## Review of Group Theory: Solvable Groups

**Point of post: **In this post we introduce the notion of solvable groups and derive some simple facts about them.

*Motivation*

Solvable groups are things that at first may seem useless. They have a somewhat complicated definition that seems almost completely arbitrary–in fact the opposite is true. The notion of solvable groups arose in the study of the solvability by radicals of certain polynomial equations, in particular in Galois theory. Specifically it was discovered that to every polynomial is associated a group (called the Galois group) and moreover it was discovered that the polynomial was solvable if and only if there existed a point after which a certain ‘normal chain of subgroups’ terminated (in the sense that after that point all the groups in the chain are trivial). With such an utterly fascinating result it is clear that the precise definition of this aforementioned condition, sufficient conditions for groups to have this condition, and properties that such groups have is absolutely important. This notion is the notion of solvability.

*Solvable Groups*

Let be a group. Recall the definition of the commutator subgroup of a group and recursively define by and . We call then the series

the *derived series* of (noting that the normality of each subgroup having already been proven). We say that the derived series *terminates *if there exists some for which implies . With this in mind we define a group to be *solvable *if its derived series terminates.

An important thing to note is that a non-trivial non-abelian simple group can never be solvable. Indeed, suppose that is non-abelian and simple. Note then that and so by assumption of simplicity one must conclude that or . Now, since is non-abelian we know that and so . It easily follows then by induction that for every and so is not simple. We summarize this in the slightly more (for us) interesting form:

**Theorem:** *Let be a non-trivial non-abelian solvable group. Then, is not simple.*

Our next result will give us an equivalent formulation of solvability. Namely:

**Theorem: ***Let be a group. Then is solvable if and only if there exists a finite set of subgroups of such that*

*and is abelian for each .*

**Proof: **Assume first that is solvable. We’ve already seen in past posts that for any group one has that and so we get that for . Moreover, since is just the abelinization of it is evidently abelian. Since (if terminates at ) one has that satisfies the conditions and so the conclusion follows.

Conversely, suppose that such a series of ‘s existed. Then, we know by our previous knowledge of commutator subgroups that since is normal that . Thus, by induction we have that and so assume that then and the induction is complete. In particular we see that this implies that so that and thus the derived series of terminates. The conclusion follows.

Our first results give us some sufficiency conditions for when a group is solvable. This will enable us to conclude that a large array of groups (most notably -groups) are solvable. In particular:

**Theorem:*** A subgroup of a solvable group is solvable. Moreover, let be a group and . Then, is solvable if and only if and are solvable.*

**Proof: **Suppose first that is solvable and . Let be the sequence of subgroups such that is abelian. Define . By first principles we know that . Moreover, we claim that is abelian for . Indeed, by the second isomorphism theorem we have that

That said and so is isomorphic to a subgroup of an abelian group, and thus is clearly abelian. The conclusion follows.

Secondly, suppose that and and are both solvable. Note by the fourth isomorphism theorem if there exists subgroups moreover

and thus is abelian. But, since is solvable there exists . Thus, combining these two we get

from where the conclusion follows.

Conversely, by the first part of the theorem we know that is abelian so it remains to show that is solvable. More generally any homomorphic image of is solvable. To see this suppose that is an epimorphism. Note then the trivial fact that if is the derived series for that where is the derived series for In particular and so and thus is solvable.

With this we can make a “basic” (in a sense made apparent by a later theorem) sufficiency condition for groups to solvable. Namely:

**Theorem: ***Every -group is solvable.*

**Proof: **We prove this by induction. Namely fix an arbitrary prime and we induct on groups of order . If then every group is abelian and thus trivially solvable. So, assume that every group of order is prime and let be a group of order . We know from first principles that is non-trivial. If and we’re done so assume not. Then, we have that , , and and thus by the induction hypothesis and are solvable. But, by our previous theorem this implies that itself is solvable. Thus, the induction is complete.

**References:**

1. Grillet, Pierre A. *Abstract Algebra*. New York: Springer, 2007. Print.

2. Hungerford, Thomas W. *Algebra. Hungerford.* New York: Rinehart and Winston, 1974. Print.

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