# Cartan–Dieudonné theorem

In mathematics, the **Cartan–Dieudonné theorem**, named after Élie Cartan and Jean Dieudonné, establishes that every orthogonal transformation in an *n*-dimensional symmetric bilinear space can be described as the composition of at most *n* reflections.

The notion of a symmetric bilinear space is a generalization of Euclidean space whose structure is defined by a symmetric bilinear form (which need not be positive definite, so is not necessarily an inner product – for instance, a pseudo-Euclidean space is also a symmetric bilinear space). The orthogonal transformations in the space are those automorphisms which preserve the value of the bilinear form between every pair of vectors; in Euclidean space, this corresponds to preserving distances and angles. These orthogonal transformations form a group under composition, the orthogonal group.

For example, in the two dimensional Euclidean plane, every orthogonal transformation is either a reflection across a line through the origin or a rotation about the origin (which can be written as the composition of two reflections). Any arbitrary composition of such rotations and reflections can be rewritten as a composition of no more than 2 reflections. Similarly, in three-dimensional Euclidean space, every orthogonal transformation can be described as a single reflection, a rotation (2 reflections), or an improper rotation (3 reflections).

## Formal statement

Let (*V*, *b*) be an *n*-dimensional, non-degenerate symmetric bilinear space over a field with characteristic not equal to 2. Then, every element of the orthogonal group O(*V*, *b*) is a composition of at most *n* reflections.

## See also

## References

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*Geometric Methods and Applications*. Texts in Applied Mathematics.**38**. Springer-Verlag. ISBN 0-387-95044-3. Zbl 1031.53001. - Gallot, Sylvestre; Hulin, Dominique; Lafontaine, Jacques (2004).
*Riemannian Geometry*. Universitext. Springer-Verlag. ISBN 3-540-20493-8. Zbl 1068.53001. - Garling, D. J. H. (2011).
*Clifford Algebras: An Introduction*. London Mathematical Society Student Texts.**78**. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-10742219-3. Zbl 1235.15025. - Lam, T. Y. (2005).
*Introduction to quadratic forms over fields*. Graduate Studies in Mathematics.**67**. Providence, RI: American Mathematical Society. ISBN 0-8218-1095-2. Zbl 1068.11023.