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Chapter 12 Matrix Groups and Symmetry

When Felix Klein (1849–1925) accepted a chair at the University of Erlangen, he outlined in his inaugural address a program to classify different geometries. Central to Klein's program was the theory of groups: he considered geometry to be the study of properties that are left invariant under transformation groups. Groups, especially matrix groups, have now become important in the study of symmetry and have found applications in such disciplines as chemistry and physics. In the first part of this chapter, we will examine some of the classical matrix groups, such as the general linear group, the special linear group, and the orthogonal group. We will then use these matrix groups to investigate some of the ideas behind geometric symmetry.