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projective geometry

projective geometry, branch of geometry concerned with those properties of geometric figures that remain invariant under projection. The basic elements are points, lines, and planes, and the following statements are usually taken as assumptions: (1) two points lie in a unique line; (2) three points not on the same line determine a plane; (3) two lines in a plane intersect in a point; (4) two planes intersect in a line; (5) three planes not containing the same line intersect in a point. The basic elements retain their character under projection; e.g., the projection of a line is another line, and the point of intersection of two lines is projected into another point that is the intersection of the projections of the two original lines. However, lengths and ratios of lengths are not invariant under projection, nor are angles or the shapes of figures. The concept of parallelism does not appear at all in projective geometry; any pair of distinct lines intersects in a point, and if these lines are parallel in the sense of Euclidean geometry, then their point of intersection is at infinity. The plane that includes the ideal line, or line at infinity, consisting of all such ideal points, is called the projective plane. Two properties that are invariant under projection are the order of three or more points on a line and the harmonic relationship, or cross ratio, among four points, A, B, C, D, i.e., AC / BC  :  AD / BD. One important concept in projective geometry is that of duality. In the plane, the terms point and line are dual and can be interchanged in any valid statement to yield another valid statement, e.g., statements (1) and (3) above; in space, the terms plane, line, and point are interchanged with point, line, and plane, respectively, to yield dual statements (sometimes with slight changes in wording) as in statements (2) and (5) and statements (1) and (4) above. The origins of projective geometry are found in the work of Pappus, Gérard Desargues, and others. It first emerged as a discipline in its own right with the work of J. V. Poncelet (1822) and was placed on an axiomatic basis by K. G. C. von Staudt (1847), both these mathematicians adopting the pure, or synthetic, approach, in which algebraic and analytic methods are avoided and the treatment is purely geometric, in contrast to the approach of A. F. Möbius, Julius Plücker, and others. Projective geometry is more general than the familiar Euclidean geometry and includes the metric geometries (both Euclidean and non-Euclidean) as special cases.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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