- Umbral calculus
In

mathematics before the 1970s, the term**"umbral calculus**" was understood to mean the surprising similarities between otherwise unrelated polynomial equations, and certain shadowy techniques that can be used to 'prove' them. These techniques were introduced byJohn Blissard in 1861 and are sometimes called**Blissard's symbolic method**. They are often attributed toÉdouard Lucas (orJames Joseph Sylvester ), who used the technique extensively. [*E. T. Bell, "The History of Blissard's Symbolic Method, with a Sketch of its Inventor's Life", "The American Mathematical Monthly"*]**45**:7 (1938), pp. 414–421.In the 1930s and 1940s,

Eric Temple Bell attempted to set the umbral calculus on a rigorous footing, perhaps not altogether successfully.In the 1970s, Steven Roman,

Gian-Carlo Rota , and others developed the umbral calculus by means oflinear functional s on spaces of polynomials. Currently, "umbral calculus" is understood primarily to mean the study ofSheffer sequence s, including polynomial sequences ofbinomial type andAppell sequence s.**The 19th-century umbral calculus**That method is a notational device for deriving identities involving indexed sequences of numbers by pretending that the indices are exponents. Construed literally, it is absurd, and yet it is successful; identities derived via the umbral calculus can also be derived by more complicated methods that can be taken literally without logical difficulty. An example involves the

Bernoulli polynomials . Consider, for example, the ordinary binomial expansion:$(x+y)^n=sum\_\{k=0\}^n\{nchoose\; k\}x^\{n-k\}\; y^k$

and the remarkably similar-looking relation on the

Bernoulli polynomials ::$B\_n(x+y)=sum\_\{k=0\}^n\{nchoose\; k\}B\_\{n-k\}(x)\; y^k.$

Compare also the ordinary derivative

:$frac\{d\}\{dx\}\; x^n\; =\; nx^\{n-1\}$

to a very similar-looking relation on the Bernoulli polynomials: :$frac\{d\}\{dx\}\; B\_n(x)\; =\; nB\_\{n-1\}(x).$

These similarities allow one to construct "umbral" proofs, which, on the surface cannot be correct, but seem to work anyway. Thus, for example, by pretending that the subscript "n" − "k" is an exponent:

:$B\_n(x)=sum\_\{k=0\}^n\; \{nchoose\; k\}b^\{n-k\}x^k=(b+x)^n,$

and then differentiating, one gets the desired result:

:$B\_n\text{'}(x)=n(b+x)^\{n-1\}=nB\_\{n-1\}(x).,$

In the above, the variable "b" is an "umbra" (

Latin for "shadow").See also

Faulhaber's formula .**Umbral Taylor's series**Similar relationships were also observed in the theory of

finite differences . The umbral version of theTaylor series is given by a similar expression involving the "k" 'thforward difference s $Delta^k\; [f]$ of apolynomial function "f",:$f(x)=sum\_\{k=0\}^inftyfrac\{Delta^k\; [f]\; (0)\}\{k!\}(x)\_k$

where

:$(x)\_k=x(x-1)(x-2)cdots(x-k+1)$

is the

Pochhammer symbol for the falling sequential product. A similar relationship holds for the backward differences and rising factorial.This series is also known as the

**Newton series**or**Newton forward difference equation**.The similarity to Taylor series is explored in the theory oftime scale calculus .**Bell and Riordan**In the 1930s and 1940s,

Eric Temple Bell tried unsuccessfully to make this kind of argument logically rigorous. The combinatorialistJohn Riordan in his book "Combinatorial Identities" published in the 1960s, used techniques of this sort extensively.**The modern umbral calculus**Another combinatorialist,

Gian-Carlo Rota , pointed out that the mystery vanishes if one considers thelinear functional "L" on polynomials in "y" defined by:$L(y^n)=\; B\_n(0)=\; B\_n.,$

Then one can write

:$B\_n(x)=sum\_\{k=0\}^n\{nchoose\; k\}B\_\{n-k\}x^k=sum\_\{k=0\}^n\{nchoose\; k\}L(y^\{n-k\})x^k=Lleft(sum\_\{k=0\}^n\{nchoose\; k\}y^\{n-k\}x^k\; ight)=L((y+x)^n),$

etc. Rota later stated that much confusion resulted from the failure to distinguish between three

equivalence relation s that occur frequently in this topic, all of which were denoted by "=".In a paper published in 1964, Rota used umbral methods to establish the

recursion formula satisfied by theBell numbers , which enumerate partitions of finite sets.In the paper of Roman and Rota cited below, the umbral calculus is characterized as the study of the

**umbral algebra**, defined as the algebra of linear functionals on thevector space of polynomials in a variable "x", with a product "L"_{1}"L"_{2}of linear functionals defined by:$langle\; L\_1\; L\_2\; mid\; x^n\; angle\; =\; sum\_\{k=0\}^n\; \{n\; choose\; k\}langle\; L\_1\; mid\; x^k\; angle\; langle\; L\_2\; mid\; x^\{n-k\}\; angle.$

When

polynomial sequence s replace sequences of numbers as images of "y"^{"n"}under the linear mapping "L", then the umbral method is seen to be an essential component of Rota's general theory of special polynomials, and that theory is the**umbral calculus**by some more modern definitions of the term. A small sample of that theory can be found in the article on polynomial sequences of binomial type. Another is the article titledSheffer sequence .**References*** Steven Roman and

Gian-Carlo Rota , "The Umbral Calculus", "Advances in Mathematics", volume 27, pages 95–188, (1978).

* G.-C. Rota, D. Kahaner, and A. Odlyzko, "Finite Operator Calculus," Journal of Mathematical Analysis and its Applications, vol. 42, no. 3, June 1973. Reprinted in the book with the same title, Academic Press, New York, 1975.

* Steven Roman, "The Umbral Calculus",Dover Publications , 2005, ISBN 0-486-44129-3.**External links***

* [*http://www.combinatorics.org/Surveys/ds3.pdf A Selected Survey of Umbral calculus, by A. di Bucchianico and D. Loeb (34-page pdf)*]

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