When any three solutions are independent

Abstract: Given an algebraic differential equation of order greater than one, it is shown that if there is any nontrivial algebraic relation amongst any number of distinct nonalgebraic solutions, along with their derivatives, then there is already such a relation between three solutions. In the autonomous situation when the equation is over constant parameters the assumption that the order be greater than one can be dropped, and a nontrivial algebraic relation exists already between two solutions. These theorems are deduced as an application of the following model-theoretic result: Suppose p is a stationary nonalgebraic type in the theory of differentially closed fields of characteristic zero; if any three distinct realisations of p are independent then p is minimal. If the type is over the constants then minimality (and complete disintegratedness) already follow from knowing that any two realisations are independent. An algebro-geometric formulation in terms of D-varieties is given. The same methods yield also an analogous statement about families of compact Kähler manifolds.