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Historical Background of

Complex Numbers
Quadratic and Cubic equations The Fundamental Theorem of Algebra The number i

Only Positive Numbers
13th century Works in mathematics were translated from the Arabic into Latin allowing Western European scholars to learn about the medieval Arabic-language mathematics and the older Greek mathematics, Only positive numbers were considered to be numbers. Negative numbers were not yet accepted as entities. (Some ancient cultures, including that of China and India, accepted negative numbers, but not the ones mentioned above.)

Solution of Quadratics, ax + bx + c = 0

x = –b ±√(b2 – 4ac) 2a There are
two distinct real solutions if the discriminant b2 – 4ac is positive, one double real solution if the discriminant is 0, no real solutions if the discriminant is negative.

15th Century
Quadratic equations were classified into four different kinds depending on the signs of the coefficients a, b, and c Move the negative terms to the other side of the equation to get four forms
x2 = c x2 + bx =c x2 + c = bx x2 = bx + c

There are other forms, but either they have no solutions among the positive numbers or else they can be reduced to linear equations.

.Solution of Cubics. x + bx + cx + d = 0 3 2 As with the quadratic equation. there are several forms for the cubic when negative terms are moved to the other side of the equation and zero terms dropped.

The first inkling of a complex number appeared. so all the equations were written in words instead of symbols! . A deeper insight into equations was developed. Symbolic algebra had not been developed.Solution of Cubics. x + bx + cx + d = 0 3 2 16th century Great controversy in Italy between Cardano (1501-1576) and Tartaglia (1499-1557) over credit Negative numbers were becoming legitimatized.

Cardano’s “Ars Magna” Finds negative solutions to equations Calls these numbers "fictitious" Noted an important fact connecting solutions of a cubic equation to its coefficients:’the sum of the solutions is the negation of b. the coefficient of the x2 term. . Mentions that the problem of dividing 10 into two parts so that their product is 40 would have to be 5 + √(–15) and 5 – √(–15). Cardano did not go further into what later became to be called complex numbers than this observation.

This example is not given to show that Bombelli knew everything there is to know about complex numbers.Bombelli (1526-1572) Gave examples to Cardano’s cubic formulas One of Cardano's cubic formulas gives the solution to the equation x3 = cx + d as x = 3√(d/2 + √e) + 3√(d/2 – √e) where e = (d/2)2 – (c/3)3). therefore. Bombelli used this to solve the equation x3 = 15x + 4 to get the solution x = 3√(2 + √–121) + 3√(2 – √–121) Now. rather to indicate that he was starting to understand them. nor zero. He determined that √(2 + √–121) = 2 + √–1 √(2 – √–121) = 2 – √–1 and. the square root of –121 is not a real number. Bombelli continued to work with this expression until he found equations that lead him to the solution 4. negative. the solution x = 4. it's neither positive. .

and an are all constants. and the equation x2 – 2x + 1 = 0 has the two solutions 1 and 1.. . xn–1.. e.. an–1. + an–2x2 + an–1x + an = 0 where the coefficients a1. just that there be n of them: x1. if you allow all roots and count roots with multiplicity..g. Girard wasn't particularly clear what form his solutions were to have. an–2. An nth degree equation can be written in modern notation as xn + a1xn–1 + .. and xn.Fundamental Theorem of Algebra .. . the equation x2 + 1 = 0 has the two solutions √–1 and –√–1. x2..Girard (1595-1632) A general relation between the n solutions to an nth degree equation and its n coefficients. Girard said that an nth degree equation admits of n solutions. ..

and xn and the n coefficients a1. . .Girard (1595-1632) Girard gave the relation between the n roots x1.. and an that extends Cardano's remark. the negation of the coefficient of xn–1 (Cardano's remark).. the sum of all products of triples of solutions is –a3.. .... x2.. an–2. the sum of the roots x1 + x2 + . the sum of all products of pairs of solutions is a2. an–1. + xn is –a1... xn.Fundamental Theorem of Algebra . And so on until the product of all n solutions is either an (when n is even) or –an (when n is odd).

Girard’s principle of algebra: An example The 4th degree equation x4 – 6x3 + 3x2 + 26x – 24 = 0 has the four solutions –2. . 1. The sum of all products of pairs (six of them) is 3 (–2)(1) + (–2)(3) + (–2)(4) + (1)(3) + (1)(4) + (3)(4) The sum of all products of triples (four of them) is 26 (–2)(1)(3) + (–2)(1)(4) + (–2)(3)(4) + (1)(3)(4) The product of all four solutions is –24. The sum of the solutions equals 6. 3. and 4. that is –2 + 1 + 3 + 4 = 6.

complex numbers) "imaginary". Called negative solutions "false" treated other solutions (that is.Descartes (1596–1650) Studied this relation between solutions and coefficients. . and showed more explicitly why the relationship holds.

but they were useful in the theory of equations. They weren't considered to be real numbers. but it wasn't clear they were enough to solve cubic and higher-degree equations. Complex numbers remained in limbo. The part of the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra which stated there actually are n solutions of an nth degree equation was yet to be proved . Complex numbers of the form a + b√–1 were sufficient to solve quadratic equations.17th & 18th Century Negative numbers became full–fledged numbers.

it became quite acceptable for use in mathematics. i sin x. Square Root of Minus One. Because of this and other uses of i. . a real part. cos x an imaginary part. √–1 Euler (1707-1783) made the observation that This equation allows us to interpret the exponentiation of an imaginary number ix as having This was a useful observation in the solution of differential equations.The Number i eix = cos x + i sin x where i denotes √–1.

. Thus. x + 0i with positive numbers to the right and negative ones to the left. On the horizontal x-axis. On the vertical y-axis imaginary numbers. where the axes meet).x + yi Used by research mathematicians. end 18th century Common to represent them as points in the plane. i is located one unit above 0 (the origin. positive values of y are up. 0 + yi. negative ones are down. and –i is located one unit below 0. place the real numbers.

Once he had done that. for some real numbers a and b. and It was appropriate to call the xy-plane the "complex plane". it was known that complex numbers (in the sense of solutions to algebraic equations) were the numbers a + bi. .The Fundamental Theorem of Algebra – proved! Gauss published in 1799 his first proof that an nth degree equation has n roots each of the form a + bi.

The complex plane. arithmetic operations on C. negation and subtraction 6. Absolute value The unit circle. parallelogram rule. division 9. a geometric interpretation of multiplication 7. Reciprocals. conjugation. powers of i. multiplying a complex number by a real number. roots of unity.4. the triangle inequality The Mathematics of Complex Numbers Notation. complex conjugates. more roots of unity . Angles and polar coordinates 8. and division Reciprocals done geometrically. multiplying a complex number by i. Multiplication Multiplication done algebraically. multiplication and absolute value. Powers and roots Powers. addition as translation. addition and subtraction 5. roots.


The Complex Plane Since Gauss proved the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra. we know that all complex numbers are of the form x + yi. We'll even call it the complex plane when we use the xy-plane that way. we can use the xy-plane to display complex numbers. Therefore. That gives us a second way to complex numbers. . negative. the first way being algebraically as in the expression x + yi. where x and y are real numbers. real numbers being all those numbers which are positive. or zero.

The Complex plane .

Notation The standard symbol for the set of all complex numbers is C. and the complex plane is C.use x and y Complex variables . while y is called the imaginary part of z.use z and w In general.) . Real variables . (Sometimes yi is called the imaginary part. the x part of a complex number z = x + yi is called the real part of z.

For instance. that is.The xy-plane When we use the xy-plane for the complex plane C. the x-axis is called the real axis. . Real numbers are special cases of complex numbers. they're the numbers on the real axis. the y-axis is called the imaginary axis. The numbers on the imaginary axis are sometimes called purely imaginary numbers. the numbers x + yi when y is 0. the real number 2 is 2 + 0i.

Addition and Subtraction .

just add or subtract the corresponding real and imaginary parts. For instance. So the sum z + w = 2 + 3i is 2 units right and 3 units up. Addition can be represented graphically on the complex plane C. the sum of 5 + 3i and 4 + 2i is 9 + 5i. the sum of 3 + i and –1 + 2i is 2 + 3i. w = –1 + 2i is located 1 unit left and 2 units up. For another.Arithmetic Operations on C To add or subtract two complex numbers. z = 3 + i is located 3 units to the right of the imaginary axis and 1 unit above the real axis. .

and z + w = 2 + 3i .Parallelogram rule 0. z = 3 + i. w = –1 + 2i.

w = –1 + 2i. . plot z and w.Parallelogram Rule Note in the last example that the four complex numbers 0. z = 3 + i. To find where in the plane C the sum z + w of two complex numbers z and w is located. This is generally true. draw lines from 0 to each of them. and complete the parallelogram. The fourth vertex will be z + w. and z + w = 2 + 3i are the corners of a parallelogram.

Addition as Translation. .

so z is moved in the same direction the same distance. The term "vector" is usually used in the description: "the plane is translated along the vector 0w Adding w to 0 gives w. so 0 is moved to w in this transformation. We can say that addition by w gives a translation the plane C in the direction and distance from 0 to w. . Every point in C is moved the same direction and distance when w is added to it. z is moved to z + w.Addition as Translation Addition by w is a transformation of the plane C.

Geometric interpretation of negation .

Geometric interpretation The negation of a of negation complex number will be located just opposite 0 and the same distance away. The negation of x + yi is –x – yi For example. . z = 2 + i is located 2 units right and one unit up. so its negation –z = –2 – i is located 2 units left and one unit down.

Thus. . then every point z is sent to its negation –z. negation gives a 180° rotation.Negation as Transformation of plane C If you rotate the plane 180° around 0.

To find where z – w will be.Geometric Rule For Subtraction From addition and negation. then use the parallelogram rule. Another way of saying that is that the plane is translated along the vector w0. first negate w by finding the point opposite 0. We can interpret subtraction of w as a transformation of C: the plane is translated along the vector from 0 to –w. you can determine what the geometric rule is for subtraction. .


if it's positive or zero. For example. then its absolute value |x| is its negation –x. but |–4| = 4.Concept of Absolute Value The absolute value |x| of a real number x is itself. but if x is negative. The absolute value function strips a real number of its sign. that is. |3| = 3. the corresponding positive value. .

we define the absolute value |z| as being the distance from z to 0 in the complex plane C. |z| For a complex number z = x + yi.Absolute value for a complex number z. |z|2 = x2 + y2 since |x|2 = x2 and |y|2 = y2 (x and y are real numbers) That gives us the formula |z| = √(x2 + y2) .

it's also the absolute value of both i and –i since they're both one unit away from 0 on the imaginary axis. . The unit circle is the circle of radius 1 centered at 0. It includes all complex numbers of absolute value 1. A complex number z = x + yi will lie on the unit circle when x2 + y2 = 1. so it has the equation |z| = 1.The Unit Circle 1 is the absolute value of both 1 and –1.


Therefore. i is something whose square is –1. In other words. What about the 8i2? Remember we introduced i as an abbreviation for √–1. Now the 12i + 2i simplifies to 14i. . Thus. 8i2 equals –8.Multiplying Algebraically (3 + 2i)(1 + 4i) = 3 + 12i + 2i + 8i2.. the product (3 + 2i)(1 + 4i) equals –5 + 14i. the square root of –1.

you'll get the general rule for multiplication (x + yi)(u + vi) = (xu – yv) + (xv + yu)i Remember that (xu – yv). is the sum of the two products of one real part and the other imaginary part. the imaginary part of the product.Multiplying Algebraically If you generalize this example. . but (xv + yu). the real part of the product. is the product of the real parts minus the product of the imaginary parts.

Multiply both parts of the complex number by the real number .Multiplying a complex number by a real number. then you get a formula for multiplying a complex number x + yi and a real number u together: (x + yi) u = xu + yu i. (x + yi)(u + vi) = (xu – yv) + (xv + yu)i if v is zero.

Then. according to the formula for multiplication. zw equals (xu – yv) + (xv + yu)i. |wz|2 = (xu – yv)2 + (xv + yu)2 So. Let z be x + yi. |zw| = |z| |w| To show that|zw|2 = |z|2|w|2. we show that (xu – yv)2 + (xv + yu)2 = (x2 + y2) (u2 + v2) . |z|2 = x2 + y2 and |w|2 = u2 + v2 since zw = (xu – yv) + (xv + yu)i. to show |zw|2 = |z|2|w|2.Multiplication and absolute value. and let w be u + vi.


i is a fourth root of 1. ie. i. Fundamental Theorem of Algebra 1. –1. Cube of i is its own negation.Powers of i i = –1. . all 4 fourth roots of 1 are and –i. i4 .= 1 i4 is the square of i2. –1 and 1 are square roots of 1. –i is another fourth root of 1.e. square of –1. i3 = –i. 2 i3 = i2 times I. i. z4 = 1 is a fourth-degree equation so must have exactly four roots.

Retrieved from .References Dave's Short Course on Complex Numbers.clarku.