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In mathematics, Stone's representation theorem for Boolean algebras states that every Boolean algebra is isomorphic to a certain field of sets. The theorem is fundamental to the deeper understanding of Boolean algebra that emerged in the first half of the 20th century. The theorem was first proved by Marshall H. Stone (1936). Stone was led to it by his study of the spectral theory of operators on a Hilbert space.
Each Boolean algebra B has an associated topological space, denoted here S(B), called its Stone space. The points in S(B) are the ultrafilters on B, or equivalently the homomorphisms from B to the two-element Boolean algebra. The topology on S(B) is generated by a (closed) basis consisting of all sets of the form
where b is an element of B. This is the topology of pointwise convergence of nets of homomorphisms into the two-element Boolean algebra.
For every Boolean algebra B, S(B) is a compact totally disconnected Hausdorff space; such spaces are called Stone spaces (also profinite spaces). Conversely, given any topological space X, the collection of subsets of X that are clopen (both closed and open) is a Boolean algebra.
A simple version of Stone's representation theorem states that every Boolean algebra B is isomorphic to the algebra of clopen subsets of its Stone space S(B). The isomorphism sends an element b∈B to the set of all ultrafilters that contain b. This is a clopen set because of the choice of topology on S(B) and because B is a Boolean algebra.
Restating the theorem using the language of category theory; the theorem states that there is a duality between the category of Boolean algebras and the category of Stone spaces. This duality means that in addition to the correspondence between Boolean algebras and their Stone spaces, each homomorphism from a Boolean algebra A to a Boolean algebra B corresponds in a natural way to a continuous function from S(B) to S(A). In other words, there is a contravariant functor that gives an equivalence between the categories. This was an early example of a nontrivial duality of categories.
The proof requires either the axiom of choice or a weakened form of it. Specifically, the theorem is equivalent to the Boolean prime ideal theorem, a weakened choice principle that states that every Boolean algebra has a prime ideal.
An extension of the classical Stone duality to the category of Boolean spaces (= zero-dimensional locally compact Hausdorff spaces) and continuous maps (respectively, perfect maps) was obtained by G. D. Dimov (respectively, by H. P. Doctor) (see the references below).