For a long time, the idea that such a
potentially infinitesummation could produce a finite result was considered
paradoxical. This paradox was resolved using the concept of a
limit during the 17th century.
Zeno's paradox of
Achilles and the tortoise illustrates this counterintuitive property of infinite sums: Achilles runs after a tortoise, but when he reaches the position of the tortoise at the beginning of the race, the tortoise has reached a second position; when he reaches this second position, the tortoise is at a third position, and so on.
Zeno concluded that Achilles could never reach the tortoise, and thus that movement does not exist. Zeno divided the race into infinitely many sub-races, each requiring a finite amount of time, so that the total time for Achilles to catch the tortoise is given by a series. The resolution of the paradox is that, although the series has an infinite number of terms, it has a finite sum, which gives the time necessary for Achilles to catch up with the tortoise.
In modern terminology, any (ordered)
infinite sequence of
terms (that is, numbers,
functions, or anything that can be added) defines a series, which is the operation of adding the ai one after the other. To emphasize that there are an infinite number of terms, a series may be called an infinite series. Such a series is represented (or denoted) by an
The infinite sequence of additions implied by a series cannot be effectively carried on (at least in a finite amount of time). However, if the
set to which the terms and their finite sums belong has a notion of
limit, it is sometimes possible to assign a value to a series, called the sum of the series. This value is the limit as n tends to
infinity (if the limit exists) of the finite sums of the n first terms of the series, which are called the nth partial sums of the series. That is,
When this limit exists, one says that the series is convergent or summable, or that the sequence is summable. In this case, the limit is called the sum of the series. Otherwise, the series is said to be divergent.
The notation denotes both the series—that is the implicit process of adding the terms one after the other indefinitely—and, if the series is convergent, the sum of the series—the result of the process. This is a generalization of the similar convention of denoting by both the
addition—the process of adding—and its result—the sum of a and b.
If an abelian group A of terms has a concept of
limit (e.g., if it is a
metric space), then some series, the
convergent series, can be interpreted as having a value in A, called the sum of the series. This includes the common cases from
calculus, in which the group is the field of
real numbers or the field of
complex numbers. Given a series , its kth partial sum is
By definition, the series converges to the limit L (or simply sums to L), if the sequence of its partial sums has a limit L. In this case, one usually writes
A series is said to be convergent if it converges to some limit, or divergent when it does not. The value of this limit, if it exists, is then the value of the series.
A series Σan is said to
converge or to be convergent when the sequence (sk) of partial sums has a finite
limit. If the limit of sk is infinite or does not exist, the series is said to
diverge. When the limit of partial sums exists, it is called the value (or sum) of the series
An easy way that an infinite series can converge is if all the an are zero for n sufficiently large. Such a series can be identified with a finite sum, so it is only infinite in a trivial sense.
Working out the properties of the series that converge, even if infinitely many terms are nonzero, is the essence of the study of series. Consider the example
It is possible to "visualize" its convergence on the
real number line: we can imagine a
line of length 2, with successive
segments marked off of lengths 1, 1/2, 1/4, etc. There is always room to mark the next segment, because the amount of line remaining is always the same as the last segment marked: When we have marked off 1/2, we still have a piece of length 1/2 unmarked, so we can certainly mark the next 1/4. This argument does not prove that the sum is equal to 2 (although it is), but it does prove that it is at most 2. In other words, the series has an upper bound. Given that the series converges, proving that it is equal to 2 requires only
elementary algebra. If the series is denoted S, it can be seen that
The idiom can be extended to other, equivalent notions of series. For instance, a
recurring decimal, as in
encodes the series
Since these series always converge to
real numbers (because of what is called the
completeness property of the real numbers), to talk about the series in this way is the same as to talk about the numbers for which they stand. In particular, the decimal expansion 0.111... can be identified with 1/9. This leads to an argument that 9 × 0.111... = 0.999... = 1, which only relies on the fact that the limit laws for series preserve the
arithmetic operations; for more detail on this argument, see
There are some elementary series whose convergence is not yet known/proven. For example, it is unknown whether the Flint Hills series
converges or not. The convergence depends on how well can be approximated with
rational numbers (which is unknown as of yet). More specifically, the values of n with large numerical contributions to the sum are the numerators of the continued fraction convergents of , a sequence beginning with 1, 3, 22, 333, 355, 103993, ... (sequence A046947 in the
OEIS). These are integers n that are close to for some integer m, so that is close to and its reciprocal is large.
Calculus and partial summation as an operation on sequences
Partial summation takes as input a sequence, (an), and gives as output another sequence, (SN). It is thus a
unary operation on sequences. Further, this function is
linear, and thus is a
linear operator on the
vector space of sequences, denoted Σ. The inverse operator is the
finite difference operator, denoted Δ. These behave as discrete analogues of
differentiation, only for series (functions of a natural number) instead of functions of a real variable. For example, the sequence (1, 1, 1, ...) has series (1, 2, 3, 4, ...) as its partial summation, which is analogous to the fact that
Series are classified not only by whether they converge or diverge, but also by the properties of the terms an (absolute or conditional convergence); type of convergence of the series (pointwise, uniform); the class of the term an (whether it is a real number, arithmetic progression, trigonometric function); etc.
When an is a non-negative real number for every n, the sequence SN of partial sums is non-decreasing. It follows that a series Σan with non-negative terms converges if and only if the sequence SN of partial sums is bounded.
For example, the series
is convergent, because the inequality
and a telescopic sum argument implies that the partial sums are bounded by 2. The exact value of the original series is the
When you group a series reordering of the series does not happen, so
Riemann series theorem does not apply. A new series will have its partial sums as subsequence of original series, which means if the original series converges, so does the new series. But for divergent series that is not true, for example
1-1+1-1+... grouped every two elements will create 0+0+0+... series, which is convergent. On the other hand, divergence of the new series means the original series can be only divergent which is sometimes useful, like in
A series of real or complex numbers is said to be conditionally convergent (or semi-convergent) if it is convergent but not absolutely convergent. A famous example is the alternating series
which is convergent (and its sum is equal to ), but the series formed by taking the absolute value of each term is the divergent
harmonic series. The
Riemann series theorem says that any conditionally convergent series can be reordered to make a divergent series, and moreover, if the are real and is any real number, that one can find a reordering so that the reordered series converges with sum equal to .
Abel's test is an important tool for handling semi-convergent series. If a series has the form
where the partial sums are bounded, has bounded variation, and exists:
then the series is convergent. This applies to the point-wise convergence of many trigonometric series, as in
with . Abel's method consists in writing , and in performing a transformation similar to
integration by parts (called
summation by parts), that relates the given series to the absolutely convergent series
There exist many tests that can be used to determine whether particular series converge or diverge.
n-th term test: If , then the series diverges; if , then the test is inconclusive.
Comparison test 1 (see
Direct comparison test): If is an
absolutely convergent series such that for some number and for sufficiently large , then converges absolutely as well. If diverges, and for all sufficiently large , then also fails to converge absolutely (though it could still be conditionally convergent, for example, if the alternate in sign).
Comparison test 2 (see
Limit comparison test): If is an absolutely convergent series such that for sufficiently large , then converges absolutely as well. If diverges, and for all sufficiently large , then also fails to converge absolutely (though it could still be conditionally convergent, for example, if the alternate in sign).
Ratio test: If there exists a constant such that for all sufficiently large , then converges absolutely. When the ratio is less than , but not less than a constant less than , convergence is possible but this test does not establish it.
Root test: If there exists a constant such that for all sufficiently large , then converges absolutely.
converges pointwise on a set E, if the series converges for each x in E as an ordinary series of real or complex numbers. Equivalently, the partial sums
converge to ƒ(x) as N → ∞ for each x ∈ E.
A stronger notion of convergence of a series of functions is the
uniform convergence. A series converges uniformly if it converges pointwise to the function ƒ(x), and the error in approximating the limit by the Nth partial sum,
can be made minimal independently of x by choosing a sufficiently large N.
Uniform convergence is desirable for a series because many properties of the terms of the series are then retained by the limit. For example, if a series of continuous functions converges uniformly, then the limit function is also continuous. Similarly, if the ƒn are
integrable on a closed and bounded interval I and converge uniformly, then the series is also integrable on I and can be integrated term-by-term. Tests for uniform convergence include the
Abel's uniform convergence test,
Dini's test, and the
More sophisticated types of convergence of a series of functions can also be defined. In
measure theory, for instance, a series of functions converges
almost everywhere if it converges pointwise except on a certain set of
measure zero. Other
modes of convergence depend on a different
metric space structure on the space of functions under consideration. For instance, a series of functions converges in mean on a set E to a limit function ƒ provided
Taylor series at a point c of a function is a power series that, in many cases, converges to the function in a neighborhood of c. For example, the series
is the Taylor series of at the origin and converges to it for every x.
Unless it converges only at x=c, such a series converges on a certain open disc of convergence centered at the point c in the complex plane, and may also converge at some of the points of the boundary of the disc. The radius of this disc is known as the
radius of convergence, and can in principle be determined from the asymptotics of the coefficients an. The convergence is uniform on
bounded (that is,
compact) subsets of the interior of the disc of convergence: to wit, it is
uniformly convergent on compact sets.
Historically, mathematicians such as
Leonhard Euler operated liberally with infinite series, even if they were not convergent. When calculus was put on a sound and correct foundation in the nineteenth century, rigorous proofs of the convergence of series were always required.
While many uses of power series refer to their sums, it is also possible to treat power series as formal sums, meaning that no addition operations are actually performed, and the symbol "+" is an abstract symbol of conjunction which is not necessarily interpreted as corresponding to addition. In this setting, the sequence of coefficients itself is of interest, rather than the convergence of the series. Formal power series are used in
combinatorics to describe and study
sequences that are otherwise difficult to handle, for example, using the method of
generating functions. The
Hilbert–Poincaré series is a formal power series used to study
Even if the limit of the power series is not considered, if the terms support appropriate structure then it is possible to define operations such as
antiderivative for power series "formally", treating the symbol "+" as if it corresponded to addition. In the most common setting, the terms come from a
commutative ring, so that the formal power series can be added term-by-term and multiplied via the
Cauchy product. In this case the algebra of formal power series is the
total algebra of the
natural numbers over the underlying term ring. If the underlying term ring is a
differential algebra, then the algebra of formal power series is also a differential algebra, with differentiation performed term-by-term.
Laurent series generalize power series by admitting terms into the series with negative as well as positive exponents. A Laurent series is thus any series of the form
If such a series converges, then in general it does so in an
annulus rather than a disc, and possibly some boundary points. The series converges uniformly on compact subsets of the interior of the annulus of convergence.
Like the zeta function, Dirichlet series in general play an important role in
analytic number theory. Generally a Dirichlet series converges if the real part of s is greater than a number called the abscissa of convergence. In many cases, a Dirichlet series can be extended to an
analytic function outside the domain of convergence by
analytic continuation. For example, the Dirichlet series for the zeta function converges absolutely when Re(s) > 1, but the zeta function can be extended to a holomorphic function defined on with a simple
pole at 1.
The most important example of a trigonometric series is the
Fourier series of a function.
History of the theory of infinite series
Development of infinite series
Archimedes produced the first known summation of an infinite series with a
method that is still used in the area of calculus today. He used the
method of exhaustion to calculate the
area under the arc of a
parabola with the summation of an infinite series, and gave a remarkably accurate approximation of
The investigation of the validity of infinite series is considered to begin with
Gauss in the 19th century. Euler had already considered the hypergeometric series
on which Gauss published a memoir in 1812. It established simpler criteria of convergence, and the questions of remainders and the range of convergence.
Cauchy (1821) insisted on strict tests of convergence; he showed that if two series are convergent their product is not necessarily so, and with him begins the discovery of effective criteria. The terms convergence and divergence had been introduced long before by
Leonhard Euler and
Gauss had given various criteria, and
Colin Maclaurin had anticipated some of Cauchy's discoveries. Cauchy advanced the theory of
power series by his expansion of a complex
function in such a form.
corrected certain of Cauchy's conclusions, and gave a completely scientific summation of the series for complex values of and . He showed the necessity of considering the subject of continuity in questions of convergence.
Cauchy's methods led to special rather than general criteria, and
the same may be said of
Raabe (1832), who made the first elaborate investigation of the subject, of
De Morgan (from 1842), whose
DuBois-Reymond (1873) and
Pringsheim (1889) have
shown to fail within a certain region; of
Malmsten (1846, 1847, the latter without integration);
Chebyshev (1852), and
General criteria began with
Kummer (1835), and have been studied by
Weierstrass in his various
contributions to the theory of functions,
DuBois-Reymond (1873), and many others. Pringsheim's memoirs (1889) present the most complete general theory.
The theory of
uniform convergence was treated by Cauchy (1821), his limitations being pointed out by Abel, but the first to attack it
Stokes (1847–48). Cauchy took up the
problem again (1853), acknowledging Abel's criticism, and reaching
the same conclusions which Stokes had already found. Thomae used the
doctrine (1866), but there was great delay in recognizing the importance of distinguishing between uniform and non-uniform
convergence, in spite of the demands of the theory of functions.
A series is said to be semi-convergent (or conditionally convergent) if it is convergent but not
Semi-convergent series were studied by Poisson (1823), who also gave a general form for the remainder of the Maclaurin formula. The most important solution of the problem is due, however, to Jacobi (1834), who attacked the question of the remainder from a different standpoint and reached a different formula. This expression was also worked out, and another one given, by
Schlömilch (Zeitschrift, Vol.I, p. 192, 1856) also improved Jacobi's remainder, and showed the relation between the remainder and
Genocchi (1852) has further contributed to the theory.
Among the early writers was
Wronski, whose "loi suprême" (1815) was hardly recognized until
Cayley (1873) brought it into
Fourier series were being investigated
as the result of physical considerations at the same time that
Gauss, Abel, and Cauchy were working out the theory of infinite
series. Series for the expansion of sines and cosines, of multiple
arcs in powers of the sine and cosine of the arc had been treated by
Jacob Bernoulli (1702) and his brother
Johann Bernoulli (1701) and still
Vieta. Euler and
Lagrange simplified the subject,
Fourier (1807) set for himself a different problem, to
expand a given function of x in terms of the sines or cosines of
multiples of x, a problem which he embodied in his Théorie analytique de la chaleur (1822). Euler had already given the formulas for determining the coefficients in the series;
Fourier was the first to assert and attempt to prove the general
Poisson (1820–23) also attacked the problem from a
different standpoint. Fourier did not, however, settle the question
of convergence of his series, a matter left for
Cauchy (1826) to
attempt and for Dirichlet (1829) to handle in a thoroughly
scientific manner (see
convergence of Fourier series). Dirichlet's treatment (Crelle, 1829), of trigonometric series was the subject of criticism and improvement by
Riemann (1854), Heine,
du Bois-Reymond. Among other prominent contributors to the theory of
trigonometric and Fourier series were
Krause, Byerly and
Asymptotic series, otherwise
asymptotic expansions, are infinite series whose partial sums become good approximations in the limit of some point of the domain. In general they do not converge, but they are useful as sequences of approximations, each of which provides a value close to the desired answer for a finite number of terms. The difference is that an asymptotic series cannot be made to produce an answer as exact as desired, the way that convergent series can. In fact, after a certain number of terms, a typical asymptotic series reaches its best approximation; if more terms are included, most such series will produce worse answers.
Under many circumstances, it is desirable to assign a limit to a series which fails to converge in the usual sense. A
summability method is such an assignment of a limit to a subset of the set of divergent series which properly extends the classical notion of convergence. Summability methods include
Cesàro summation, (C,k) summation,
Abel summation, and
Borel summation, in increasing order of generality (and hence applicable to increasingly divergent series).
A variety of general results concerning possible summability methods are known. The
Silverman–Toeplitz theorem characterizes matrix summability methods, which are methods for summing a divergent series by applying an infinite matrix to the vector of coefficients. The most general method for summing a divergent series is non-constructive, and concerns
Summations over arbitrary index sets
Definitions may be given for sums over an arbitrary index set  There are two main differences with the usual notion of series: first, there is no specific order given on the set ; second, this set may be uncountable. The notion of convergence needs to be strengthened, because the concept of
conditional convergence depends on the ordering of the index set.
If is a
function from an
index set to a set then the "series" associated to is the
formal sum of the elements over the index elements denoted by the
When the index set is the natural numbers the function is a
sequence denoted by A series indexed on the natural numbers is an ordered formal sum and so we rewrite as in order to emphasize the ordering induced by the natural numbers. Thus, we obtain the common notation for a series indexed by the natural numbers
Families of non-negative numbers
When summing a family of non-negative real numbers, define
When the supremum is finite then the set of such that is countable. Indeed, for every the
cardinality of the set is finite because
If is countably infinite and enumerated as then the above defined sum satisfies
provided the value is allowed for the sum of the series.
Any sum over non-negative reals can be understood as the integral of a non-negative function with respect to the
counting measure, which accounts for the many similarities between the two constructions.
For every neighborhood of the origin in there is a smaller neighborhood such that It follows that the finite partial sums of an unconditionally summable family form a Cauchy net, that is, for every neighborhood of the origin in there exists a finite subset of such that
which implies that for every (by taking and ).
complete, a family is unconditionally summable in if and only if the finite sums satisfy the latter Cauchy net condition. When is complete and is unconditionally summable in then for every subset the corresponding subfamily is also unconditionally summable in
When the sum of a family of non-negative numbers, in the extended sense defined before, is finite, then it coincides with the sum in the topological group
If a family in is unconditionally summable then for every neighborhood of the origin in there is a finite subset such that for every index not in If is a
first-countable space then it follows that the set of such that is countable. This need not be true in a general abelian topological group (see examples below).
Unconditionally convergent series
Suppose that If a family is unconditionally summable in a Hausdorff
abelian topological group then the series in the usual sense converges and has the same sum,
By nature, the definition of unconditional summability is insensitive to the order of the summation. When is unconditionally summable, then the series remains convergent after any
permutation of the set of indices, with the same sum,
Conversely, if every permutation of a series converges, then the series is unconditionally convergent. When is
complete then unconditional convergence is also equivalent to the fact that all subseries are convergent; if is a
Banach space, this is equivalent to say that for every sequence of signs , the series
It is called absolutely summable if in addition, for every continuous seminorm on the family is summable.
If is a normable space and if is an absolutely summable family in then necessarily all but a countable collection of ’s are zero. Hence, in normed spaces, it is usually only ever necessary to consider series with countably many terms.
Summable families play an important role in the theory of
Series in Banach and seminormed spaces
The notion of series can be easily extended to the case of a
If is a sequence of elements of a normed space and if then the series converges to in if the sequence of partial sums of the series converges to in ; to wit,
More generally, convergence of series can be defined in any
Specifically, in this case, converges to if the sequence of partial sums converges to
If is a
seminormed space, then the notion of absolute convergence becomes:
A series of vectors in converges absolutely if
in which case all but at most countably many of the values are necessarily zero.
If a countable series of vectors in a Banach space converges absolutely then it converges unconditionally, but the converse only holds in finite-dimensional Banach spaces (theorem of
Dvoretzky & Rogers (1950)).
In the definition of
partitions of unity, one constructs sums of functions over arbitrary index set
While, formally, this requires a notion of sums of uncountable series, by construction there are, for every given only finitely many nonzero terms in the sum, so issues regarding convergence of such sums do not arise. Actually, one usually assumes more: the family of functions is locally finite, that is, for every there is a neighborhood of in which all but a finite number of functions vanish. Any regularity property of the such as continuity, differentiability, that is preserved under finite sums will be preserved for the sum of any subcollection of this family of functions.