Sturm’s 1836 Oscillation Results Evolution of the Theory

  • Don Hinton


We examine how Sturm’s oscillation theorems on comparison, separation, and indexing the number of zeros of eigenfunctions have evolved. It was Bôcher who first put the proofs on a rigorous basis, and major tools of analysis where introduced by Picone, Prüfer, Morse, Reid, and others. Some basic oscillation and disconjugacy results are given for the second-order case. We show how the definitions of oscillation and disconjugacy have more than one interpretation for higher-order equations and systems, but it is the definitions from the calculus of variations that provide the most fruitful concepts; they also have application to the spectral theory of differential equations. The comparison and separation theorems are given for systems, and it is shown how they apply to scalar equations to give a natural extension of Sturm’s second-order case. Finally we return to the second-order case to show how the indexing of zeros of eigenfunctions changes when there is a parameter in the boundary condition or if the weight function changes sign.


separation comparison disconjugate oscillatory conjugate point 


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© Birkhäuser Verlag Basel/Switzerland 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Don Hinton
    • 1
  1. 1.Mathematics DepartmentUniversity of TennesseeKnoxvilleUSA

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