projective geometry

1 Subspace geometries

Given a vector spaceMathworldPlanetmath V, dimV>0, the projective geometryMathworldPlanetmath of V is the set of all subspacesPlanetmathPlanetmathPlanetmath of V ordered by set inclusion. It is typically denoted PG(V) or P(V). The vector space may be over a field or a division ring.

The partially ordered setMathworldPlanetmath (poset) of all subspaces of a vector space is a geometric lattice. So next to a boolean lattice, it is one of the best lattices one could expect. However, an alternative to viewing projective geometry PG(V) as a latticeMathworldPlanetmathPlanetmath is one of viewing PG(V) as a geometryMathworldPlanetmath. For this we assign the to PG(V).


Points in projective geometry are the 1-dimensional subspaces. These are often denoted PG(V)0 and are the atoms of the lattice. PG(V)0 is often referred to as the projective spaceMathworldPlanetmath of V and denoted kPn where V=kn+1, especially in topological settings. Common examples include Pn, Pn. (More on projective spaces (


As in the usual Euclidean geometry two distinct points should determine a unique line in the geometry. As two linearly independentMathworldPlanetmath vectors span a plane in V, in to make two points in the geometry PG(V) determine a line, we must define a line in projective space to a 2-dimensional subspace.

Remark 1.

There is a conflict of terminology at this stage. Often it is useful to define a projective space as the set of all lines through the origin in a vector space V. But if we elect to view a projective space as a projective geometry then the lines in this definition correspond to points in the geometry, and lines are now the planes of the vector space containing the origin. Sometimes for clarity the phrase “projective point” and “projective line” can be used to resolve ambiguity.


A projective planeMathworldPlanetmath for a vector space V is a 3-dimensional subspace. The study of projective planes extends beyond the consideration of the poset of vector spaces however, and is the beginning of many interesting combinatorial problems. See the following sectionMathworldPlanetmathPlanetmathPlanetmath on non-Desarguesian planes for further details.


Hyperplanes are subspaces of V, sometimes called codimension 1 subspaces. If V is finite dimensional then points and hyperplanes are in a 1-1 correspondence. This correspondence leads to many situations where an exchange of a point with a hyperplane is considered. The simplest of these exchanges occurs through the notion of a perpendicularMathworldPlanetmathPlanetmathPlanetmath subspace, i.e.: one may say a point is perpendicular to an entire hyperplane, and a hyperplane is perpendicular to just one point.

When dimV=2 then every point is a hyperplane which leads to many degenerate properties causing dimV2 conditions in many theorems of projective geometry.

2 Dual Geometries

Given a finite dimensional vector space V, the dual spacePlanetmathPlanetmath V* of all linear functionalsPlanetmathPlanetmath is isomorphicPlanetmathPlanetmathPlanetmathPlanetmath as a vector space but it is also possible to PG(V) to PG(V*) in a dual manner.

For every subspace W of V define


That is, W is the set of all functionalsPlanetmathPlanetmath which contain W in their kernel (nullspaceMathworldPlanetmath). It follows dimW=dimV-dimW and the map from PG(V) to PG(V*) determined by


is order-reversing. It is also evident that under the natural isomorphism of VV** we can further take W=W.

3 Morphisms of Projective Geometry

Morphisms from one projective geometry to another are defined as order-preserving maps, also called projectivitiesMathworldPlanetmath. In some context order-reversing maps may also be included which leads to the study of dualities and polaritiesMathworldPlanetmathPlanetmath.

Given an order-reversing map PG(V)PG(W), the map PG(V)PG(W*) determines a canonical order-preserving map so that one can indeed consider simply the order-preserving maps between projective geometries.

A collineationMathworldPlanetmath is a function which maps any three collinear points (i.e.: three 1 dimensional subspaces which all lie in a single 2-dimensional subspace) to three collinear points. These determine a unique order-preserving map between the two projective geometries. Thus the morphisms of projective geometry are often identified with collineations. This is preferable when authoring theorems in the of geometry.

Remark 2.

Some authors prefer collineations to any projectivity PG(V)PG(V). Although there is no uniformity in these definitions, each takes collinearMathworldPlanetmath triples to collinear triples thus preserving the geometries under consideration.

4 Notations for projective geometries

When the dimension d of V is finite we may write PG(d-1,k) where k is the field (or division ring) of the vector space. Notice that the d-1 indicates the dimension of the geometry, not the dimension of the vector space, though one can be attained from the other.

When k is real, or complex, PG(1,k) is often denoted P1 and P1 instead. Once again the 1 denotes the dimensions of the geometry, and in this case also the manifold, not the vector space from which it is derived.

When |k|=q we may further write PG(d,q).

5 PG(1,k)

The 1 dimensional vector spaces have points and hyperplanes, but every point is a hyperplane. Every permutationMathworldPlanetmath of points is a collineation. So the projective line is exceptional in many ways. Including in the fundamental theorem of projective geometryMathworldPlanetmath.

5.1 Abstract Projective Geometry

Projective geometry in general can be axiomatized as achieved by Hilbert. The axioms precisely characterize the subspace lattice of a finite dimensional vector space, but the converseMathworldPlanetmath is not generally true. Indeed, already for 1-dimensional geometries, so called projective lines, i.e.: a set of points, it is clear that not all such geometries can be captured as the subspaces of a vector space. For example, there is no vector space with exactly 2 one dimensional subspaces. Such geometries however are of little interest as a geometry to themselves (though they are pivotal as sub-geometries) for they have no .

When an abstract geometry is infinite dimensional or 2-dimensional, it is possible that it is not isomorphic to the geometry of subspaces of any vector space. These geometries are termed “non-Desarguesian” as they do not carry with them a version of Desargues’ theorem. These geometries are a rich area of study, especially so called projective planes – geometries of dimension 2. Despite not having the structureMathworldPlanetmath of a subspace geometry, so far every non-Desarguesian projective plane has still had order pk for some prime p. This has lead to the following unsolved problem:

Are their any projective planes of order not a power of a prime?


  • 1 Gruenberg, K. W. and Weir, A.J. Linear Geometry 2nd Ed. (English) [B] Graduate Texts in Mathematics. 49. New York - Heidelberg - Berlin: Springer-Verlag. (1977), pp. x-198.
  • 2 Kantor, W. M. Lectures notes on Classical GroupsMathworldPlanetmath.
  • 3 Taylor, Donald E. The geometry of the classical groups Sigma Series in Pure Mathematics. 9. Heldermann Verlag, Berlin, xii+229, (1992), ISBN 3-88538-009-9.
Title projective geometry
Canonical name ProjectiveGeometry
Date of creation 2013-03-22 15:51:25
Last modified on 2013-03-22 15:51:25
Owner Algeboy (12884)
Last modified by Algeboy (12884)
Numerical id 26
Author Algeboy (12884)
Entry type Definition
Classification msc 51A10
Classification msc 51A30
Classification msc 51A05
Classification msc 51D25
Related topic PolaritiesAndForms
Related topic SesquilinearFormsOverGeneralFields
Related topic PerspectivityMathworldPlanetmath
Defines projective geometry