The Stacks project

5.17 Characterizing proper maps

We include a section discussing the notion of a proper map in usual topology. We define a continuous map of topological spaces to be proper if it is universally closed and separated. Although this matches well with the definition of a proper morphism in algebraic geometry, this is different from the definition in Bourbaki. With our definition of a proper map of topological spaces, the proper base change theorem (Cohomology, Theorem 20.18.2) holds without any further assumptions. Furthermore, given a morphism $f : X \to Y$ of finite type schemes over $\mathbf{C}$ one has: $f$ is proper as a morphism of schemes if and only if the continuous map $f : X(\mathbf{C}) \to Y(\mathbf{C})$ on $\mathbf{C}$-points with the classical topology is proper. This is explained in [Exp. XII, Prop. 3.2(v), SGA1] which also has a footnote pointing out that they take properness in topology to be Bourbaki's notion with separatedness added on.

We find it useful to have names for three distinct concepts: separated, universally closed, and both of those together (i.e., properness). For a continuous map $f : X \to Y$ of locally compact Hausdorff spaces the word “proper” has long been used for the notion “$f^{-1}($compact$) =$ compact” and this is equivalent to universal closedness for such nice spaces. In fact, we will see the preimage condition formulated for clarity using the word “quasi-compact” is equivalent to universal closedness in general, if one includes the assumption of the map being closed. See also [Exercises 22-26 in Chapter II, LangReal] but beware that Lang uses “proper” as a synonym for “universally closed”, like Bourbaki does.

Lemma 5.17.1 (Tube lemma). Let $X$ and $Y$ be topological spaces. Let $A \subset X$ and $B \subset Y$ be quasi-compact subsets. Let $A \times B \subset W \subset X \times Y$ with $W$ open in $X \times Y$. Then there exists opens $A \subset U \subset X$ and $B \subset V \subset Y$ such that $U \times V \subset W$.

Proof. For every $a \in A$ and $b \in B$ there exist opens $U_{(a, b)}$ of $X$ and $V_{(a, b)}$ of $Y$ such that $(a, b) \in U_{(a, b)} \times V_{(a, b)} \subset W$. Fix $b$ and we see there exist a finite number $a_1, \ldots , a_ n$ such that $A \subset U_{(a_1, b)} \cup \ldots \cup U_{(a_ n, b)}$. Hence

\[ A \times \{ b\} \subset (U_{(a_1, b)} \cup \ldots \cup U_{(a_ n, b)}) \times (V_{(a_1, b)} \cap \ldots \cap V_{(a_ n, b)}) \subset W. \]

Thus for every $b \in B$ there exists opens $U_ b \subset X$ and $V_ b \subset Y$ such that $A \times \{ b\} \subset U_ b \times V_ b \subset W$. As above there exist a finite number $b_1, \ldots , b_ m$ such that $B \subset V_{b_1} \cup \ldots \cup V_{b_ m}$. Then we win because $A \times B \subset (U_{b_1} \cap \ldots \cap U_{b_ m}) \times (V_{b_1} \cup \ldots \cup V_{b_ m})$. $\square$

The notation in the following definition may be slightly different from what you are used to.

Definition 5.17.2. Let $f : X\to Y$ be a continuous map between topological spaces.

  1. We say that the map $f$ is closed if the image of every closed subset is closed.

  2. We say that the map $f$ is Bourbaki-proper1 if the map $Z \times X\to Z \times Y$ is closed for any topological space $Z$.

  3. We say that the map $f$ is quasi-proper if the inverse image $f^{-1}(V)$ of every quasi-compact subset $V \subset Y$ is quasi-compact.

  4. We say that $f$ is universally closed if the map $f': Z \times _ Y X \to Z$ is closed for any continuous map $g: Z \to Y$.

  5. We say that $f$ is proper if $f$ is separated and universally closed.

The following lemma is useful later.


Lemma 5.17.3. A topological space $X$ is quasi-compact if and only if the projection map $Z \times X \to Z$ is closed for any topological space $Z$.

Proof. (See also remark below.) If $X$ is not quasi-compact, there exists an open covering $X = \bigcup _{i \in I} U_ i$ such that no finite number of $U_ i$ cover $X$. Let $Z$ be the subset of the power set $\mathcal{P}(I)$ of $I$ consisting of $I$ and all nonempty finite subsets of $I$. Define a topology on $Z$ with as a basis for the topology the following sets:

  1. All subsets of $Z\setminus \{ I\} $.

  2. For every finite subset $K$ of $I$ the set $U_ K := \{ J\subset I \mid J \in Z, \ K\subset J \} )$.

It is left to the reader to verify this is the basis for a topology. Consider the subset of $Z \times X$ defined by the formula

\[ M = \{ (J, x) \mid J \in Z, \ x \in \bigcap \nolimits _{i \in J} U_ i^ c)\} \]

If $(J, x) \not\in M$, then $x \in U_ i$ for some $i \in J$. Hence $U_{\{ i\} } \times U_ i \subset Z \times X$ is an open subset containing $(J, x)$ and not intersecting $M$. Hence $M$ is closed. The projection of $M$ to $Z$ is $Z-\{ I\} $ which is not closed. Hence $Z \times X \to Z$ is not closed.

Assume $X$ is quasi-compact. Let $Z$ be a topological space. Let $M \subset Z \times X$ be closed. Let $z \in Z$ be a point which is not in $\text{pr}_1(M)$. By the Tube Lemma 5.17.1 there exists an open $U \subset Z$ such that $U \times X$ is contained in the complement of $M$. Hence $\text{pr}_1(M)$ is closed. $\square$


Theorem 5.17.5. Let $f: X\to Y$ be a continuous map between topological spaces. The following conditions are equivalent:

  1. The map $f$ is quasi-proper and closed.

  2. The map $f$ is Bourbaki-proper.

  3. The map $f$ is universally closed.

  4. The map $f$ is closed and $f^{-1}(y)$ is quasi-compact for any $y\in Y$.

Proof. (See also the remark below.) If the map $f$ satisfies (1), it automatically satisfies (4) because any single point is quasi-compact.

Assume map $f$ satisfies (4). We will prove it is universally closed, i.e., (3) holds. Let $g : Z \to Y$ be a continuous map of topological spaces and consider the diagram

\[ \xymatrix{ Z \times _ Y X \ar[r]_{g'} \ar[d]_{f'} & X \ar[d]^ f \\ Z \ar[r]^ g & Y } \]

During the proof we will use that $Z \times _ Y X \to Z \times X$ is a homeomorphism onto its image, i.e., that we may identify $Z \times _ Y X$ with the corresponding subset of $Z \times X$ with the induced topology. The image of $f' : Z \times _ Y X \to Z$ is $\mathop{\mathrm{Im}}(f') = \{ z : g(z) \in f(X)\} $. Because $f(X)$ is closed, we see that $\mathop{\mathrm{Im}}(f')$ is a closed subspace of $Z$. Consider a closed subset $P \subset Z \times _ Y X$. Let $z \in Z$, $z \not\in f'(P)$. If $z \not\in \mathop{\mathrm{Im}}(f')$, then $Z \setminus \mathop{\mathrm{Im}}(f')$ is an open neighbourhood which avoids $f'(P)$. If $z$ is in $\mathop{\mathrm{Im}}(f')$ then $(f')^{-1}\{ z\} = \{ z\} \times f^{-1}\{ g(z)\} $ and $f^{-1}\{ g(z)\} $ is quasi-compact by assumption. Because $P$ is a closed subset of $Z \times _ Y X$, we have a closed $P'$ of $Z \times X$ such that $P = P' \cap Z \times _ Y X$. Since $(f')^{-1}\{ z\} $ is a subset of $P^ c = P'^ c \cup (Z \times _ Y X)^ c$, and since $(f')^{-1}\{ z\} $ is disjoint from $(Z \times _ Y X)^ c$ we see that $(f')^{-1}\{ z\} $ is contained in $P'^ c$. We may apply the Tube Lemma 5.17.1 to $(f')^{-1}\{ z\} = \{ z\} \times f^{-1}\{ g(z)\} \subset (P')^ c \subset Z \times X$. This gives $V \times U$ containing $(f')^{-1}\{ z\} $ where $U$ and $V$ are open sets in $X$ and $Z$ respectively and $V \times U$ has empty intersection with $P'$. Then the set $V \cap g^{-1}(Y-f(U^ c))$ is open in $Z$ since $f$ is closed, contains $z$, and has empty intersection with the image of $P$. Thus $f'(P)$ is closed. In other words, the map $f$ is universally closed.

The implication (3) $\Rightarrow $ (2) is trivial. Namely, given any topological space $Z$ consider the projection morphism $g : Z \times Y \to Y$. Then it is easy to see that $f'$ is the map $Z \times X \to Z \times Y$, in other words that $(Z \times Y) \times _ Y X = Z \times X$. (This identification is a purely categorical property having nothing to do with topological spaces per se.)

Assume $f$ satisfies (2). We will prove it satisfies (1). Note that $f$ is closed as $f$ can be identified with the map $\{ pt\} \times X \to \{ pt\} \times Y$ which is assumed closed. Choose any quasi-compact subset $K \subset Y$. Let $Z$ be any topological space. Because $Z \times X \to Z \times Y$ is closed we see the map $Z \times f^{-1}(K) \to Z \times K$ is closed (if $T$ is closed in $Z \times f^{-1}(K)$, write $T = Z \times f^{-1}(K) \cap T'$ for some closed $T' \subset Z \times X$). Because $K$ is quasi-compact, $K \times Z\to Z$ is closed by Lemma 5.17.3. Hence the composition $Z \times f^{-1}(K)\to Z \times K \to Z$ is closed and therefore $f^{-1}(K)$ must be quasi-compact by Lemma 5.17.3 again. $\square$

Remark 5.17.6. Here are some references to the literature. In [I, p. 75, Theorem 1, Bourbaki] you can find: (2) $\Leftrightarrow $ (4). In [I, p. 77, Proposition 6, Bourbaki] you can find: (2) $\Rightarrow $ (1). Of course, trivially we have (1) $\Rightarrow $ (4). Thus (1), (2) and (4) are equivalent. The equivalence of (3) and (4) is [Chapter II, Exercise 25, LangReal].


Lemma 5.17.7. Let $f : X \to Y$ be a continuous map of topological spaces. If $X$ is quasi-compact and $Y$ is Hausdorff, then $f$ is universally closed.

Proof. Since every point of $Y$ is closed, we see from Lemma 5.12.3 that the closed subset $f^{-1}(y)$ of $X$ is quasi-compact for all $y \in Y$. Thus, by Theorem 5.17.5 it suffices to show that $f$ is closed. If $E \subset X$ is closed, then it is quasi-compact (Lemma 5.12.3), hence $f(E) \subset Y$ is quasi-compact (Lemma 5.12.7), hence $f(E)$ is closed in $Y$ (Lemma 5.12.4). $\square$

Lemma 5.17.8. Let $f : X \to Y$ be a continuous map of topological spaces. If $f$ is bijective, $X$ is quasi-compact, and $Y$ is Hausdorff, then $f$ is a homeomorphism.

Proof. It suffices to prove $f$ is closed, because this implies that $f^{-1}$ is continuous. If $T \subset X$ is closed, then $T$ is quasi-compact by Lemma 5.12.3, hence $f(T)$ is quasi-compact by Lemma 5.12.7, hence $f(T)$ is closed by Lemma 5.12.4. $\square$

[1] This is the terminology used in [Bourbaki]. Sometimes this property may be called “universally closed” in the literature.

Comments (2)

Comment #465 by Hanno on

Concerning Theorem 5.16.5, implication (4) => (3).

-line -3: Replace the last two sentences of the proof by: Then the set is open in since is closed, contains and has empty intersection with the image of

typos: -two times it should be instead of -line -3: instead of

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