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


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

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

Generating functions

The generating function for the Bernoulli polynomials is

The generating function for the Euler polynomials is

Representation by a differential operator

The Bernoulli polynomials are also given by

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

cf. integrals below.

Representation by an integral operator

The Bernoulli polynomials are the unique polynomials determined by

The integral transform

on polynomials f, simply amounts to

This can be used to produce the inversion formulae below.

Another explicit formula

An explicit formula for the Bernoulli polynomials is given by

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

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,

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

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

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

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

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

Sums of pth powers

We have

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

The Bernoulli and Euler numbers

The Bernoulli numbers are given by An alternate convention defines the Bernoulli numbers as . This definition gives Bn = −nζ(1 − n) where for n = 0 and n = 1 the expression −nζ(1 − n) is to be understood as limx → n −xζ(1 − x). The two conventions differ only for n = 1 since B1(1) = 1/2 = −B1(0).

The Euler numbers are given by

Explicit expressions for low degrees

The first few Bernoulli polynomials are:

The first few Euler polynomials are

Maximum and minimum

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

unless n is 2 modulo 4, in which case

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

unless n is 0 modulo 4, in which case

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

Differences and derivatives

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

(Δ is the forward difference operator).

These polynomial sequences are Appell sequences:


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


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


Fourier series

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

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

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


for , the Euler polynomial has the Fourier series


Note that the and are odd and even, respectively:


They are related to the Legendre chi function as



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


Relation to falling factorial

The Bernoulli polynomials may be expanded in terms of the falling factorial as

where and

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


denotes the Stirling number of the first kind.

Multiplication theorems

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


Indefinite integrals

Definite integrals

Periodic Bernoulli polynomials

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.

See also


  1. D.H. Lehmer, "On the Maxima and Minima of Bernoulli Polynomials", American Mathematical Monthly, volume 47, pages 533–538 (1940)
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