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Category theory

Commutative diagram for morphism.svg

In mathematics, category theory deals in an abstract way with mathematical structures and relationships between them. Categories now appear in most branches of mathematics and in some areas of theoretical computer science and mathematical physics, and have been a unifying notion. Categories were first introduced by Samuel Eilenberg and Saunders Mac Lane in 1942-1945, in connection with algebraic topology.

The term "abstract nonsense" has been used by some critics to refer to its high level of abstraction, compared to more classical branches of mathematics. Homological algebra is category theory in its aspect of organising and suggesting calculations in abstract algebra. Diagram chasing is a visual method of arguing with abstract 'arrows'. Topos theory is a form of abstract sheaf theory, with geometric origins, and leads to ideas such as pointless topology.

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In category theory, a natural transformation provides a way of transforming one functor into another while respecting the internal structure (i.e. the composition of morphisms) of the categories involved. Hence, a natural transformation can be considered to be a "morphism of functors". Indeed this intuition can be formalized to define so-called functor categories. Natural transformations are, after categories and functors, one of the most basic notions of categorical algebra and consequently appear in the majority of its applications.

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Saunders Mac Lane (4 August 1909, Taftville, Connecticut – 14 April 2005, San Francisco) was an American mathematician who cofounded category theory with Samuel Eilenberg. Their original motivation was homology theory and led to the formalization of what is now called homological algebra. His most recognized work in category theory is the textbook Categories for the Working Mathematician (1971).

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Functor cone (extended).svg

In category theory, a limit of a diagram is defined as a cone satisfying a universal property. Products and equalizers are special cases of limits. The dual notion is that of colimit.

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