BOUNDARY BEHAVIOR OF POWER SERIES: ABEL’S THEOREM
KEITH CONRAD
We want to discuss the two identities(1) log(1 +
x
) =
n
≥
1
(
−
1)
n
−
1
x
n
n,
√
1 +
x
=
n
≥
0
(
−
1)
n
−
1
(2
n
)!2
2
n
n
!
2
(2
n
−
1)
x
n
.
In each equation, the series on the right side has radius of convergence 1 and satisﬁes thesame ﬁrstorder diﬀerential equation as the function on the left side, and both sides have thesame value at
x
= 0. Therefore the two sides of each equation are equal for
−
1
< x <
1. Butwhat happens at the endpoints? For example, the series for log(1 +
x
) converges at
x
= 1since it is alternating there. But that alone doesn’t prove the series at
x
= 1 is log2.Let’s be sure not to confuse two issues: convergence of the series at the boundary andknowing if the value of the series at the boundary equals what we think it should equal.How can we show the values of the series at the endpoints are what we expect by continuityfrom inside the interval of convergence? Rather than treating these two examples by specialmethods adapted just for them (see [1, p. 254] for that), we will explain a more systematicapproach to boundary behavior of power series.
Theorem 1
(Abel, 1826)
.
Let
g
(
x
) =
n
≥
0
c
n
x
n
be a power series which converges for

x

<
1
. If
n
≥
0
c
n
converges then
lim
x
→
1
−
g
(
x
) =
n
≥
0
c
n
.
In other words,
if
a power series converges at
x
= 1 then its value at
x
= 1 is the limit of its values at
x
as
x
→
1
−
, so a power series has builtin continuity in its behavior.Before we prove Abel’s theorem, let’s see how it applies to our previous examples at
x
= 1.
Example 1.
In (1), set
g
(
x
) =
n
≥
1
(
−
1)
n
−
1
x
n
/n
for

x

<
1. Then
g
(
x
) = log(1 +
x
) for

x

<
1. The series
g
(1) converges since it’s alternating, so by Abel’s theorem
g
(1) = lim
x
→
1
−
g
(
x
) = lim
x
→
1
−
log(1 +
x
) = log2since the logarithm is a continuous function.
Example 2.
In (1), set
g
(
x
) =
n
≥
0
(
−
1)
n
−
1
(2
n
)!2
2
n
n
!
2
(2
n
−
1)
x
n
for

x

<
1, so
g
(
x
) =
√
1 +
x
here.The series
g
(1) is absolutely convergent, so by Abel’s theorem and the continuity of
√
1 +
x
,
g
(1) = lim
x
→
1
−
g
(
x
) = lim
x
→
1
−
√
1 +
x
=
√
2
.
1