In mathematics, the automorphism group of an object X is the group consisting of automorphisms of X. For example, if X is a finite-dimensional vector space, then the automorphism group of X is the group of invertible linear transformations from X to itself (the general linear group of X). If instead X is a group, then its automorphism group is the group consisting of all group automorphisms of X.
Especially in geometric contexts, an automorphism group is also called a symmetry group. A subgroup of an automorphism group is sometimes called a transformation group.
Automorphism groups are studied in a general way in the field of category theory.
If X is a set with no additional structure, then any bijection from X to itself is an automorphism, and hence the automorphism group of X in this case is precisely the symmetric group of X. If the set X has additional structure, then it may be the case that not all bijections on the set preserve this structure, in which case the automorphism group will be a subgroup of the symmetric group on X. Some examples of this include the following:
- The automorphism group of a field extension is the group consisting of field automorphisms of L that fix K. If the field extension is Galois, the automorphism group is called the Galois group of the field extension.
- The automorphism group of the projective n-space over a field k is the projective linear group 
- The automorphism group of a finite cyclic group of order n is isomorphic to with the isomorphism given by . In particular, is an abelian group.
- The automorphism group of a finite-dimensional real Lie algebra has the structure of a (real) Lie group (in fact, it is even a linear algebraic group: see below). If G is a Lie group with Lie algebra , then the automorphism group of G has a structure of a Lie group induced from that on the automorphism group of .[a]
If G is a group acting on a set X, the action amounts to a group homomorphism from G to the automorphism group of X amounts to a group action on X. Indeed, each left G-action on a set X determines , and, conversely, each homomorphism defines an action by . This extends to the case when the set X has more structure than just a set. For example, if X is a vector space, then a group action of G on X is a group representation of the group G, representing G as a group of linear transformations (automorphisms) of X; these representations are the main object of study in the field of representation theory.
Here are some other facts about automorphism groups:
- Let be two finite sets of the same cardinality and the set of all bijections . Then , which is a symmetric group (see above), acts on from the left freely and transitively; that is to say, is a torsor for (cf. #In category theory).
- Let P be a finitely generated projective module over a ring R. Then there is an embedding , unique up to inner automorphisms.
In category theory
Automorphism groups appear very naturally in category theory.
If X is an object in a category, then the automorphism group of X is the group consisting of all the invertible morphisms from X to itself. It is the unit group of the endomorphism monoid of X. (For some examples, see PROP.)
If are objects in some category, then the set of all is a left -torsor. In practical terms, this says that a different choice of a base point of differs unambiguously by an element of , or that each choice of a base point is precisely a choice of a trivialization of the torsor.
If and are objects in categories and , and if is a functor mapping to , then induces a group homomorphism , as it maps invertible morphisms to invertible morphisms.
In particular, if G is a group viewed as a category with a single object * or, more generally, if G is a groupoid, then each functor , C a category, is called an action or a representation of G on the object , or the objects . Those objects are then said to be -objects (as they are acted by ); cf. -object. If is a module category like the category of finite-dimensional vector spaces, then -objects are also called -modules.
Automorphism group functor
Let be a finite-dimensional vector space over a field k that is equipped with some algebraic structure (that is, M is a finite-dimensional algebra over k). It can be, for example, an associative algebra or a Lie algebra.
Now, consider k-linear maps that preserve the algebraic structure: they form a vector subspace of . The unit group of is the automorphism group . When a basis on M is chosen, is the space of square matrices and is the zero set of some polynomial equations, and the invertibility is again described by polynomials. Hence, is a linear algebraic group over k.
Now base extensions applied to the above discussion determines a functor: namely, for each commutative ring R over k, consider the R-linear maps preserving the algebraic structure: denote it by . Then the unit group of the matrix ring over R is the automorphism group and is a group functor: a functor from the category of commutative rings over k to the category of groups. Even better, it is represented by a scheme (since the automorphism groups are defined by polynomials): this scheme is called the automorphism group scheme and is denoted by .
In general, however, an automorphism group functor may not be represented by a scheme.
- Outer automorphism group
- Level structure, a technique to remove an automorphism group
- Holonomy group
- First, if G is simply connected, the automorphism group of G is that of . Second, every connected Lie group is of the form where is a simply connected Lie group and C is a central subgroup and the automorphism group of G is the automorphism group of that preserves C. Third, by convention, a Lie group is second countable and has at most coutably many connected components; thus, the general case reduces to the connected case.
- Hartshorne 1977, Ch. II, Example 7.1.1.
- Dummit & Foote 2004, § 2.3. Exercise 26.
- Hochschild, G. (1952). "The Automorphism Group of a Lie Group". Transactions of the American Mathematical Society. 72 (2): 209–216. JSTOR 1990752.
- Fulton & Harris 1991, Exercise 8.28.
- Milnor 1971, Lemma 3.2.
- Waterhouse 2012, § 7.6.
- Dummit, David S.; Foote, Richard M. (2004). Abstract Algebra (3rd ed.). Wiley. ISBN 978-0-471-43334-7.
- Fulton, William; Harris, Joe (1991). Representation theory. A first course. Graduate Texts in Mathematics, Readings in Mathematics. Vol. 129. New York: Springer-Verlag. doi:10.1007/978-1-4612-0979-9. ISBN 978-0-387-97495-8. MR 1153249. OCLC 246650103.
- Hartshorne, Robin (1977), Algebraic Geometry, Graduate Texts in Mathematics, vol. 52, New York: Springer-Verlag, ISBN 978-0-387-90244-9, MR 0463157
- Milnor, John Willard (1971). Introduction to algebraic K-theory. Annals of Mathematics Studies. Vol. 72. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. ISBN 9780691081014. MR 0349811. Zbl 0237.18005.
- Waterhouse, William C. (2012) . Introduction to Affine Group Schemes. Graduate Texts in Mathematics. Vol. 66. Springer Verlag. ISBN 9781461262176.