Lebesgue covering dimension

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Template:No footnotes In mathematics, the Lebesgue covering dimension or topological dimension of a topological space is one of several different ways of defining the dimension of the space in a topologically invariant way.


An open cover of a topological space X is a family of open sets whose union is X. The ply of a cover is the smallest number n (if it exists) such that each point of the space belongs to at most n sets in the cover. A refinement of a cover C is another cover, each of whose sets is a subset of a set in C; its ply may be smaller than, or possibly larger than, the ply of C. The covering dimension of a topological space X is defined to be the minimum value of n, such that every finite open cover C of X has a refinement with ply at most n + 1. If no such minimal n exists, the space is said to be of infinite covering dimension.

As a special case, a topological space is zero-dimensional with respect to the covering dimension if every open cover of the space has a refinement consisting of disjoint open sets so that any point in the space is contained in exactly one open set of this refinement.


Any given open cover of the unit circle will have a refinement consisting of a collection of open arcs. The circle has dimension one, by this definition, because any such cover can be further refined to the stage where a given point x of the circle is contained in at most two open arcs. That is, whatever collection of arcs we begin with, some can be discarded or shrunk, such that the remainder still covers the circle but with simple overlaps.

Similarly, any open cover of the unit disk in the two-dimensional plane can be refined so that any point of the disk is contained in no more than three open sets, while two are in general not sufficient. The covering dimension of the disk is thus two.

More generally, the n-dimensional Euclidean space has covering dimension n.

A non-technical illustration of these examples below.

Below is a refinement of a cover (above) of a circular line (black). Notice how in the refinement no point on the line is contained in more than two sets. Note also how the sets link to each other to form a "chain".
Below left is a refinement of a cover (above) of a planar shape (dark) so that all points in the shape are contained in at most three sets. Below right is an attempt to refine the cover so that no point would be contained in more than two sets. This fails in the intersection of set borders. Thus, a planar shape isn't "webby" or cannot be covered with "chains", but is in a sense thicker; i.e., its topological dimension must be higher than one.



The first formal definition of covering dimension was given by Eduard Čech. It was based on an earlier result of Henri Lebesgue.

See also


Historical references

  • Template:Aut, General Spaces and Cartesian Spaces, (1926) Communications to the Amsterdam Academy of Sciences. English translation reprinted in Classics on Fractals, Gerald A.Edgar, editor, Addison-Wesley (1993) ISBN 0-201-58701-7
  • Template:Aut, Dimensionstheorie, (1928) B.G Teubner Publishers, Leipzig.
  • A. R. Pears, Dimension Theory of General Spaces, (1975) Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-20515-8

Modern references

  • V.V. Fedorchuk, The Fundamentals of Dimension Theory, appearing in Encyclopaedia of Mathematical Sciences, Volume 17, General Topology I, (1993) A. V. Arkhangel'skii and L. S. Pontryagin (Eds.), Springer-Verlag, Berlin ISBN 3-540-18178-4.

External links

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