration is defined by using a horizontal distribution on . Then the mapping is the composite of an isomorphism that maps into the corresponding tangent vector to , followed by a projection of the space onto the second direct summand. Hence it follows that a connection is non-degenerate if and only if for any . To all concepts and results developed in the general theory of connections can be applied. Such are, e.g., the holonomy group, the curvature form, the holonomy theorem, etc. The additional structure of a fibre bundle over the manifold enables one, however, to introduce certain more special concepts. Apart from evolutes, the most most important of these is the concept of the torsion form of a connection on at .

The Cartan connections in the case when is a homogeneous reductive space (that is, when there is a direct decomposition with the property ) occupy a special position in the theory of connections on a manifold. In this case the curvature form splits into two independent objects: its component in generates the torsion form, and the component in generates the curvature form. The best-known example here is an affine connection on for which is an affine space of the same dimension as .

A reductive space has an invariant affine connection. More generally, if there is an invariant affine or projective connection on , then the geodesic lines (cf. Geodesic line) of a connection of type are defined on as those lines possessing evolutes which are geodesic lines of the given invariant connection.


[1] E. Cartan, "Espaces à connexion affine, projective et conforme" Acta Math. , 48 (1926) pp. 1–42
[2] G.F. Laptev, "Differential geometry of imbedded manifolds. Group-theoretical method of differential-geometric investigations" Trudy Moskov. Mat. Obshch. , 2 (1953) pp. 275–382 (In Russian)
[3] Ch. Ehresmann, "Les connexions infinitésimal dans une espace fibré différentiable" , Colloq. de Topologie Bruxelles, 1950 , G. Thone & Masson (1951) pp. 29–55
[4] S. Kobayashi, "On connections of Cartan" Canad. J. Math. , 8 : 2 (1956) pp. 145–156
[5] Y.H. Clifton, "On the completeness of Cartan connections" J. Math. Mech. , 16 : 6 (1966) pp. 569–576


Let be a trivial vector bundle. The principal part of an element is the component . Similarly, if is a bundle homomorphism (), then , or , is its principal part. See also the editorial comments to Connection.

How to Cite This Entry:
Connections on a manifold. Encyclopedia of Mathematics. URL:
This article was adapted from an original article by Ü. Lumiste (originator), which appeared in Encyclopedia of Mathematics - ISBN 1402006098. See original article