Levi-Civita field

In mathematics, the Levi-Civita field, named after Tullio Levi-Civita, is a non-Archimedean ordered field; i.e., a system of numbers containing infinite and infinitesimal quantities. Its members can be constructed as formal series of the form

where are real numbers, is the set of rational numbers, and is to be interpreted as a positive infinitesimal. The support of a, i.e., the set of indices of the nonvanishing coefficients must be a left-finite set: for any member of , there are only finitely many members of the set less than it; this restriction is necessary in order to make multiplication and division well defined and unique. The ordering is defined according to dictionary ordering of the list of coefficients, which is equivalent to the assumption that is an infinitesimal.

The real numbers are embedded in this field as series in which all of the coefficients vanish except .


Extensions and applications

The field can be algebraically closed by adjoining an imaginary unit (i), or by letting the coefficients be complex. It is rich enough to allow a significant amount of analysis to be done, but its elements can still be represented on a computer in the same sense that real numbers can be represented using floating point. It is the basis of automatic differentiation, a way to perform differentiation in cases that are intractable by symbolic differentiation or finite-difference methods.[1]

Hahn series (with real coefficients and value group ) are a larger field which relaxes the condition on the support of being left finite to that of being well-ordered (i.e., admitting no infinite decreasing sequence): this gives a meaning to series such as which are not in the Levi-Civita field.


  1. Khodr Shamseddine, Martin Berz "Analysis on the Levi-Civita Field: A Brief Overview", Contemporary Mathematics, 508 pp 215-237 (2010)

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