Saunders Mac Lane famously said that Bourbaki (in the person of Pierre Samuel) “just missed” developing the notion of an adjunction in 1948 a decade before Daniel Kan. When adjoints are defined using heteromorphisms or chimera morphisms (first done by Bodo Pareigis in 1970), then indeed Samuel was only a now-simple dualization away from defining adjoints. Since the heteromorphic treatment allows adjunctions to be factored into two, in general, independent universal mapping properties (UMPs), we also pose the question as to whether adjunctions or UMPs should be considered as category theory’s most important concept. It seems Mac Lane and most orthodox category theorists would say adjunctions but Grothendieck among others would say UMPs stated using representable functors.

## Determination through universals

May 28, 2013 by

Semiadjunctions (essentially a formulation of a universal mapping property using hets) turn out to be the appropriate concept for applications of category theory in the life sciences.