Let $M$ and $N$ be two n-dimensional smooth manifolds.Suppose their underlying topological spaces are homeomorphic through $f$. Does $f$ automatically become a diffeomorphism with respect to the given smooth structures? If not, can I adjust any of the smooth structures to make $f$ a diffeomorphism? What if I restrict the manifolds to be embedded manifolds in Euclidean space $\mathbb{E}^n$ with endowed topology and smooth structure?

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    $\begingroup$ You might find this interesting: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… $\endgroup$ Apr 21, 2014 at 4:47
  • $\begingroup$ In high dimensions, adjustment may not be possible. A summary of what is currently known can be found in this answer for a related question on MO. $\endgroup$ Apr 21, 2014 at 7:31
  • $\begingroup$ The answer is no. Take exotic 7-spheres. $\endgroup$ May 22, 2021 at 15:50
  • $\begingroup$ @BrianFitzpatrick : If X,Y are homeomorphic but not diffeomorphic, what properties distinguish them? $\endgroup$
    – MSIS
    May 13 at 23:40

2 Answers 2


Let $M=N=\mathbb R$, endowed with its usual structure of a smooth manifold, and let$f:M\to N$ be the map such that $f(x)=x^3$. This is a homeomorphism but not a diffeo!

Now, if $f:M\to N$ is a homeomorphism of smooth manifolds, you can always «adjust» the smooth structures so that $f$ becomes a diffeo: indeed, you should be able to prove the following:

if $M$ is a smooth manifold, $N$ a topological space and $f:M\to N$ a homeomorphism, then there is a structure of smooth manifold on $N$ such that $f$ becomes a diffeomorphism.

  • $\begingroup$ In your second and third paragraphs, are you still assuming that $M = N = \mathbb{R}$ or are you now allowing them to be arbitrary smooth manifolds, as in the OP? $\endgroup$
    – tparker
    Aug 21, 2018 at 16:21

In higher dimensions there exist exotic spheres which are smooth manifolds that are homeomorphic but not diffeomorphic to the $n$-sphere.

This gives a negative answer to your first question.

If by "adjust any of the smooth structure" means throw away the smooth structure on one of the manifolds and install a new unrelated one, then obviously you can use $f$ to transfer the smooth structure of one manifold to another¸ and $f$ then trivially becomes diffeomorphism. But arguably the manifold whose structure you "adjusted" wont't be the same smooth manifold anymore.

If I'm understanding things correctly, the exotic spheres can even be embedded smoothly in $\mathbb R^m$ for sufficiently large $m$.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, you are understanding things correctly: Whitney proved that any connected (Hausdorff and second countable, of course) differential manifold of dimension $n$ can be embedded smoothly into $\mathbb R^{2n}$ . $\endgroup$ Apr 21, 2014 at 7:52
  • $\begingroup$ @ Georeges Elencwajg : If M,X are homeomorphic but not diffeomorphic, what properties does X have that M does not? $\endgroup$
    – MSIS
    May 13 at 23:22

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