I'm going through the crisis of being unhappy with the textbook definition of a differentiable manifold. I'm wondering whether there is a sheaf-theoretic approach which will make me happier. In a nutshell, is there a natural condition to impose on a structure sheaf $\mathcal{C}^k_M$ of a topological space $M$ that can stand-in for the requirement that $M$ be second-countable Hausdorff?

### Background

Most textbooks introduce differentiable manifolds via atlases and charts. This has the advantage of being concrete, and the disadvantage of involving an arbitrary choice of atlas, which obscures the basic property that a differential manifold "looks the same at all points" (for $M$ connected, without boundary: diffeomorphism group acts transitively). And isn't introducing local coordinates "an act of violence"?

I saw a much nicer definition of differentiable manifolds on Wikipedia, which I don't know a good textbook reference for. This definition proceeds via sheaves of local rings. The Wikipedia definition stated:

A differentiable manifold (of class $C_k$) consists of a pair $(M, \mathcal{O}_M)$ where $M$ is a topological space, and $\mathcal{O}_M$ is a sheaf of local $\mathbb{R}$-algebras defined on $M$, such that the locally ringed space $(M,\mathcal{O}_M)$ is locally isomorphic to $(\mathbb{R}^n, \mathcal{O})$.

[$\mathcal{O}(U)=C^k(U,\mathbb{R})$ is the structure sheaf on $\mathbb{R}^n$.]

Beautiful, really! Entirely coordinate free. But isn't there a General Topology condition missing?

I confirmed on math.SE (to make sure that I wasn't hallucinating) that this definition is indeed missing the condition that $M$ be second-countable Hausdorff. That indeed turned out to be the case, so I edited the Wikipedia definition to require $M$ to be second-countable Hausdorff.

### Why am I still not happy?

The deep reason that we require a differentiable manifold to be paracompact, as per Georges Elencwajg's extremely informative answer, is that paracompactness makes sheaves of $C_M^k$-modules (maybe $k=\infty$) acyclic. This is a purely sheaf-theoretic property (a condition on the structure sheaf of $M$ rather than on $M$ itself), which quickly implies good things like that every subbundle of a vector bundle on $M$ be a direct summand. Is this in fact enough?

If it were enough to require that $\mathcal{O}_M$ be acyclic, or maybe fine, then the nicest, most flexible (and, in a strange sense, most enlightening) definition of differentiable manifold, would be:

Definition: A differentiable manifold (of class $C_k$) consists of a pair $(M, \mathcal{O}_M)$ where $M$ is a topological space, and $\mathcal{O}_M$ is anacyclicsheaf of local $\mathbb{R}$-algebras defined on $M$, such that the locally ringed space $(M,\mathcal{O}_M)$ is locally isomorphic to $(\mathbb{R}^n, \mathcal{O})$.

Maybe the word **acyclic** should be **fine**. Maybe soft and acyclic. Maybe a bit more, but still something that can be stated in terms of the structure sheaf.

Question: Can I put a natural sheaf-theoretic condition on $\mathcal{O}_M$ (acyclic? fine?) which ensures that $M$ (a topological space) must be a second-countable Hausdorff space? If not, would such a condition at least ensure that $M$ be a generalized differentiable manifold in some kind of useful sense?

**Update**: This question really bothers me, so I've started a bounty. I'd like to narrow it down a little in order to make it easier to answer:

Does **acyclicity** (or a slightly stronger condition) on $\mathcal{O}_M$ of a topological (Hausdorff?) space imply **paracompactness** (or a slightly weaker but still useful condition)?

Hausdorff bothers me as well, of course; but a sheafy characterization of paracompactness somehow seems like it has the potential to be lovely and really enlightening.

28more comments