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In topology, a topological space is called simply connected (or 1-connected, or 1-simply connected[1]) if it is path-connected and every path between two points can be continuously transformed, staying within the space, into any other such path while preserving the two endpoints in question (see below for an informal discussion).

If a space is not simply connected, the extent to which it fails to be simply connected can be measured by the fundamental group. Intuitively, the fundamental group detects certain kinds of holes in a space; if there are no holes, the fundamental group is trivial——equivalently, the space is simply connected.


Informal discussionEdit

Informally, an object in our space is simply connected if it consists of one piece and does not have any "holes" that pass all the way through it. For example, neither a doughnut nor a coffee cup (with handle) is simply connected, but a hollow rubber ball is simply connected. In two dimensions, a circle is not simply connected, but a disk and a line are. Spaces that are connected but not simply connected are called non-simply connected or multiply connected.

A sphere is simply connected because every loop can be contracted (on the surface) to a point.

To illustrate the notion of simple connectedness, suppose we are considering an object in three dimensions; for example, an object in the shape of a box, a doughnut, or a corkscrew. Think of the object as a strangely shaped aquarium full of water, with rigid sides. Now think of a diver who takes a long piece of string and trails it through the water inside the aquarium, in whatever way he pleases, and then joins the two ends of the string to form a closed loop. Now the loop begins to contract on itself, getting smaller and smaller. (Assume that the loop magically knows the best way to contract, and won't get snagged on jagged edges if it can possibly avoid them.) If the loop can always shrink all the way to a point, then the aquarium's interior is simply connected. If sometimes the loop gets caught—for example, around the central hole in the doughnut—then the object is not simply connected.

Notice that the definition only rules out "handle-shaped" holes. A sphere (or, equivalently, a rubber ball with a hollow center) is simply connected, because any loop on the surface of a sphere can contract to a point, even though it has a "hole" in the hollow center. The stronger condition, that the object has no holes of any dimension, is called contractibility.

Formal definition and equivalent formulationsEdit

This set is not simply connected because it has holes.

A topological space X is called simply connected if it is path-connected and any continuous map f : S1X (where S1 denotes the unit circle in Euclidean 2-space) can be contracted to a point in the following sense: there exists a continuous map F : D2X (where D2 denotes the closed unit disk in Euclidean 2-space) such that F restricted to S1 is f.

An equivalent formulation is this: X is simply connected if and only if it is path-connected, and whenever p : [0,1] → X and q : [0,1] → X are two paths (i.e.: continuous maps) with the same start and endpoint (p(0) = q(0) and p(1) = q(1)), then p and q are homotopic relative {0,1}. Intuitively, this means that p can be "continuously deformed" to get q while keeping the endpoints fixed. Hence the term simply connected: for any two given points in X, there is one and "essentially" only one path connecting them.

A third way to express the same: X is simply connected if and only if X is path-connected and the fundamental group of X at each of its points is trivial, i.e. consists only of the identity element. Similarly, X is simply connected if and only if for all points x, y in X, the set of morphisms   in the fundamental groupoid of X has only one element.[2]

Yet another formulation is often used in complex analysis: an open subset X of C is simply connected if and only if both X and its complement in the Riemann sphere are connected.

The set of complex numbers with imaginary part strictly greater than zero and less than one, furnishes a nice example of an unbounded, connected, open subset of the plane whose complement is not connected. It is nevertheless simply connected. It might also be worth pointing out that a relaxation of the requirement that X be connected leads to an interesting exploration of open subsets of the plane with connected extended complement. For example, a (not necessarily connected) open set has connected extended complement exactly when each of its connected components are simply connected.


A torus is not simply connected. Neither of the colored loops can be contracted to a point without leaving the surface.


A surface (two-dimensional topological manifold) is simply connected if and only if it is connected and its genus is 0. Intuitively, the genus is the number of "handles" of the surface.

If a space X is not simply connected, one can often rectify this defect by using its universal cover, a simply connected space which maps to X in a particularly nice way.

If X and Y are homotopy-equivalent and X is simply connected, then so is Y.

Note that the image of a simply connected set under a continuous function need not be simply connected. Take for example the complex plane under the exponential map: the image is C - {0}, which clearly is not simply connected.

The notion of simple connectedness is important in complex analysis because of the following facts:

The notion of simple connectedness is also a crucial condition in the Poincaré conjecture.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "n-connected space in nLab". Retrieved 2017-09-17. 
  2. ^ Ronald,, Brown, (June 2006). Topology and Groupoids. Academic Search Complete. North Charleston: CreateSpace. ISBN 1419627228. OCLC 712629429. 
  • Spanier, Edwin (December 1994). Algebraic Topology. Springer. ISBN 0-387-94426-5. 
  • Conway, John (1986). Functions of One Complex Variable I. Springer. ISBN 0-387-90328-3. 
  • Bourbaki, Nicolas (2005). Lie Groups and Lie Algebras. Springer. ISBN 3-540-43405-4. 
  • Gamelin, Theodore (January 2001). Complex Analysis. Springer. ISBN 0-387-95069-9. 
  • Joshi, Kapli (August 1983). Introduction to General Topology. New Age Publishers. ISBN 0-85226-444-5.