Wallis product

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In mathematics, Wallis' product for π, published in 1656 by John Wallis,[1] states that

Comparison of the convergence of the Wallis product (purple asterisks) and several historical infinite series for π. Sn is the approximation after taking n terms. Each subsequent subplot magnifies the shaded area horizontally by 10 times. (click for detail)


Wallis derived this infinite product as it is done in calculus books today, by examining for even and odd values of n, and noting that for large n, increasing n by 1 results in a change that becomes ever smaller as n increases. Since modern infinitesimal calculus did not yet exist then, and the mathematical analysis of the time was inadequate to discuss the convergence issues, this was a hard piece of research, and tentative as well.

Wallis' product is, in retrospect, an easy corollary of the later Euler formula for the sine function.

Proof using Euler's infinite product for the sine function[edit]

Let x = π/2:


Proof using integration[edit]


(a form of Wallis' integrals). Integrate by parts:

This result will be used below:

Repeating the process,

Repeating the process,

, from above results.

By the squeeze theorem,


Relation to Stirling's approximation[edit]

Stirling's approximation for n! asserts that


Consider now the finite approximations to the Wallis product, obtained by taking the first k terms in the product:

pk can be written as

Substituting Stirling's approximation in this expression (both for k! and (2k)!) one can deduce (after a short calculation) that pk converges to ​π2 as k → ∞.


The Riemann zeta function and the Dirichlet eta function can be defined:

Applying an Euler transform to the latter series, the following is obtained:


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Wallis Formula".
  2. ^ "Integrating Powers and Product of Sines and Cosines: Challenging Problems".

External links[edit]