Bairstow method

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A well-known and widely-used process for determining the roots of a given polynomial with real coefficients. The method determines a second-degree divisor of the given polynomial iteratively, and hence by using the formula for the roots of second-degree polynomials one can calculate an approximation of two roots of the given polynomial. An advantage of the method is that it uses real arithmetic only.


be a given polynomial with real coefficients and . After division by one finds


where and are the coefficients of the remainder. It is now necessary to find two real numbers, and , so that is a divisor of . This is equivalent to the solution of a system of non-linear equations


Bairstow's method is nothing else than a Newton method applied to (a2). More precisely,




is the Jacobian matrix (cf. Jacobi matrix) and , , , and denote the partial derivatives of and with respect to the first and second argument, respectively. If is not invertible, then the method is undefined.

It is important that is determined by the remainders of and after division by . Express the polynomial as

Then the Jacobian matrix (a4) has the following elements:

For the proof see [a1].

The values , and , can be found by means of a Horner-type scheme (cf. Horner scheme). Using


one finds the same recursion for , , and , , :

The main assumption in local convergence theorems for the Newton method is the non-singularity of the Jacobian matrix at the root. The following theorem gives a necessary and sufficient condition of algebraic character for this to hold.

Let and be arbitrary real numbers. The Jacobian matrix introduced in (a4) is regular if and only if and the polynomial defined by (a1) have no common root. The rank of is one if and only if the number of the common roots is one. The Jacobian matrix is zero if and only if is a divisor of . For the proof see [a2].

Using the local convergence theorem for the Newton method one obtains, as a corollary, the local convergence theorem for the Bairstow method:


and suppose that the two factors on the right-hand side have no common root. Then there exists a positive number such that the sequence produced by Bairstow's method will converge (quadratically) to , provided


[a1] J. Stoer, R. Bulirsch, "Introduction to numerical analysis" , Springer (1980) pp. 285–287
[a2] T. Fiala, A. Krebsz, "On the convergence and divergence of Bairstow's method" Numerische Math. , 50 (1987) pp. 477–482
How to Cite This Entry:
Bairstow method. A. Krebsz (originator), Encyclopedia of Mathematics. URL:
This text originally appeared in Encyclopedia of Mathematics - ISBN 1402006098