Jordan algebra

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An algebra in which the identities

hold. Such algebras first arose in the paper [1] of P. Jordan devoted to the axiomatic foundation of quantum mechanics (cf. also [2]), and later found application in algebra, analysis and geometry.

Let be an associative algebra over a field of characteristic (cf. also Associative rings and algebras). The set together with the operations of addition and Jordan multiplication

forms the algebra , which is a Jordan algebra. A Jordan algebra that is isomorphic to a subalgebra of for some associative algebra is called special. The role of special algebras in the theory of Jordan algebras is in many respects analogous to the role of associative algebras in the theory of alternative algebras (cf. also Alternative rings and algebras). At the basis of this analogy lies the theorem that every two-generated subalgebra of a Jordan algebra is special. (Every two-generated subalgebra of an alternative algebra is associative.) However, the class of special Jordan algebras is not a variety, i.e. it is not given by identities, since special Jordan algebras can have non-special homomorphic images. Nevertheless, identities of degree 8 or 9 have been found that are satisfied by every special Jordan algebra, but are not satisfied by some non-special algebra, while it has been proved that such identities of degree do not exist. A necessary and sufficient condition on an algebra to be special is: A Jordan algebra is special if and only if it can be isomorphically imbedded in a Jordan algebra each countable subset of which lies in a subalgebra generated by two elements.


1) Let be a vector space over a field with a symmetric bilinear form , and let be a space of one dimension higher, on which

determines the multiplication (; ). The algebra that arises is called the algebra with symmetric bilinear form . It can be isomorphically imbedded in the algebra , where is the Clifford algebra of , and is therefore a special Jordan algebra.

2) Let be an associative algebra and an involution of it (an anti-isomorphism of order two). The set

is a subalgebra in and is also a special Jordan algebra.

3) Let be an alternative non-associative algebra over a field with involution whose fixed elements lie in the associative centre of . In the algebra of matrices over of order 3, the set


is a non-special Jordan algebra under the operations of addition and Jordan multiplication. This algebra is not the homomorphic image of any special algebra.

The finite-dimensional simple Jordan algebras over an algebraically closed field of characteristic have been completely classified (cf. [3]). The central simple finite-dimensional Jordan algebras split into five series. The series –(D) are infinite and consist of special algebras, (E) consists of a single non-special algebra:


(B) , where ;

(C) , where , ,

(D) — the algebras of symmetric non-degenerate bilinear forms;

(E) , where is the Cayley–Dickson algebra with the standard involution. This algebra is -dimensional over .

In each finite-dimensional Jordan algebra the radical (the largest nil radical) is involutory and the quotient algebra is a finite direct sum of simple Jordan algebras. If is separable, then has a decomposition into the sum of the radical and a semi-simple subalgebra that is isomorphic to . In the case of characteristic 0, all semi-simple terms are conjugate relative to automorphisms of a special kind (cf. [3]). This is also true in characteristic if some restrictions are imposed on the algebra.

A generalization of the theory of finite-dimensional Jordan algebras is the theory of Jordan algebras with the minimum condition for quadratic (inner) ideals (cf. [3], [4], [5]). A quadratic ideal of an algebra is a subspace for which for all and , where is the triple Jordan product. If is a Jordan algebra with the minimum condition for quadratic ideals and is its quadratic radical (cf. Radical of rings and algebras), then the quotient algebra is a finite direct sum of simple algebras, which have been described apart from the Jordan algebras with division. If is a special algebra, it has been proved that the radical is nilpotent and finite-dimensional.

An algebraic special Jordan algebra (cf. also Algebraic algebra) that satisfies a non-trivial (for special algebras) identity is locally finite-dimensional; a special Jordan nil algebra (cf. also Nil algebra) with a non-trivial identity is locally nilpotent [6]. In particular, a special algebraic Jordan (nil) algebra of bounded index is locally finite-dimensional (nilpotent). A finitely-generated solvable Jordan algebra is nilpotent; this is not true for special algebras in the general case. A Jordan -operator ring that is a finitely-generated -module with nilpotent generating elements, is nilpotent [7].

With each Jordan algebra one can in various ways associate a Lie algebra (cf. [3], [8]). A number of theorems on Jordan algebras have been obtained from known theorems on Lie algebras. E.g., it has been proved that a semi-simple finite-dimensional Jordan algebra over an algebraically closed field of characteristic zero has a basis with integral structure constants. For the theory of Lie algebras this construction is also useful, since certain important classes of Lie algebras can be realized by it. E.g., the Lie algebra of derivations of the simple Lie algebra of type (E) is the exceptional simple Lie algebra , the algebra of linear transformations of this algebra that leave invariant some cubic form is the exceptional simple Lie algebra . All five exceptional Lie algebras of types , , , , can be realized by another construction, associating to an alternative algebra of degree 2 and a Jordan algebra of degree 3 some Lie algebra.

It is, finally, interesting to note that some algebras arising in genetics are Jordan algebras [10].


[1] P. Jordan, "Ueber Verallgemeinerungsmöglichkeiten des Formalismus der Quantenmechanik" Nachr. Akad. Wiss. Göttingen. Math. Phys. Kl. I , 41 (1933) pp. 209–217
[2] G.G. Emch, "Algebraic methods in statistical mechanics and quantum field theory" , Wiley (1972)
[3] N. Jacobson, "Structure and representations of Jordan algebras" , Amer. Math. Soc. (1968)
[4] K. McCrimmon, "The radical of a Jordan algebra" Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA , 62 : 3 (1969) pp. 671–678
[5] A.M. Slin'ko, "On the Jacobson radical and absolute zero divisors of special Jordan algebras" Algebra and Logic , 11 : 6 (1972) pp. 396–402 Algebra i Logika , 11 : 6 (1972) pp. 711–724
[6] A.I. Shirshov, "On some non-associative null rings and algebraic algebras" Mat. Sb. , 41 : 3 (1957) pp. 381–394 (In Russian)
[7] I.P. Shestakov, "Certain classes of noncommutative Jordan rings" Algebra and Logic , 10 : 4 (1971) pp. 252–280 Algebra i Logika , 10 : 4 (1971) pp. 407–448
[8] R.D. Schafer, "An introduction to nonassociative algebras" , Acad. Press (1966)
[9] S.R. Gordon, "An integral basis theorem for Jordan algebras" J. of Algebra , 24 (1973) pp. 258–282
[10] R.D. Schafer, "Structure of genetic algebras" Amer. J. Math. , 71 (1949) pp. 121–135
[11] M. Koecher, "An elementary approach to bounded symmetric domains" , Rice Univ. (1969)
[12] A.M. Slin'ko, et al., "Jordan algebras" , 1 , Novosibirsk (1976) (In Russian)


For Jordan algebras in genetics see also Genetic algebra.

There exists a functor Kan [a1], called the Kantor functor, which establishes an isomorphism between the category of Jordan algebras and the category of -graded Lie algebras of the form with the following properties [a2]:

a) if or and , then ;

b) contains an element such that , and generates the subalgebra ( is the base field).

The construction of is very simple: with product .

This construction was extended to the super-algebra case and used to classify simple finite-dimensional Jordan super-algebras [a2].


[a1] I.L. Kantor, "Classification of irreducible transitively differential groups" Soviet Math. Dokl. , 5 (1964) pp. 1404–1407 Dokl. Akad. Nauk SSSR , 158 : 5 (1964) pp. 1271–1274
[a2] V.G. Kac, "Classification of simple -graded Lie superalgebras and simple Jordan superalgebras" Comm. in Algebra , 5 : 13 (1977) pp. 1375–1400
[a3] H. Braun, M. Koecher, "Jordan-algebren" , Springer (1966)
[a4] T.A. Springer, "Jordan algebras and algebraic groups" , Springer (1973)
How to Cite This Entry:
Jordan algebra. Encyclopedia of Mathematics. URL:
This article was adapted from an original article by A.M. Slin'ko (originator), which appeared in Encyclopedia of Mathematics - ISBN 1402006098. See original article