Chapter 1.4 The mathematical background of the subgroup tables

Symmetry relations between space groups

Second Online Edition (2011)

Part 1. Space groups and their subgroups

  1. Gabriele Nebe

Published Online: 15 DEC 2011

DOI: 10.1107/97809553602060000793

International Tables for Crystallography

International Tables for Crystallography

How to Cite

Nebe, G. 2011. The mathematical background of the subgroup tables. International Tables for Crystallography. A1:1:1.4:27–40.

Author Information

  1. Lehrstuhl D für Mathematik, Rheinisch‐Westfälische Technische Hochschule, D‐52062 Aachen, Germany

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2011



This chapter gives a brief introduction to the mathematics involved in the determination of the subgroups of space groups. The algebraic concepts of vector spaces, the affine space and the affine group are defined and discussed. A section on groups with special emphasis on actions of groups on sets, the Sylow theorems and the isomorphism theorems follows. After the definition of space groups, their maximal subgroups are considered and the theorem of Hermann is derived. It is shown that a maximal subgroup of a space group has a finite index and is a space group again. From the proof that three‐dimensional space groups are soluble groups, it follows that the indices of their maximal subgroups are prime powers. Special considerations are devoted to the subgroups of index 2 and 3. Furthermore, a maximal subgroup is an isomorphic subgroup if its index is larger than 4. In addition, more special quantitative results on the numbers and indices of maximal subgroups of space groups are derived. The abstract definitions and theorems are illustrated by several examples and applications.


  • Abelian groups;
  • CARAT;
  • Euclidean affine spaces;
  • Euclidean groups;
  • Euclidean metrics;
  • Euclidean vector spaces;
  • Hermann’s theorem;
  • Lagrange’s theorem;
  • Sylow’s theorems;
  • affine groups;
  • affine mappings;
  • affine spaces;
  • automorphism;
  • characteristic subgroups;
  • congruence;
  • factor groups;
  • faithful actions;
  • isomorphism;
  • generators;
  • groups;
  • homomorphism;
  • klassengleiche subgroups;
  • cosets;
  • isomorphic groups;
  • mappings;
  • normalizers;
  • space groups;
  • isomorphism theorems;
  • translation subgroups;
  • maximal subgroups;
  • translationengleiche subgroups;
  • vector spaces;
  • orbits;
  • alternating groups;
  • symmorphic space groups