Website owner:  James Miller

[ Home ] [ Up ] [ Info ] [ Mail ]

Special functions. Bessel’s equation of order ν. Bessel function of the first kind.

There are a number of functions in mathematics that have come to be referred to as special functions. For example: Gamma function, Beta function, Bessel functions, Legendre functions; Hermite, Laguerre and Chebyshev polynomials. Where did these functions come from? Most arose in connection with the series solution of important differential equations. When a particular differential equation arises frequently enough, is important enough, it receives its own name. When a particular series arises frequently enough, is important enough, it receives its own name.

We will now illustrate how both the gamma function and the Bessel function arise in connection with the series solution of the Bessel differential equation.

One of the most important of all variable-coefficient differential equations is

1)        x2y" + xy' + (λ2x2 - ν2)y = 0

which is known as Bessel’s equation of order ν with parameter λ. This equation arises in a great variety of problems in physics and engineering including almost all partial differential equation problems having circular symmetry as in the wave or heat equation. And it arises in many applications where neither circular symmetry nor partial differential equations are involved.

As a first step in solving this equation we do a change of variables from x to t by means of the substitution

2)        t = λx.


3)        dt = λdx

 and dividing 3) by dy and inverting we get


From 4) we get


Substitution of 2), 4) and 5) into 1) then gives


which is known as Bessel’s equation of order ν .

We have thus just shown that the problem of solving Bessel’s equation of order ν with parameter λ can be reduced to the problem of solving Bessel’s equation of order ν by employing a change of variable. We shall now derive the solution of Bessel’s equation of order ν.

Problem. Solve Bessel’s equation of order ν


7)        x2y" + xy' + (x2 - ν2)y = 0

in the vicinity of x = 0 where ν is real and ole3.gif 0 and we shall assume that it is not an integer.

Solution. This equation has a regular singular point at x = 0.

Step 1. Assume solution. Assume a solution of the form

8)        y = xc[a0 + a1x + a2x2 + a3x3 + ....... ] = a0xc + a1xc+1 + a2xc+2 + a3xc+3 + .......

where a0 ole4.gif 0.

Step 2. Substitute assumed solution into differential equation. Substitute the assumed series 8) into the differential equation 7), collect like terms, and do an index shift in such a way as to bring all the exponents of x down to the smallest one present.

Substitution of 8) into 7) gives


which reduces to


A shift in index, replacing n with n - 2 in the second term, gives 


Step 3. Compute roots of indicial equation. The equations for determining c and the a’s are


10)      n = 0:  (c2 - ν2)a0 = 0

            n = 1: [(1 + c)2 - ν2]a1 = 0

            n ole8.gif 2:      [(n + c)2 - ν2)an + an -2 = 0

The indicial equation is then given by

            (c2 - ν2) = 0

 Its roots are c1 = -ν and c2 = ν .

Computation of solution corresponding to the first root.

Step 4. Derive recurrence relation for first root. We will do the root c = ν first. Substituting c = ν into equations of 10) we get


11)      0· a0 = 0       (a0 arbitrary)

            a1 = 0

            n(n + 2ν)an + an-2 = 0           n ole9.gif 2

which gives the recurrence relation


Step 5. Set up column and use multiplication devise to obtain an. Since a1 = 0, all terms with odd subscripts will be zero. Substituting into 6) for terms with even subscripts we get, for different values of n,

            a0 arbitrary



Multiplying these equations together and simplifying we get




This represents the expression for the coefficients. Let us make some modifications for purposes of simplification. Let us multiply both numerator and denominator by the gamma function Γ(ν+1). This gives


The denominator now contains the product

            Γ(ν +1)·(ν +1)(ν +2)(ν +3) ...... (ν + k) .

This product is equal to Γ(ν + k +1).


Equation 14) then becomes


For reasons that will be soon apparent let us now multiply the numerator and denominator of 14) by 2ν to obtain


The constant a0 is arbitrary and since we are only looking for a particular solution let us assign a0 the value




The solution can then be written as


which is the Bessel function of the first kind of order ν. Since Bessel’s equation has no finite singular points except the origin the series converges for all values of x if v ole20.gif 0. The usual notation for the Bessel function of the first kind of order ν is Jν(x). Thus 17) can be written as


We could now derive the second solution to our differential equation by going back and substituting the second root c = -ν of the indicial equation into the recurrence relation 12) and repeating steps 4 through 6. We will not, however, do this. We will simply state the result. It is


Note that y2 can be obtained from y1 simply by replacing ν by -ν in the series.

Jν(x) and J-ν(x) constitute two linearly independent solutions of Bessel’s equation. The complete solution of Bessel’s equation is

            y(x) = c1 Jν(x) + c2 J(x)

where c1 and c2 are arbitrary constants.


1. Earl Rainville. Elementary Differential Equations.

2. Wylie. Advanced Engineering Mathematics.

More from

The Way of Truth and Life

God's message to the world

Jesus Christ and His Teachings

Words of Wisdom

Way of enlightenment, wisdom, and understanding

Way of true Christianity

America, a corrupt, depraved, shameless country

On integrity and the lack of it

The test of a person's Christianity is what he is

Who will go to heaven?

The superior person

On faith and works

Ninety five percent of the problems that most people have come from personal foolishness

Liberalism, socialism and the modern welfare state

The desire to harm, a motivation for conduct

The teaching is:

On modern intellectualism

On Homosexuality

On Self-sufficient Country Living, Homesteading

Principles for Living Life

Topically Arranged Proverbs, Precepts, Quotations. Common Sayings. Poor Richard's Almanac.

America has lost her way

The really big sins

Theory on the Formation of Character

Moral Perversion

You are what you eat

People are like radio tuners --- they pick out and listen to one wavelength and ignore the rest

Cause of Character Traits --- According to Aristotle

These things go together


We are what we eat --- living under the discipline of a diet

Avoiding problems and trouble in life

Role of habit in formation of character

The True Christian

What is true Christianity?

Personal attributes of the true Christian

What determines a person's character?

Love of God and love of virtue are closely united

Walking a solitary road

Intellectual disparities among people and the power in good habits

Tools of Satan. Tactics and Tricks used by the Devil.

On responding to wrongs

Real Christian Faith

The Natural Way -- The Unnatural Way

Wisdom, Reason and Virtue are closely related

Knowledge is one thing, wisdom is another

My views on Christianity in America

The most important thing in life is understanding

Sizing up people

We are all examples --- for good or for bad

Television --- spiritual poison

The Prime Mover that decides "What We Are"

Where do our outlooks, attitudes and values come from?

Sin is serious business. The punishment for it is real. Hell is real.

Self-imposed discipline and regimentation

Achieving happiness in life --- a matter of the right strategies


Self-control, self-restraint, self-discipline basic to so much in life

We are our habits

What creates moral character?

[ Home ] [ Up ] [ Info ] [ Mail ]