In mathematics, an involutory matrix is a matrix that is its own inverse. That is, multiplication by matrix A is an involution if and only if A2 = I. Involutory matrices are all square roots of the identity matrix. This is simply a consequence of the fact that any nonsingular matrix multiplied by its inverse is the identity.
One of the three classes of elementary matrix is involutory, namely the row-interchange elementary matrix. A special case of another class of elementary matrix, that which represents multiplication of a row or column by −1, is also involutory; it is in fact a trivial example of a signature matrix, all of which are involutory.
Some simple examples of involutory matrices are shown below.
- I is the identity matrix (which is trivially involutory);
- R is an identity matrix with a pair of interchanged rows;
- S is a signature matrix.
Clearly, any block-diagonal matrices constructed from involutory matrices will also be involutory, as a consequence of the linear independence of the blocks.
An involutory matrix which is also symmetric is an orthogonal matrix, and thus represents an isometry (a linear transformation which preserves Euclidean distance). Conversely every orthogonal involutory matrix is symmetric. As a special case of this, every reflection matrix is a involutory.
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