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Euler's Identity

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Starting at the multiplicative identity z = 1, travelling at the velocity iz for the length of time π, and adding 1, one arrives at 0.

For other meanings, see List of topics named after Leonhard Euler

In mathematical analysis, Euler's identity, named after Leonhard Euler, is the equation

e^{i \pi} + 1 = 0, \,\!


e\,\! is Euler's number, the base of the natural logarithm,
i\,\! is the imaginary unit, one of the two complex numbers whose square is negative one (the other is -i\,\!), and
\pi\,\! is pi, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter.

Euler's identity is also sometimes called "Euler's equation".

Perceptions of the identityEdit

Euler's identity is remarkable for its mathematical beauty. Three basic arithmetic functions are present exactly once: addition, multiplication, and exponentiation. As well, the identity links five fundamental mathematical constants:

Furthermore, in mathematical analysis, equations are commonly written with zero on one side.

A reader poll conducted by Physics World in 2004 named Euler's identity the "greatest equation ever", together with Maxwell's equations.

Constance Reid even claimed that Euler's identity was "the most famous formula in all mathematics".

Gauss is reported to have commented that if this formula was not immediately apparent to a student on being told it, the student would never be a first-class mathematician.[1]

After proving the identity in a lecture, Benjamin Peirce, a noted nineteenth century mathematician and Harvard professor, said, "It is absolutely paradoxical; we cannot understand it, and we don't know what it means, but we have proved it, and therefore we know it must be the truth." [2]


File:Euler's formula.svg

The identity is a special case of Euler's formula from complex analysis, which states that

e^{ix} = \cos x + i \sin x \,\!

for any real number x. In particular, if

x = \pi,\,\!


e^{i \pi} = \cos \pi + i \sin \pi.\,\!


\cos \pi = -1  \, \!


\sin \pi = 0,\,\!

it follows that

e^{i \pi} = -1,\,\!

which gives the identity

e^{i \pi} +1 = 0.\,\!


Euler's identity is a special case of the more general identity that the n-th roots of unity, for n > 1, add up to 0:

\sum_{k=0}^{n-1} e^{2 \pi i k/n} = 0 .

Euler's identity is retrieved from this generalization by putting n = 2.

See alsoEdit


  1. Derbyshire p.210.
  2. Maor p.160 and Kasner & Newman p.103–104.

References & BibliographyEdit

  • Crease, Robert P., "The greatest equations ever", PhysicsWeb, October 2004.
  • Derbyshire, J. Prime Obsession: Bernhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics (New York: Penguin, 2004).
  • Kasner, E., and Newman, J., Mathematics and the Imagination (Bell and Sons, 1949).
  • Maor, Eli, e: The Story of a number (Princeton University Press, 1998), ISBN 0-691-05854-7
  • Reid, Constance, From Zero to Infinity (Mathematical Association of America, various editions).

External linksEdit

ca:Identitat d'Euler

de:Eulersche Identität es:Identidad de Euler fr:Identité d'Euler he:זהות אוילרko:오일러의 등식 nl:Formule van Euler pt:Identidade de Euler sl:Eulerjeva enačba sr:Ојлеров идентитет th:เอกลักษณ์ของออยเลอร์ zh:歐拉恆等式

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