Transfer (group theory)

In the mathematical field of group theory, the transfer defines, given a group G and a subgroup of finite index H, a group homomorphism from G to the abelianization of H. It can be used in conjunction with the Sylow theorems to obtain certain numerical results on the existence of finite simple groups.

The transfer was defined by Issai Schur (1902) and rediscovered by Emil Artin (1929).[1]


The construction of the map proceeds as follows:[2] Let [G:H] = n and select coset representatives, say

for H in G, so G can be written as a disjoint union

Given y in G, each yxi is in some coset xjH and so

for some index j and some element hi of H. The value of the transfer for y is defined to be the image of the product

in H/H′, where H′ is the commutator subgroup of H. The order of the factors is irrelevant since H/H′ is abelian.

It is straightforward to show that, though the individual hi depends on the choice of coset representatives, the value of the transfer does not. It is also straightforward to show that the mapping defined this way is a homomorphism.


If G is abelian then the transfer takes any element y of G to y[G:H].

A simple case is that seen in the Gauss lemma on quadratic residues, which in effect computes the transfer for the multiplicative group of non-zero residue classes modulo a prime number p, with respect to the subgroup {1, 1}.[1] One advantage of looking at it that way is the ease with which the correct generalisation can be found, for example for cubic residues in the case that p 1 is divisible by three.

Homological interpretation

This homomorphism may be set in the context of group cohomology (strictly, group homology), providing a more abstract definition.[3] The transfer is also seen in algebraic topology, when it is defined between classifying spaces of groups.


The name transfer translates the German Verlagerung, which was coined by Helmut Hasse.

Commutator subgroup

If G is finitely generated, the commutator subgroup G′ of G has finite index in G and H=G′, then the corresponding transfer map is trivial. In other words, the map sends G to 0 in the abelianization of G′. This is important in proving the principal ideal theorem in class field theory.[1] See the Emil Artin-John Tate Class Field Theory notes.

See also

  • Focal subgroup theorem, an important application of transfer
  • By Artin's reciprocity law, the Artin transfer describes the principalization of ideal classes in extensions of algebraic number fields.


  1. Serre (1979) p.122
  2. Following Scott 3.5
  3. Serre (1979) p.120
  • Artin, Emil (1929), "Idealklassen in Oberkörpern und allgemeines Reziprozitätsgesetz", Abhandlungen aus dem Mathematischen Seminar der Universität Hamburg, 7 (1): 46–51, doi:10.1007/BF02941159

Schur, Issai (1902), "Neuer Beweis eines Satzes über endliche Gruppen", Sitzungsberichte der Königlich Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften: 1013–1019, JFM 33.0146.01

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