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Classification of finite simple groups
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Classification of finite simple groups

The classification of the finite simple groups is a vast body of work in mathematics, mostly published between around 1955 and 1983, which classifies all of the finite simple groups. In all, the work comprises about 10,000 - 15,000 pages in 500 journal articles by some 100 authors. However, there is a controversy in the mathematical community on whether these articles provide a complete and correct proof. This controversy stems from the sheer length and complexity of the proof and the fact that parts of it remain unpublished.

If correct, the classification shows every finite simple group to be one of the following types:

The theorem has widespread applications in many branches of applications, as questions about finite groups can often be reduced to questions about finite simple groups, which by the classification can be reduced to an enumeration of cases.

Table of contents
1 The Sporadic Groups
2 A Second-Generation Classification
3 References

The Sporadic Groups

Five of the sporadic groups were discovered by Mathieu in the 1860s and the other 21 were found between 1965 and 1975. Several of these groups were predicted to exist before they were constructed. Each group is named after the mathematician(s) who first predicted the its existence. The full list is:

Matrix representations over finite fields for all the sporadic groups have been computed.

A Second-Generation Classification

Because of the extreme length of the proof of the classification of finite simple groups, there has been a lot of work (led by Daniel Gorenstein) in trying to find a simpler proof. This is the so-called second-generation classification proof. One reason that some mathematicians believe that a simpler proof is possible is that the result to be proved is known, which was not the case for the earlier proof. In particular, during the original proof, nobody knew how many sporadic groups there would be, and in fact some of the sporadic groups (for example, the Janko groups) were discovered in the process of trying to prove the classification theorem.

It is currently thought (2004) that it might be possible to write a complete proof in about 5,000 pages.