The Klein Correspondence

One of the central and important concepts in projective geometry is the beautiful connection between 3-dimensional projective space and the Klein quadric. As is indicated by the title, this correspondence between these two geometries was named after the German mathematician Felix Klein, who studied it in his dissertation Über die Transformation der allgemeinen Gleichung des zweiten Grades zwischen Linien-Koordinaten auf eine kanonische Form (1868). The Klein Correspondence can be used to give geometric understanding for certain isomorphisms of low rank classical groups, and we will give an example of some of these in a follow-up post. In geometry, the Klein Correspondence can sometimes illuminate an obscure object in projective 3-space, for the Klein quadric is naturally embedded in a 5-dimensional projective space where there is an added richness to the geometry, and one has available other ways to distinguish certain configurations. For example, if you were to learn about linear complexes in 3-dimensional projective space, you might find one class known as the “parabolic congruences” as a somewhat messy object of pencils of lines centered on the points of a common line. However, under the Klein Correspondence, a parabolic congruence becomes a quadratic cone: one of the first 3-dimensional geometric objects we first encountered in school mathematics. Notice that I have not specified the field we are working over; it won’t matter!

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