The Patterson function is used to solve the phase problem in X-ray crystallography. It was introduced in 1935 by Arthur Lindo Patterson (1902–1966) while he was a visiting researcher in the laboratory of Bertram Eugene Warren (1902–1991) at MIT.
The Patterson function is defined as
Furthermore, a Patterson map of N points will have N(N−1) peaks, excluding the central peak and any overlap.
The peaks in the Patterson function are the interatomic distance vectors weighted by the product of the number of electrons in the atoms concerned.
Because for each vector between atoms i and j there is an oppositely oriented vector of the same length (between atoms j and i), the Patterson function always has centrosymmetry.
One-dimensional example 
Consider the series of delta functions given by
Then the Patterson function is
- A. L. Patterson Z. Krist. A90, 517 (1935).