Boole's expansion theorem

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Boole's expansion theorem, often referred to as the Shannon expansion or decomposition, is the identity: , where is any Boolean function, is a variable, is the complement of , and and are with the argument equal to and to respectively.

The terms and are sometimes called the positive and negative Shannon cofactors, respectively, of with respect to . These are functions, computed by restrict operator, and (see valuation (logic) and partial application).

It has been called the "fundamental theorem of Boolean algebra".[1] Besides its theoretical importance, it paved the way for binary decision diagrams, satisfiability solvers, and many other techniques relevant to computer engineering and formal verification of digital circuits.

Statement of the theorem[edit]

A more explicit way of stating the theorem is:

Proof for the statement follows from direct use of mathematical induction, from the observation that and expanding a 2-ary and n-ary Boolean functions identically.

Variations and implications[edit]

The statement also holds when the disjunction "+" is replaced by the XOR operator:
Dual form
There is a dual form of the Shannon expansion (which does not have a related XOR form):

Repeated application for each argument leads to the Sum of Products (SoP) canonical form of the Boolean function . For example for that would be

Likewise, application of the dual form leads to the Product of Sums (PoS) canonical form (using the distributivity law of over ):

Properties of Cofactors[edit]

Linear Properties of Cofactors:
For a boolean function H which is made up of two boolean functions F and G the following are true:
If then
If then
If then
If then
Characteristics of Unate Functions:
If H is a unate function and...
If H is positive unate then
If H is negative unate then

Operations with Cofactors[edit]

Boolean Difference:
The boolean difference or boolean derivative of the function F with respect to the literal x is defined as:
Universal Quantification:
The universal quantification of F is defined as:
Existential Quantification:
The existential quantification of F is defined as:


George Boole presented this expansion as his Proposition II, "To expand or develop a function involving any number of logical symbols", in his Laws of Thought (1854),[2] and it was "widely applied by Boole and other nineteenth-century logicians".[3]

Claude Shannon mentioned this expansion, among other Boolean identities, in a 1948 paper,[4] and showed the switching network interpretations of the identity. In the literature of computer design and switching theory, the identity is often incorrectly attributed to Shannon.[3]

Application to switching circuits[edit]

  1. Binary decision diagrams follow from systematic use of this theorem
  2. Any Boolean function can be implemented directly in a switching circuit using a hierarchy of basic multiplexer by repeated application of this theorem.


  1. ^ Paul C. Rosenbloom, The Elements of Mathematical Logic, 1950, p. 5
  2. ^ George Boole, An Investigation of the Laws of Thought: On which are Founded the Mathematical Theories of Logic and Probabilities, 1854, p. 72 full text at Google Books
  3. ^ a b Frank Markham Brown, Boolean Reasoning: The Logic of Boolean Equations, 2nd edition, 2003, p. 42
  4. ^ Claude Shannon, "The Synthesis of Two-Terminal Switching Circuits", Bell System Technical Journal 28:59–98, full text, p. 62

See also[edit]

External links[edit]