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A transcendental function that extends the values of the factorial to any complex number . It was introduced in 1729 by L. Euler in a letter to Ch. Goldbach, using the infinite product

which was used by L. Euler to obtain the integral representation (Euler integral of the second kind, cf. Euler integrals)

which is valid for . The multi-valuedness of the function is eliminated by the formula with a real . The symbol and the name gamma-function were proposed in 1814 by A.M. Legendre.

If and , the gamma-function may be represented by the Cauchy–Saalschütz integral:

In the entire plane punctured at the points the gamma-function satisfies a Hankel integral representation:

where and is the branch of the logarithm for which ; the contour is represented in Fig. a. It is seen from the Hankel representation that is a meromorphic function. At the points , it has simple poles with residues .

Figure: g043310a

Fundamental relations and properties of the gamma-function.

1) Euler's functional equation:


, if is an integer; it is assumed that .

2) Euler's completion formula:

In particular, ;

if is an integer;

3) Gauss' multiplication formula:

If , this is the Legendre duplication formula.

4) If or , then can be asymptotically expanded into the Stirling series:

where are the Bernoulli numbers. It implies the equality

In particular,

More accurate is Sonin's formula [6]:

5) In the real domain, for and it assumes the sign on the segments , (Fig. b).

Figure: g043310b

The graph of the function .

For all real the inequality

is valid, i.e. all branches of both and are convex functions. The property of logarithmic convexity defines the gamma-function among all solutions of the functional equation

up to a constant factor.

For positive values of the gamma-function has a unique minimum at equal to . The local minima of the function form a sequence tending to zero as .

Figure: g043310c

The graph of the function .

6) In the complex domain, if , the gamma-function rapidly decreases as ,

7) The function (Fig. c) is an entire function of order one and of maximal type; asymptotically, as ,


It can be represented by the infinite Weierstrass product:

which converges absolutely and uniformly on any compact set in the complex plane ( is the Euler constant). A Hankel integral representation is valid:

where the contour is shown in Fig. d.

Figure: g043310d

G.F. Voronoi [7] obtained integral representations for powers of the gamma-function.

In applications, the so-called poly gamma-functions — -th derivatives of — are of importance. The function (Gauss' -function)

is meromorphic, has simple poles at the points and satisfies the functional equation

The representation of for yields the formula


This formula may be used to compute in a neighbourhood of the point .

For other poly gamma-functions see [2]. The incomplete gamma-function is defined by the equation

The functions and are transcendental functions which do not satisfy any linear differential equation with rational coefficients (Hölder's theorem).

The exceptional importance of the gamma-function in mathematical analysis is due to the fact that it can be used to express a large number of definite integrals, infinite products and sums of series (see, for example, Beta-function). In addition, it is widely used in the theory of special functions (the hypergeometric function, of which the gamma-function is a limit case, cylinder functions, etc.), in analytic number theory, etc.


[1] E.T. Whittaker, G.N. Watson, "A course of modern analysis" , Cambridge Univ. Press (1952)
[2] H. Bateman (ed.) A. Erdélyi (ed.) , Higher transcendental functions , 1. The gamma function. The hypergeometric functions. Legendre functions , McGraw-Hill (1953)
[3] N. Bourbaki, "Elements of mathematics. Functions of a real variable" , Addison-Wesley (1976) (Translated from French)
[4] , Math. anal., functions, limits, series, continued fractions , Handbook Math. Libraries , Moscow (1961) (In Russian)
[5] N. Nielsen, "Handbuch der Theorie der Gammafunktion" , Chelsea, reprint (1965)
[6] N.Ya. Sonin, "Studies on cylinder functions and special polynomials" , Moscow (1954) (In Russian)
[7] G.F. Voronoi, "Studies of primitive parallelotopes" , Collected works , 2 , Kiev (1952) pp. 239–368 (In Russian)
[8] E. Jahnke, F. Emde, "Tables of functions with formulae and curves" , Dover, reprint (1945) (Translated from German)
[9] A. Angot, "Compléments de mathématiques. A l'usage des ingénieurs de l'electrotechnique et des télécommunications" , C.N.E.T. (1957)


The -analogue of the gamma-function is given by

cf. [a2]. Its origin goes back to E. Heine (1847) and D. Jackson (1904). For the gamma-function see also [a1].


[a1] E. Artin, "The gamma function" , Holt, Rinehart & Winston (1964)
[a2] R. Askey, "The -Gamma and -Beta functions" Appl. Anal. , 8 (1978) pp. 125–141
How to Cite This Entry:
Gamma-function. Encyclopedia of Mathematics. URL:
This article was adapted from an original article by L.P. Kuptsov (originator), which appeared in Encyclopedia of Mathematics - ISBN 1402006098. See original article