Smale conjecture

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The Smale conjecture, named after Stephen Smale, is the statement that the diffeomorphism group of the 3-sphere has the homotopy-type of its isometry group, the orthogonal group O(4).

Equivalent statements

There are several equivalent statements of the Smale conjecture. One is that the component of the unknot in the space of smooth embeddings of the circle in 3-space has the homotopy-type of the round circles, equivalently, O(3). Another equivalent statement is that the group of diffeomorphisms of the 3-ball which restrict to the identity on the boundary is contractible.


  • S.Smale, Diffeomorphisms of the 2-sphere, Proc. AMS 1959.