Derived set (mathematics)

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In mathematics, more specifically in point-set topology, the derived set of a subset of a topological space is the set of all limit points of It is usually denoted by


The concept was first introduced by Georg Cantor in 1872 and he developed set theory in large part to study derived sets on the real line.


If is endowed with its usual Euclidean topology then the derived set of the half-open interval is the closed interval

Consider with the topology (open sets) consisting of the empty set and any subset of that contains 1. The derived set of is [1]


If and are subsets of the topological space then the derived set has the following properties: [2]

A subset of a topological space is closed precisely when [1] that is, when contains all its limit points. For any subset the set is closed and is the closure of (i.e. the set ). [3]

The derived set of a subset of a space need not be closed in general. For example, if with the trivial topology, the set has derived set which is not closed in But the derived set of a closed set is always closed. (Proof: Assuming is a closed subset of which shows that take the derived set on both sides to get i.e., is closed in ) In addition, if is a T1 space, the derived set of every subset of is closed in [4] [5]

Two subsets and are separated precisely when they are disjoint and each is disjoint from the other's derived set (though the derived sets don't need to be disjoint from each other). This condition is often, using closures, written as

and is known as the Hausdorff-Lennes Separation Condition. [6]

A bijection between two topological spaces is a homeomorphism if and only if the derived set of the image (in the second space) of any subset of the first space is the image of the derived set of that subset. [7]

A space is a T1 space if every subset consisting of a single point is closed. [8] In a T1 space, the derived set of a set consisting of a single element is empty (Example 2 above is not a T1 space). It follows that in T1 spaces, the derived set of any finite set is empty and furthermore,

for any subset and any point of the space. In other words, the derived set is not changed by adding to or removing from the given set a finite number of points. [9] It can also be shown that in a T1 space, for any subset [10]

A set with is called dense-in-itself and can contain no isolated points. A set with is called perfect. [11] Equivalently, a perfect set is a closed dense-in-itself set, or, put another way, a closed set with no isolated points. Perfect sets are particularly important in applications of the Baire category theorem.

The Cantor–Bendixson theorem states that any Polish space can be written as the union of a countable set and a perfect set. Because any Gδ subset of a Polish space is again a Polish space, the theorem also shows that any Gδ subset of a Polish space is the union of a countable set and a set that is perfect with respect to the induced topology.

Topology in terms of derived sets

Because homeomorphisms can be described entirely in terms of derived sets, derived sets have been used as the primitive notion in topology. A set of points can be equipped with an operator mapping subsets of to subsets of such that for any set and any point :

  1. implies
  2. implies

Calling a set closed if will define a topology on the space in which is the derived set operator, that is,

Cantor–Bendixson rank

For ordinal numbers the -th Cantor–Bendixson derivative of a topological space is defined by repeatedly applying the derived set operation using transfinite recursion as follows:

The transfinite sequence of Cantor–Bendixson derivatives of must eventually be constant. The smallest ordinal such that is called the Cantor–Bendixson rank of

See also


  1. 1 2 Baker 1991 , p. 41
  2. Pervin 1964 , p.38
  3. Baker 1991 , p. 42
  4. Engelking 1989 , p. 47
  5. "General topology - Proving the derived set $E'$ is closed".
  6. Pervin 1964 , p. 51
  7. Hocking, John G.; Young, Gail S. (1988) [1961], Topology, Dover, p.  4, ISBN   0-486-65676-4
  8. Pervin 1964 , p. 70
  9. Kuratowski 1966 , p.77
  10. Kuratowski 1966 , p.76
  11. Pervin 1964 , p. 62

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