This is called the Vandermonde determinant or Vandermonde polynomial. If all the numbers are distinct, then it is non-zero.
The Vandermonde determinant is sometimes called the discriminant, although many sources, including this article, refer to the discriminant as the square of this determinant. Note that the Vandermonde determinant is alternating in the entries, meaning that permuting the by an odd permutation changes the sign, while permuting them by an even permutation does not change the value of the determinant. It thus depends on the order, while its square (the discriminant) does not depend on the order.
When two or more αi are equal, the corresponding polynomial interpolation problem (see below) is underdetermined. In that case one may use a generalization called confluent Vandermonde matrices, which makes the matrix non-singular while retaining most properties. If αi = αi + 1 = ... = αi+k and αi ≠ αi − 1, then the (i + k)th row is given by
The above formula for confluent Vandermonde matrices can be readily derived by letting two parameters and go arbitrarily close to each other. The difference vector between the rows corresponding to and scaled to a constant yields the above equation (for k = 1). Similarly, the cases k > 1 are obtained by higher order differences. Consequently, the confluent rows are derivatives of the original Vandermonde row.
Using the Leibniz formula for the determinant,
If m ≤ n, then the matrix V has maximum rank (m) if and only if all αi are distinct. A square Vandermonde matrix is thus invertible if and only if the αi are distinct; an explicit formula for the inverse is known.
The Vandermonde matrix evaluates a polynomial at a set of points; formally, it transforms coefficients of a polynomial to the values the polynomial takes at the points The non-vanishing of the Vandermonde determinant for distinct points shows that, for distinct points, the map from coefficients to values at those points is a one-to-one correspondence, and thus that the polynomial interpolation problem is solvable with unique solution; this result is called the unisolvence theorem.
They are thus useful in polynomial interpolation, since solving the system of linear equations Vu = y for u with V an m × n Vandermonde matrix is equivalent to finding the coefficients uj of the polynomial(s)
of degree ≤ n − 1 which has (have) the property
The Vandermonde matrix can easily be inverted in terms of Lagrange basis polynomials: each column is the coefficients of the Lagrange basis polynomial, with terms in increasing order going down. The resulting solution to the interpolation problem is called the Lagrange polynomial.
Confluent Vandermonde matrices are used in Hermite interpolation.
The Vandermonde matrix diagonalizes a companion matrix.
The Vandermonde matrix is used in some forms of Reed–Solomon error correction codes.
See also 
- Alternant matrix
- Lagrange polynomial
- List of matrices
- Moore determinant over a finite field
- Roger A. Horn and Charles R. Johnson (1991), Topics in matrix analysis, Cambridge University Press. See Section 6.1
- For a proof, see Vandermonde Determinant (ProofWiki)
- Turner, L. Richard. Inverse of the Vandermonde matrix with applications.
- Macon, N.; A. Spitzbart (1958-02). "Inverses of Vandermonde Matrices". The American Mathematical Monthly (The American Mathematical Monthly, Vol. 65, No. 2) 65 (2): 95–100. doi:10.2307/2308881. JSTOR 2308881.
- Inverse of Vandermonde Matrix (ProofWiki)
- Press, WH; Teukolsky, SA; Vetterling, WT; Flannery, BP (2007). "Section 2.8.1. Vandermonde Matrices". Numerical Recipes: The Art of Scientific Computing (3rd ed.). New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-88068-8
- Fulton, William; Harris, Joe (1991), Representation theory. A first course, Graduate Texts in Mathematics, Readings in Mathematics 129, New York: Springer-Verlag, ISBN 978-0-387-97495-8, MR1153249, ISBN 978-0-387-97527-6 Lecture 4 reviews the representation theory of symmetric groups, including the role of the Vandermonde determinant.
Further reading 
- Ycart, Bernard (20 April 2012), A case of mathematical eponymy: the Vandermonde determinant, arXiv:1204.4716 Unknown parameter