Fundamental group

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In mathematics, more specifically algebraic topology, the fundamental group (discovered by Henri Poincaré who gave the definition in his article Analysis Situs, published in 1895) is a group associated to any given pointed topological space that provides a way of determining when two paths, starting and ending at a fixed base point, can be continuously deformed into each other. Intuitively, it records information about the basic shape, or holes, of the topological space. The fundamental group is the first and simplest of the homotopy groups.

Fundamental groups can be studied using the theory of covering spaces, since a fundamental group coincides with the group of deck transformations of the associated universal covering space. Its abelianisation can be identified with the first homology group of the space. When the topological space is homeomorphic to a simplicial complex, its fundamental group can be described explicitly in terms of generators and relations.

Historically, the concept of fundamental group first emerged in the theory of Riemann surfaces, in the work of Bernhard Riemann, Henri Poincaré and Felix Klein, where it describes the monodromy properties of complex functions, as well as providing a complete topological classification of closed surfaces.

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