Hirzebruch signature theorem

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In differential topology, an area of mathematics, the Hirzebruch signature theorem[1] (sometimes called the Hirzebruch index theorem) is Friedrich Hirzebruch's 1954 result expressing the signature of a smooth compact oriented manifold by a linear combination of Pontryagin numbers called the L-genus. It was used in the proof of the Hirzebruch–Riemann–Roch theorem.

Statement of the theorem[edit]

The L-genus is the genus for the multiplicative sequence of polynomials associated to the characteristic power series

The first two of the resulting L-polynomials are:

By taking for the the Pontryagin classes of the tangent bundle of a 4n dimensional smooth compact and oriented manifold M one obtains the L-classes of M. Hirzebruch showed that the n-th L-class of M evaluated on the fundamental class of M, , is equal to , the signature of M (i.e. the signature of the intersection form on the 2nth cohomology group of M ):

Sketch of proof of the signature theorem[edit]

René Thom had earlier proved that the signature was given by some linear combination of Pontryagin numbers, and Hirzebruch found the exact formula for this linear combination by introducing the notion of the genus of a multiplicative sequence.

Since the rational oriented cobordism ring is equal to

the polynomial algebra generated by the oriented cobordism classes of the even dimensional complex projective spaces, it is enough to verify that

for all i.


The signature theorem is a special case of the Atiyah–Singer index theorem for the signature operator. The analytic index of the signature operator equals the signature of the manifold, and its topological index is the L-genus of the manifold. By the Atiyah–Singer index theorem these are equal.


  1. ^ Hirzebruch, Friedrich (1995) [1978]. Topological methods in algebraic geometry. Classics in Mathematics. Translation from the German and appendix one by R. L. E. Schwarzenberger. Appendix two by A. Borel (Reprint of the 2nd, corr. print. of the 3rd ed.). Berlin: Springer-Verlag. ISBN 3-540-58663-6. 
  • F. Hirzebruch, The Signature Theorem. Reminiscences and recreation. Prospects in Mathematics, Annals of Mathematical Studies, Band 70, 1971, S. 3–31.
  • Milnor John W.; Stasheff, James D. (1974). Characteristic classes. Annals of Mathematics Studies. Princeton, New Jersey; Tokyo: Princeton University Press / University of Tokyo Press. ISBN 0-691-08122-0.