Leray spectral sequence

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In mathematics, the Leray spectral sequence was a pioneering example in homological algebra, introduced in 1946 by Jean Leray. It is usually seen nowadays as a special case of the Grothendieck spectral sequence.


Let f:XY be a continuous map of topological spaces, which in particular gives functor f* from sheaves on X to sheaves on Y.

Composing this with taking sections on Sh(Y) is the same as taking sections on Sh(X), by the definition of the direct image functor f*. Thus the derived functors of Γ f* compute the sheaf cohomology for X:

But because f* and Γ satisfy certain conditions, there is a spectral sequence whose second page

and which converges to

This is called the Leray spectral sequence.

For a proof of the existence of a spectral sequence under the conditions alluded to above, see Grothendieck spectral sequence.

Classical definition[edit]

Let f:XY be a continuous map of smooth manifolds. If U={Ui} is an open cover of Y, form the Cech complex with respect to cover f−1U of X:

The boundary maps dp:CpCp+1 and maps δqXq→ΩXq+1 of sheaves on X together give a boundary map on the double complex Cp(f−1Uq)

This double complex is also a single complex graded by , with respect to which D is a boundary map. If each finite intersection of the Ui is diffeomorphic to Rn, one can show that the cohomology

of this complex is the de Rham cohomology of X.[1] Moreover,[2][3] any double complex has a spectral sequence E with

(so that the sum of these is HnD), and

where is the presheaf on X sending VHq(f−1V). In this context, this is called the Leray spectral sequence.

The modern definition subsumes this, because the higher direct image functor is the sheafification of the presheaf VHq(f−1V,F).


  • Let X,F be smooth manifolds, and X be simply connected. We calculate the Leray spectral sequence of the projection p:X×FX. If the cover U={Ui} is good (finite intersections are Rn) then
Since X is simply connected, any locally constant presheaf is constant, so this is the constant presheaf Hq(F)=Rn. So the second page of the Leray spectral sequence is
As the cover f−1U of X×F is also good, Hp(f−1U,R)=Hp(X). So
Here is the first place we use that p is a projection and not just a fibre bundle: every element of E2 is an actual closed differential form on all of X×F, so applying both d and δ to them gives zero. Thus E=E2. This proves the Kunneth theorem for X simply connected:
  • If p:YX is a general fibre bundle with fibre F, the above applies, except that VpHp(f−1V,Hq) is only a locally constant presheaf, not constant.
  • All example computations with the Serre spectral sequence are the Leray sequence for the constant sheaf.

Degeneration Theorem[edit]

In the category of quasi-projective varieties over C, there is a degeneration theorem proved by Deligne-Blanchard for the Leray which states that a smooth projective morphism of varieties gives us that the -page of the spectral sequence for degenerates, hence

Easy examples can be computed if Y is simply connected; for example a complete intersection of dimension (this is because of the Hurewicz morphism and the Lefschetz hyperplane theorem). In this case the local systems will have trivial monodromy, hence . For example, consider a smooth family of genus 3 curves over a smooth K3 surface. Then, we have that

giving us the -page

Example with Monodromy[edit]

Another important example of a smooth projective family is the family associated to the elliptic curves

over . Here the monodromy around 0 and 1 can be computed using Picard-Lefschetz theory, giving the monodromy around by composing local monodromy.

History and connection to other spectral sequences[edit]

At the time of Leray's work, neither of the two concepts involved (spectral sequence, sheaf cohomology) had reached anything like a definitive state. Therefore it is rarely the case that Leray's result is quoted in its original form. After much work, in the seminar of Henri Cartan in particular, the modern statement was obtained, though not the general Grothendieck spectral sequence.

In the formulation achieved by Alexander Grothendieck by about 1957, this is the Grothendieck spectral sequence for the composition of two derived functors.

Earlier (1948/9) the implications for fibrations were extracted as the Serre spectral sequence, which makes no use of sheaves.


  1. ^ Bott and Tu Differential forms in algebraic topology, Propoposition 8.8, page 96
  2. ^ Bott and Tu, "Differential forms in algebraic topology, page 179, Leray's construction
  3. ^ Griffiths and Harris, Principles of Algebraic Geometry, page 443, the statement in italics

External links[edit]