Bernoulli polynomials

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In mathematics, the Bernoulli polynomials occur in the study of many special functions and in particular the Riemann zeta function and the Hurwitz zeta function. This is in large part because they are an Appell sequence, i.e. a Sheffer sequence for the ordinary derivative operator. Unlike orthogonal polynomials, the Bernoulli polynomials are remarkable in that the number of crossings of the x-axis in the unit interval does not go up as the degree of the polynomials goes up. In the limit of large degree, the Bernoulli polynomials, appropriately scaled, approach the sine and cosine functions.

Bernoulli polynomials

This article also discusses the Bernoulli polynomials and the related Euler polynomials, and the Bernoulli and Euler numbers.


The Bernoulli polynomials Bn admit a variety of different representations. Which among them should be taken to be the definition may depend on one's purposes.

Explicit formula[edit]

B_n(x) = \sum_{k=0}^n {n \choose k} b_{n-k} x^k,

for n ≥ 0, where bk are the Bernoulli numbers.

Generating functions[edit]

The generating function for the Bernoulli polynomials is

\frac{t e^{xt}}{e^t-1}= \sum_{n=0}^\infty B_n(x) \frac{t^n}{n!}.

The generating function for the Euler polynomials is

\frac{2 e^{xt}}{e^t+1}= \sum_{n=0}^\infty E_n(x) \frac{t^n}{n!}.

Representation by a differential operator[edit]

The Bernoulli polynomials are also given by

B_n(x)={D \over e^D -1} x^n

where D = d/dx is differentiation with respect to x and the fraction is expanded as a formal power series. It follows that

\int _a^x  B_n (u) ~du = \frac{B_{n+1}(x) - B_{n+1}(a)}{n+1}   ~.

cf. integrals below.

Representation by an integral operator[edit]

The Bernoulli polynomials are the unique polynomials determined by

\int_x^{x+1} B_n(u)\,du = x^n.

The integral transform

(Tf)(x) = \int_x^{x+1} f(u)\,du

on polynomials f, simply amounts to

(Tf)(x) = {e^D - 1 \over D}f(x) & {} = \sum_{n=0}^\infty {D^n \over (n+1)!}f(x) \\
& {} = f(x) + {f'(x) \over 2} + {f''(x) \over 6} + {f'''(x) \over 24} + \cdots  ~.

This can be used to produce the inversion formulae below.

Another explicit formula[edit]

An explicit formula for the Bernoulli polynomials is given by

\sum_{n=0}^m \frac{1}{n+1}
\sum_{k=0}^n (-1)^k {n \choose k} (x+k)^m.

Note the remarkable similarity to the globally convergent series expression for the Hurwitz zeta function. Indeed, one has

B_n(x) = -n \zeta(1-n,x)

where ζ(sq) is the Hurwitz zeta; thus, in a certain sense, the Hurwitz zeta generalizes the Bernoulli polynomials to non-integer values of n.

The inner sum may be understood to be the nth forward difference of xm; that is,

\Delta^n x^m = \sum_{k=0}^n (-1)^{n-k} {n \choose k} (x+k)^m

where Δ is the forward difference operator. Thus, one may write

B_m(x)= \sum_{n=0}^m \frac{(-1)^n}{n+1} \Delta^n x^m.

This formula may be derived from an identity appearing above as follows. Since the forward difference operator Δ equals

\Delta = e^D - 1\,

where D is differentiation with respect to x, we have, from the Mercator series

{D \over e^D - 1} = {\log(\Delta + 1) \over \Delta} = \sum_{n=0}^\infty {(-\Delta)^n \over n+1}.

As long as this operates on an mth-degree polynomial such as xm, one may let n go from 0 only up to m.

An integral representation for the Bernoulli polynomials is given by the Nörlund–Rice integral, which follows from the expression as a finite difference.

An explicit formula for the Euler polynomials is given by

\sum_{n=0}^m \frac{1}{2^n}
\sum_{k=0}^n (-1)^k {n \choose k} (x+k)^m\,.

This may also be written in terms of the Euler numbers Ek as

\sum_{k=0}^m {m \choose k} \frac{E_k}{2^k}
\left(x-\frac{1}{2}\right)^{m-k} \,.

Sums of pth powers[edit]

We have

\sum_{k=0}^{x} k^p = \frac{B_{p+1}(x+1)-B_{p+1}(0)}{p+1}

(assuming 00=1). See Faulhaber's formula for more on this.

The Bernoulli and Euler numbers[edit]

The Bernoulli numbers are given by \textstyle B_n=B_n(0).

This definition gives \textstyle \zeta(-n) = -\frac{1}{n+1}B_{n+1} for \textstyle n=0, 1, 2, \ldots.

An alternate convention defines the Bernoulli numbers as \textstyle B_n=B_n(1).

The two conventions differ only for n=1 since B_1(1)= \frac{1}{2} = -B_1(0).

The Euler numbers are given by E_n=2^nE_n(\frac{1}{2}).

Explicit expressions for low degrees[edit]

The first few Bernoulli polynomials are:

B_0(x) & =1 \\[8pt]
B_1(x) & =x-\frac{1}{2} \\[8pt]
B_2(x) & =x^2-x+\frac{1}{6} \\[8pt]
B_3(x) & =x^3-\frac{3}{2}x^2+\frac{1}{2}x \\[8pt]
B_4(x) & =x^4-2x^3+x^2-\frac{1}{30} \\[8pt]
B_5(x) & =x^5-\frac{5}{2}x^4+\frac{5}{3}x^3-\frac{1}{6}x \\[8pt]
B_6(x) & =x^6-3x^5+\frac{5}{2}x^4-\frac{1}{2}x^2+\frac{1}{42}.

The first few Euler polynomials are:

E_0(x) & =1 \\[8pt]
E_1(x) & =x-\frac{1}{2} \\[8pt]
E_2(x) & =x^2-x \\[8pt]
E_3(x) & =x^3-\frac{3}{2}x^2+\frac{1}{4} \\[8pt]
E_4(x) & =x^4-2x^3+x \\[8pt]
E_5(x) & =x^5-\frac{5}{2}x^4+\frac{5}{2}x^2-\frac{1}{2} \\[8pt]
E_6(x) & =x^6-3x^5+5x^3-3x.

Maximum and minimum[edit]

At higher n, the amount of variation in Bn(x) between x = 0 and x = 1 gets large. For instance,


which shows that the value at x = 0 (and at x = 1) is −3617/510 ≈ −7.09, while at x = 1/2, the value is 118518239/3342336 ≈ +7.09. D.H. Lehmer[1] showed that the maximum value of Bn(x) between 0 and 1 obeys

M_n < \frac{2n!}{(2\pi)^n}

unless n is 2 modulo 4, in which case

M_n = \frac{2\zeta(n)n!}{(2\pi)^n}

(where \zeta(x) is the Riemann zeta function), while the minimum obeys

m_n > \frac{-2n!}{(2\pi)^n}

unless n is 0 modulo 4, in which case

m_n = \frac{-2\zeta(n)n!}{(2\pi)^n}.

These limits are quite close to the actual maximum and minimum, and Lehmer gives more accurate limits as well.

Differences and derivatives[edit]

The Bernoulli and Euler polynomials obey many relations from umbral calculus:

\Delta B_n(x) = B_n(x+1)-B_n(x)=nx^{n-1},\,
\Delta E_n(x) = E_n(x+1)-E_n(x)=2(x^n-E_n(x)).\,

(Δ is the forward difference operator).

These polynomial sequences are Appell sequences:



B_n(x+y)=\sum_{k=0}^n {n \choose k} B_k(x) y^{n-k}
E_n(x+y)=\sum_{k=0}^n {n \choose k} E_k(x) y^{n-k}

These identities are also equivalent to saying that these polynomial sequences are Appell sequences. (Hermite polynomials are another example.)


B_n(1-x)=(-1)^nB_n(x),\quad n \ge 0,
E_n(1-x)=(-1)^n E_n(x)\,
(-1)^n B_n(-x) = B_n(x) + nx^{n-1}\,
(-1)^n E_n(-x) = -E_n(x) + 2x^n\,
B_n\left(\frac{1}{2}\right) = \left(\frac{1}{2^{n-1}}-1\right) B_n, \quad n \geq 0\text{ from the multiplication theorems below.}

Zhi-Wei Sun and Hao Pan [2] established the following surprising symmetry relation: If r + s + t = n and x + y + z = 1, then



[s,t;x,y]_n=\sum_{k=0}^n(-1)^k{s \choose k}{t\choose {n-k}}

Fourier series[edit]

The Fourier series of the Bernoulli polynomials is also a Dirichlet series, given by the expansion

B_n(x) = -\frac{n!}{(2\pi i)^n}\sum_{k\not=0 }\frac{e^{2\pi ikx}}{k^n}= -2 n! \sum_{k=1}^{\infty} \frac{\cos\left(2 k \pi x- \frac{n \pi} 2 \right)}{(2 k \pi)^n}.

Note the simple large n limit to suitably scaled trigonometric functions.

This is a special case of the analogous form for the Hurwitz zeta function

B_n(x) = -\Gamma(n+1) \sum_{k=1}^\infty
\frac{ \exp (2\pi ikx) + e^{i\pi n} \exp (2\pi ik(1-x)) } { (2\pi ik)^n }.

This expansion is valid only for 0 ≤ x ≤ 1 when n ≥ 2 and is valid for 0 < x < 1 when n = 1.

The Fourier series of the Euler polynomials may also be calculated. Defining the functions

C_\nu(x) = \sum_{k=0}^\infty
\frac {\cos((2k+1)\pi x)} {(2k+1)^\nu}


S_\nu(x) = \sum_{k=0}^\infty
\frac {\sin((2k+1)\pi x)} {(2k+1)^\nu}

for \nu > 1, the Euler polynomial has the Fourier series

C_{2n}(x) = \frac{(-1)^n}{4(2n-1)!}
\pi^{2n} E_{2n-1} (x)


S_{2n+1}(x) = \frac{(-1)^n}{4(2n)!}
\pi^{2n+1} E_{2n} (x).

Note that the C_\nu and S_\nu are odd and even, respectively:

C_\nu(x) = -C_\nu(1-x)


S_\nu(x) = S_\nu(1-x).

They are related to the Legendre chi function \chi_\nu as

C_\nu(x) = \mbox{Re} \chi_\nu (e^{ix})


S_\nu(x) = \mbox{Im} \chi_\nu (e^{ix}).


The Bernoulli and Euler polynomials may be inverted to express the monomial in terms of the polynomials.

Specifically, evidently from the above section on #Representation by an integral operator, it follows that

x^n = \frac {1}{n+1}
\sum_{k=0}^n {n+1 \choose k} B_k (x)


x^n = E_n (x) + \frac {1}{2}
\sum_{k=0}^{n-1} {n \choose k} E_k (x).

Relation to falling factorial[edit]

The Bernoulli polynomials may be expanded in terms of the falling factorial (x)_k as

B_{n+1}(x) =  B_{n+1} + \sum_{k=0}^n
\left\{ \begin{matrix} n \\ k \end{matrix} \right\}

where B_n=B_n(0) and

\left\{ \begin{matrix} n \\ k \end{matrix} \right\} = S(n,k)

denotes the Stirling number of the second kind. The above may be inverted to express the falling factorial in terms of the Bernoulli polynomials:

(x)_{n+1} = \sum_{k=0}^n
\left[ \begin{matrix} n \\ k \end{matrix} \right]
\left(B_{k+1}(x) - B_{k+1} \right)


\left[ \begin{matrix} n \\ k \end{matrix} \right] = s(n,k)

denotes the Stirling number of the first kind.

Multiplication theorems[edit]

The multiplication theorems were given by Joseph Ludwig Raabe in 1851:

For a natural number m≥1,

B_n(mx)= m^{n-1} \sum_{k=0}^{m-1} B_n \left(x+\frac{k}{m}\right)
E_n(mx)= m^n \sum_{k=0}^{m-1}
(-1)^k E_n \left(x+\frac{k}{m}\right)
\quad \mbox{ for } m=1,3,\dots
E_n(mx)= \frac{-2}{n+1} m^n \sum_{k=0}^{m-1}
(-1)^k B_{n+1} \left(x+\frac{k}{m}\right)
\quad \mbox{ for } m=2,4,\dots


Indefinite integrals

\int_a^x B_n(t)\,dt =
\int_a^x E_n(t)\,dt =

Definite integrals

\int_0^1 B_n(t) B_m(t)\,dt =
(-1)^{n-1} \frac{m! n!}{(m+n)!} B_{n+m}
\quad \mbox { for } m,n \ge 1
\int_0^1 E_n(t) E_m(t)\,dt =
(-1)^{n} 4 (2^{m+n+2}-1)\frac{m! n!}{(m+n+2)!} B_{n+m+2}

Periodic Bernoulli polynomials[edit]

A periodic Bernoulli polynomial Pn(x) is a Bernoulli polynomial evaluated at the fractional part of the argument x. These functions are used to provide the remainder term in the Euler–Maclaurin formula relating sums to integrals. The first polynomial is a sawtooth function.

Strictly these functions are not polynomials at all and more properly should be termed the periodic Bernoulli functions.

The following properties are of interest, valid for all  x :

&P_k(x) \text{ is continuous for all } k \neq 1 \\
&P_k'(x) \text{ exists and is continuous for } k=0, k \geq 3 \\
&P'_k(x) = kP_{k-1}(x), k \geq 3

See also[edit]


  1. ^ D.H. Lehmer, "On the Maxima and Minima of Bernoulli Polynomials", American Mathematical Monthly, volume 47, pages 533–538 (1940)
  2. ^ Zhi-Wei Sun; Hao Pan (2006). "Identities concerning Bernoulli and Euler polynomials". Acta Arithmetica 125: 21–39. arXiv:math/0409035. doi:10.4064/aa125-1-3. 
  • Cvijović, Djurdje; Klinowski, Jacek (1995). "New formulae for the Bernoulli and Euler polynomials at rational arguments". Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society 123: 1527–1535. doi:10.2307/2161144. 
  • Guillera, Jesus; Sondow, Jonathan (2008). "Double integrals and infinite products for some classical constants via analytic continuations of Lerch's transcendent". The Ramanujan Journal 16 (3): 247–270. arXiv:math.NT/0506319. doi:10.1007/s11139-007-9102-0.  (Reviews relationship to the Hurwitz zeta function and Lerch transcendent.)