The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Mathematical analysis

Analysis is that branch of mathematics which deals with the real numbers, complex numbers, and their functions. It has its beginnings in the rigorous formulation of calculus and studies concepts such as continuity, integration and differentiability in general settings.


Historically, analysis originated in the 17th century, with the invention of calculus by Newton and Leibniz. In the 17th and 18th centuries, analysis topics such as the calculus of variations, differential and partial differential equations, Fourier analysis and generating functions were developed mostly in applied work. Calculus techniques were applied successfully to approximate discrete problems by continuous ones.

All through the 18th century the definition of the concept of function was a subject of debate among mathematicians. In the 19th century, Cauchy was the first to put calculus on a firm logical foundation by introducing the concept of Cauchy sequence. He also started the formal theory of complex analysis. Poisson, Liouville, Fourier and others studied partial differential equations and harmonic analysis.

In the middle of the century Riemann introduced his theory of integration. The last third of the 19th century saw the arithmetization of analysis by Weierstrass, who thought that geometric reasoning was inherently misleading, and introduced the ε-δ definition of limit. Then, mathematicians started worrying that they were assuming the existence of a continuum of real numbers without proof. Dedekind then constructed the real numbers by Dedekind cuts. Around that time, the attempts to refine the theorems of Riemann integration led to the study of the "size" of the set of discontinuities of real functions.

Also, "monsters" (nowhere continuous functions, continuous but nowhere differentiable functions, space-filling curves) began to be created. In this context, Jordan developed his theory of measure, Cantor developed what is now called naïve set theory, and Baire proved the Baire category theorem. In the early 20th century, calculus was formalized using axiomatic set theory. Lebesgue solved the problem of measure, and Hilbert introduced Hilbert spaces to solve integral equations. The idea of normed vector space was in the air, and in the 1920s Banach created functional analysis.


Analysis is nowadays divided into the following subfields:

Classical analysis would normally be understood as any work not using functional analysis techniques, and is sometimes also called hard analysis; it also naturally refers to the more traditional topics. The study of differential equations is now shared with other fields such as dynamical systems, though the overlap with 'straight' analysis is large. Non-standard analysis investigates the hyperreal numbers and their functions and gives a rigorous treatment of infinitesimals and infinitely large numbers. It is normally classed as model theory.

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