In geometry, a motion is an isometry of a metric space. For instance, a plane equipped with the Euclidean distance metric is a metric space in which a mapping associating congruent figures is a motion. More generally, the term motion is a synonym for surjective isometry in metric geometry, including elliptic geometry and hyperbolic geometry. In the latter case, hyperbolic motions provide an approach to the subject for beginners.
Motions can be divided into direct and indirect motions. Direct, proper or rigid motions are motions like translations and rotations that preserve the orientation of a chiral shape. Indirect, or improper motions are motions like reflections, glide reflections and Improper rotations that invert the orientation of a chiral shape. Some geometers define motion in such a way that only direct motions are motions.
Given a geometry, the set of motions forms a group under composition of mappings. This group of motions is noted for its properties. For example, the Euclidean group is noted for the normal subgroup of translations. In the plane, a direct Euclidean motion is either a translation or a rotation, while in space every direct Euclidean motion may be expressed as a screw displacement according to Chasles' theorem. When the underlying space is a Riemannian manifold, the group of motions is a Lie group. Furthermore, the manifold has constant curvature if and only if, for every pair of points and every isometry, there is a motion taking one point to the other for which the motion induces the isometry.
An early appreciation of the role of motion in geometry was given by Alhazen (965 to 1039). His work "Space and its Nature" uses comparisons of the dimensions of a mobile body to quantify the vacuum of imaginary space.
In the 19th century Felix Klein became a proponent of group theory as a means to classify geometries according to their "groups of motions". He proposed using symmetry groups in his Erlangen program, a suggestion that was widely adopted. He noted that every Euclidean congruence is an affine mapping, and each of these is a projective transformation; therefore the group of projectivities contains the group of affine maps, which in turn contains the group of Euclidean congruencies. The term motion, shorter than transformation, puts more emphasis on the adjectives: projective, affine, Euclidean. The context was thus expanded, so much that "In topology, the allowed movements are continuous invertible deformations that might be called elastic motions."
In the 1890s logicians were reducing the primitive notions of synthetic geometry to an absolute minimum. Giuseppe Peano and Mario Pieri used the expression motion for the congruence of point pairs. Alessandro Padoa celebrated the reduction of primitive notions to merely point and motion in his report to the 1900 International Congress of Philosophy. It was at this congress that Bertrand Russell was exposed to continental logic through Peano. In his book Principles of Mathematics (1903), Russell considered a motion to be a Euclidean isometry that preserves orientation.