Legendre transform

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A transformation in mathematical analysis that establishes a duality between objects in dual spaces (in parallel with projective duality in analytic geometry and polar duality in convex geometry, cf. Duality). Let be a smooth function considered on an open set of a normed space and having the property that the mapping (here is the Fréchet derivative of ) maps one-to-one onto a set . Then the Legendre transform of is the function on defined by the formula


If is a function on and the determinant is non-zero in , the Legendre transform is given by the formulas



The transformation goes back to G. Leibniz; in its general form it was defined by A.M. Legendre (1789), but it was considered earlier by L. Euler (1776).

If is a finite-dimensional function that is smooth, strictly convex, and increases at infinity faster than a linear function, the Legendre transform can be defined thus:


The expression (2) with replaced by was taken (see [2]) as the basis of the theory of duality of convex functions (see Conjugate function).

Examples. The Legendre transform of the function

of one variable is the function

The Legendre transform of the function in a Hilbert space with scalar product is the function .

The Legendre transformation, based on a change of variables , is a special case of a proximity transformation; the essence of the Legendre transformation lies in the possibility of a dual description of a surface in space — as a set of points and as the enveloping family of its tangent planes, given by the pair , consisting of a linear functional and an affine tangent function .

The Legendre transformation plays an important role in analysis, particularly in convex analysis (see [1], [2], [4]), in the theory of differential equations, in variational calculus (see [6]), and in classical mechanics, thermodynamics, the theory of elasticity and other branches of mathematical physics. Thus, the application of the Legendre transformation to the solution of a differential equation reduces it to the solution of the equation , where , , which can sometimes be integrated more easily than the original equation. The application of the Legendre transformation to the Lagrangian of a problem in classical variational calculus reduces it to the Hamilton function. Here, the system of Euler equations (in variational calculus) and the Lagrange equation (in classical mechanics) go over to an equivalent system of canonical equations. In thermodynamics the Legendre transformation brings about a transition from some state functions to others, for example from the specific volume and entropy to the temperature and pressure.


[1] G.M. Fichtenholz, "Differential und Integralrechnung" , 1 , Deutsch. Verlag Wissenschaft. (1964)
[2] E. Goursat, "Cours d'analyse mathématique" , 1 , Gauthier-Villars (1918)
[3] V.I. Arnol'd, "Mathematical methods of classical mechanics" , Springer (1978) (Translated from Russian)
[4] R.T. Rockafellar, "Convex analysis" , Princeton Univ. Press (1970)
[5] W. Fenchel, "On conjugate convex functions" Canad. J. Math. , 1 (1949) pp. 73–77
[6] C. Carathéodory, "Variationsrechnung und partielle Differentialgleichungen erster Ordnung" , Teubner (1956)



[a1] R. Courant, D. Hilbert, "Methods of mathematical physics. Partial differential equations" , 2 , Interscience (1962) (Translated from German)

An integral transform

where is the Legendre polynomial (cf. Legendre polynomials) of order . The inversion formula has the form

if the series converges. The Legendre transform reduces the differential operation

to an algebraic operation by means of the formula

For the Legendre transform there is a convolution theorem: If



and is the interior of the ellipse . The Legendre transform is a special case of the Jacobi transform.


[1] C.J. Tranter, "Legendre transforms" Quart. J. Math. , 1 (1950) pp. 1–8
[2] Yu.A. Brychkov, A.P. Prudnikov, "Operational calculus" Progress in Math. , 1 (1968) pp. 1–74 Itogi Nauk. Mat. Anal. 1966 (1967) pp. 7–82

Yu.A. BrychkovA.P. Prudnikov

How to Cite This Entry:
Legendre transform. Encyclopedia of Mathematics. URL:
This article was adapted from an original article by V.M. Tikhomirov (originator), which appeared in Encyclopedia of Mathematics - ISBN 1402006098. See original article