nLab Bernoulli number




In Lie theory

In Lie theory, Bernoulli numbers appear as coefficients in the linear part of the Hausdorff series (and the recursive relation for the Dynkin Lie polynomials appearing in the Hausdorff series); this has consequences in deformation theory. The (determinant of the square root of the) inverse of its generating function appears (for variables in an adjoint representation) in an expression for the Duflo isomorphism in Lie theory and in its generalizations in knot theory etc.

In algebraic topology

In algebraic topology/cohomology Bernoulli numbers appear as the coefficients of the characteristic series of the A-hat genus (see there), and they (or equivalently, their generating functions) also appear in the expression for the Todd class.

The Bernoulli numbers are also proportional to the constant terms of the Eisenstein series and as such appear in the exponential form of the characteristic series of the Witten genus.

Finally they appear as the order of some groups in the image of the J-homomorphism (cf. Adams 65, section 2).

Of course, all of these cases are related to formal group laws. Formal groups bear also some other connections to Bernoulli numbers and generalizations like Bernoulli polynomials.


The Riemann zeta-function ζ\zeta at negative integral values is proportional to the Bernoulli numbers as

ζ(n)=B n+1n+1. \zeta(-n) = - \frac{B_{n+1}}{n+1} \,.

Bernoulli numbers appear also in umbral calculus. There are generalizations, for example, Bernoulli polynomials.

They also have applications in analysis (Euler-MacLaurin formula, with applications in numerical analysis).


The Bernoulli numbers B kB_k are rational numbers given by their generating function, i.e. by the equation of functions/power series xf(x)x \mapsto f(x)

xe x1= k=0 β kk!x k. \frac{x}{ e^x -1 } = \sum_{k = 0}^{\infty} \frac{\beta_k}{k !}x^k \,.

The kkth Bernoulli number B kB_k \in \mathbb{Q} is, depending on convention, either equal to β k\beta_k (or sporadically, in older literature, to (1) k1β 2k(-1)^{k-1} \beta_{2k}). If we take generating function x+xe x1=xe xe x1=xe x1x+\frac{x}{e^x-1}=\frac{x e^x}{e^x -1}=\frac{-x}{e^{-x}-1} this only changes the sign of B 1B_1 as all other odd Bernoulli numbers (in standard convention) vanish.


The von Staudt-Clausen theorem states that

B 2n+ p1|2n1p. B_{2n} + \sum_{p-1|2n} \frac{1}{p} \in\mathbb{Z}.



Textbook accounts;


  • Pierre Cartier, chapter 3 in: Mathemagics, Séminaire Lotharingien de Combinatoire 44 (2000), Article B44d (pdf, pdf)

  • John Baez, The Bernoulli numbers, 2003 expository notes (pdf)

See also:

Lie theory, deformation theory, knot theory, geometry

In QFT and string theory

Appearance of Bernoulli numbers in perturbative quantum field theory and string theory:

In algebraic topology

In algebraic topology:

  • John Adams, On the groups J(X)J(X) II, Topology 3 (2) (1965) (pdf)

In the context of the A-hat genus the Bernoulli numbers are discussed in

Formal groups and Bernoulli polynomials

  • Piergiulio Tempesta, Formal groups, Bernoulli-type polynomials and L-series, Comptes Rendus de l Académie des Sciences - Series I - Mathematics 07/2007; 345 doi

  • Stefano Marmi, Piergiulio Tempesta, Hyperfunctions, formal groups and generalized Lipschitz summation formulas, Nonlinear Analysis 03/2012; 75:1768-1777 doi


Last revised on December 11, 2020 at 08:59:11. See the history of this page for a list of all contributions to it.