In mathematics, the Gamma function (represented by the capitalized Greek letter Γ) is an extension of the factorial function to real and complex numbers. For a complex number z with positive real part it is defined by
which can be extended to the rest of the complex plane, excepting the non-positive integers.
If n is a positive integer, then
showing the connection to the factorial function. The Gamma function generalizes the factorial function for non-integer and complex values of n.
This functional equation generalizes the relation n! = n×(n-1)! of the factorial function. We can evaluate Γ(1) analytically:
Combining these two relations shows how the factorial function is a special case of the Gamma function:
for all natural numbers n.
It is a meromorphic function of x with simple poles at x = −n (n = 0, 1, 2, 3, ...) and residues (−1)n/n!.  It can further be used to extend Γ(z) to a meromorphic function defined for all complex numbers z except z = 0, −1, −2, −3, ... by analytic continuation. It is this extended version that is commonly referred to as the Gamma function.
where γ is the Euler-Mascheroni constant.
It is straightforward to show that the Euler definition satisfies the functional equation (1) above, as follows. Provided z is not equal to 0, -1, -2, ...
In a different way it can be shown that...
Derivation via integration by parts
Finding '"`UNIQ--postMath-0000000A-QINU`"' is easy:
Next, we derive an expression for '"`UNIQ--postMath-0000000C-QINU`"' as a function of '"`UNIQ--postMath-0000000D-QINU`"':
We use integration by parts to solve this integral, with the following substitutions:
We need to express this as a definite integral. Note that the first expression on the right side of the equation can be reduced by L'Hôpital's rule to
This quantity takes on a value of zero for both x equal to zero and for x equal to infinity. Thus, the entire term is zero, leaving
The far right side of the equation is nothing more than n'"`UNIQ--postMath-00000017-QINU`"'. Thus,
Using this n + 1 formula we derive a pattern:
Other important functional equations for the Gamma function are Euler's reflection formula
and the duplication formula
The duplication formula is a special case of the multiplication theorem
A basic but useful property, which can be seen from the limit definition, is:
Perhaps the most well-known value of the Gamma function at a non-integer argument is
which can be found by setting z=1/2 in the reflection or duplication formulas, by using the relation to the Beta function given below with x = y = 1/2, or simply by making the substitution '"`UNIQ--postMath-00000023-QINU`"' in the integral definition of the Gamma function, resulting in a Gaussian integral. In general, for odd integer values of n we have:
- '"`UNIQ--postMath-00000024-QINU`"' (n odd)
where n!! denotes the double factorial.
The derivatives of the Gamma function are described in terms of the polygamma function. For example:
The Bohr-Mollerup theorem states that among all functions extending the factorial functions to the positive real numbers, only the Gamma function is log-convex, that is, its natural logarithm is convex.
- '"`UNIQ--postMath-00000027-QINU`"' because:
And with integration by parts:
The derivative of the Gamma function is:
An alternative notation which was originally introduced by Gauss and which is sometimes used is the Pi function, which in terms of the Gamma function is
Using the Pi function the reflection formula takes on the form
where sinc is the normalized sinc function, while the multiplication theorem takes on the form
We also sometimes find
Relation to other functions
- In the first integral above, which defines the Gamma function, the limits of integration are fixed. The upper and lower incomplete Gamma functions are the functions obtained by allowing the lower or upper (respectively) limit of integration to vary.
- The Gamma function is related to the Beta function by the formula
- The derivative of the logarithm of the Gamma function is called the digamma function; higher derivatives are the polygamma functions.
- The analog of the Gamma function over a finite field or a finite ring are the Gaussian sums, a type of exponential sum.
- The reciprocal Gamma function is an entire function and has been studied as a specific topic.
- The Gamma function also shows up in an important relation with the Riemann zeta function, ζ(z).
- And also in the following elegant formula:
- '"`UNIQ--postMath-00000032-QINU`"' Which is only valid for Re(z) > 1.
Main article: Particular values of the Gamma function
Applying integration by parts to Euler's integral, the Gamma function can also be written
where, if Re(z) has been reduced to the interval [1, 2], the last integral is smaller than x exp(-x) < 2-N. Thus by choosing an appropriate x, the Gamma function can be evaluated to N bits of precision with the above series. If z is rational, the computation can be performed with binary splitting in time O( (log(N)2 M(N) ) where M(N) is the time needed to multiply two N-bit numbers.
Because the Gamma and factorial functions grow so rapidly for moderately-large arguments, many computing environments include a function that returns the natural logarithm of the Gamma function (often given the name lngamma); this grows much more slowly, and for combinatorial calculations allows adding and subtracting logs instead of multiplying and dividing very large values. The digamma function, which is the derivative of this function, is also commonly seen.
- Beta function
- Bohr-Mollerup theorem
- Digamma function
- Elliptic gamma function
- Gamma distribution
- Gauss's constant
- Incomplete gamma function
- Lanczos approximation
- Multivariate Gamma function
- Pochhammer k-symbol
- Polygamma function
- Reciprocal Gamma function
- Stirling's approximation
- Trigamma function
- George Allen, and Unwin, Ltd., The Universal Encyclopedia of Mathematics. United States of America, New American Library, Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1964. (Forward by James R. Newman)
- Philip J. Davis, "Leonhard Euler's Integral: A Historical Profile of the Gamma Function," Am. Math. Monthly 66, 849-869 (1959)
- Pascal Sebah and Xavier Gourdon. Introduction to the Gamma Function. In PostScript and HTML formats.
- Bruno Haible & Thomas Papanikolaou. Fast multiprecision evaluation of series of rational numbers. Technical Report No. TI-7/97, Darmstadt University of Technology, 1997
- Julian Havil, Gamma, Exploring Euler's Constant", ISBN 0-691-09983-9 (c) 2003
- Emil Artin, "The Gamma function", in Rosen, Michael (ed.) Exposition by Emil Artin: a selection; History of Mathematics 30. Providence, RI: American Mathematical Society (2006).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gamma and related functions.|
- R. A. Askey, R. Roy, DLMF article about the Gamma function
- Cephes - C and C++ language special functions math library
- Examples of problems involving the Gamma function can be found at Exampleproblems.com.
- Gamma function calculator
- Wolfram gamma function evaluator (arbitrary precision)
- Gamma at the Wolfram Functions Site.
- Volume of n-Spheres and the Gamma Function at MathPages
- Computing the Gamma function - various algorithms
- Online tool to graph functions which contain the Gamma function
- Milton Abramowitz and Irene A. Stegun, eds. Handbook of Mathematical Functions with Formulas, Graphs, and Mathematical Tables. New York: Dover, 1972. (See Chapter 6)
- G. Arfken and H. Weber. Mathematical Methods for Physicists. Harcourt/Academic Press, 2000. (See Chapter 10.)
- Harry Hochstadt. The Functions of Mathematical Physics. New York: Dover, 1986 (See Chapter 3.)
- W.H. Press, B.P. Flannery, S.A. Teukolsky, and W.T. Vetterling. Numerical Recipes in C. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1988. (See Section 6.1.)
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