In mathematics, the category of topological spaces, often denoted Top, is the category whose objects are topological spaces and whose morphisms are continuous maps. This is a category because the composition of two continuous maps is again continuous, and the identity function is continuous. The study of Top and of properties of topological spaces using the techniques of category theory is known as categorical topology.
N.B. Some authors use the name Top for the categories with topological manifolds or with compactly generated spaces as objects and continuous maps as morphisms.
Like many categories, the category Top is a concrete category, meaning its objects are sets with additional structure (i.e. topologies) and its morphisms are functions preserving this structure. There is a natural forgetful functor
to the category of sets which assigns to each topological space the underlying set and to each continuous map the underlying function.
The forgetful functor U has both a left adjoint
which equips a given set with the discrete topology, and a right adjoint
which equips a given set with the indiscrete topology. Both of these functors are, in fact, right inverses to U (meaning that UD and UI are equal to the identity functor on Set). Moreover, since any function between discrete or between indiscrete spaces is continuous, both of these functors give full embeddings of Set into Top.
Top is also fiber-complete meaning that the category of all topologies on a given set X (called the fiber of U above X) forms a complete lattice when ordered by inclusion. The greatest element in this fiber is the discrete topology on X, while the least element is the indiscrete topology.
Top is the model of what is called a topological category. These categories are characterized by the fact that every structured source has a unique initial lift . In Top the initial lift is obtained by placing the initial topology on the source. Topological categories have many properties in common with Top (such as fiber-completeness, discrete and indiscrete functors, and unique lifting of limits).
The category Top is both complete and cocomplete, which means that all small limits and colimits exist in Top. In fact, the forgetful functor U : Top → Set uniquely lifts both limits and colimits and preserves them as well. Therefore, (co)limits in Top are given by placing topologies on the corresponding (co)limits in Set.
Specifically, if F is a diagram in Top and (L, φ : L → F) is a limit of UF in Set, the corresponding limit of F in Top is obtained by placing the initial topology on (L, φ : L → F). Dually, colimits in Top are obtained by placing the final topology on the corresponding colimits in Set.
Unlike many algebraic categories, the forgetful functor U : Top → Set does not create or reflect limits since there will typically be non-universal cones in Top covering universal cones in Set.
Examples of limits and colimits in Top include:
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