In my previous post, I showed that compact objects in the category of topological spaces have to be finite. Today we improve this to a full characterisation.

**Lemma.** *Let be a topological space. Then is a compact object in if and only if is finite discrete.*

This result dates back to Gabriel and Ulmer [GU71, 6.4], as was pointed out to me by Jiří Rosický in reply to my MO question and answer of this account (of which this post is essentially a retelling). Our proof is different from the one given in [GU71], instead using a variant of an argument given in the n-Lab.

Before giving the proof, we construct an auxiliary space against which we will be testing compactness. It is essentially the colimit constructed in the n-Lab, except that we swapped the roles of and (the reason for this will become clear in the proof).

**Definition.** For all , let be the topological space , where the nonempty open sets are given by for . They form a topology since

Define the map by

This is continuous since equals if and if . Let be the colimit of this diagram.

Since the elements map to the same element in , we conclude that is the two-point space , where the map is the second coordinate projection. Moreover, the colimit topology on is the indiscrete topology. Indeed, neither nor are open.

*Proof of Lemma.* If is compact, then my previous post shows that is finite. Let be any subset, and let be the indicator function . It is continuous because has the indiscrete topology. Since is a compact object, has to factor through some . Let be the first coordinate projection, i.e.

Let be a number such that for all ; this exists because is finite. Then , which shows that is open. Since was arbitrary, we conclude that is discrete.

Conversely, every finite discrete space is a compact object. Indeed, any map out of is continuous, and finite sets are compact in .

[GU71] Gabriel, Peter and Ulmer, Friedrich, *Lokal präsentierbare Kategorien.* Lecture Notes in Mathematics **221**. Springer-Verlag, Berlin-New York, 1971. DOI: 10.1007/BFb0059396.