The Unapologetic Mathematician

Mathematics for the interested outsider

Endomorphism rings

Today I want to set out an incredibly important example of a ring. This example (and variations) come up over and over and over again throughout mathematics.

Let’s start with an abelian group G. Now consider all the linear functions from G back to itself. Remember that “linear function” is just another term for “abelian group homomorphism” — it’s a function that preserves the addition — and that we call such homomorphisms from a group to itself “endomorphisms”.

As for any group, this set has the structure of a monoid. We can compose linear functions by, well, composing them. First do one, then do the other. We define the operation by \left[f\circ g\right](x)=f(g(x)) and verify that the composition is again a linear function:
\left[f\circ g\right](x+y)=f(g(x+y))=f(g(x)+g(y))=
f(g(x))+f(g(y))=[f\circ g](x)+[f\circ g](y)
This composition is associative, and the function that sends every element of G to itself is an identity, so we do have a monoid.

Less obvious, though, is the fact that we can add such functions. Just add the values! Define \left[f+g\right](x)=f(x)+g(x). We check that this is another endomorphism:
Now this addition is associative. Further the function {}0 sending every element of G to the element {}0 of G is an additive identity, and the function \left[-f\right](x)=-f(x) is an additive inverse. The collection of endomorphisms with this addition becomes an abelian group.

So we have two structures: an abelian group and a monoid. Do they play well together? Indeed!
\left[f_1\circ f_2\right](x)+\left[f_1\circ g_2\right](x)+\left[g_1\circ f_2\right](x)+\left[g_1\circ g_2\right](x)=
\left[f_1\circ f_2+f_1\circ g_2+g_1\circ f_2+g_1\circ g_2\right](x)
showing that composition distributes over addition.

So the endomorphisms of an abelian group G form a ring with unit. We call this ring {\rm End}(G), and like I said it will come up everywhere, so it’s worth internalizing.

April 10, 2007 Posted by | Ring theory | 1 Comment