An unusual self-adjoint linear partial differential operator

W Everitt, L Markus, M Plum

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10 Citations (Scopus)


In an American Mathematical Society Memoir, published in 2003, the authors Everitt and Markus apply their prior theory of symplectic algebra to the study of symmetric linear partial differential expressions, and the generation of self-adjoint differential operators in Sobolev Hilbert spaces. In the case when the differential expression has smooth coefficients on the closure of a bounded open region, in Euclidean space, and when the region has a smooth boundary, this theory leads to the construction of certain self-adjoint partial differential operators which cannot be defined by applying classical or generalized conditions on the boundary of the open region. This present paper concerns the spectral properties of one of these unusual self-adjoint operators, sometimes called the "Harmonic" operator. The boundary value problems considered in the Memoir (see above) and in this paper are called regular in that the coefficients of the differential expression do not have singularities within or on the boundary of the region; also the region is bounded and has a smooth boundary. Under these and some additional technical conditions it is shown in the Memoir, and emphasized in this present paper, that all the self-adjoint operators considered are explicitly determined on their domains by the partial differential expression; this property makes a remarkable comparison with the case of symmetric ordinary differential expressions. In the regular ordinary case the spectrum of all the self-adjoint operators is discrete in that it consists of a countable number of eigenvalues with no finite point of accumulation, and each eigenvalue is of finite multiplicity. Thus the essential spectrum of all these operators is empty. This spectral property extends to the present partial differential case for the classical Dirichlet and Neumann operators but not to the Harmonic operator. It is shown in this paper that the Harmonic operator has an eigenvalue of infinite multiplicity at the origin of the complex spectral plane; thus the essential spectrum of this operator is not empty. Both the weak and strong formulations of the Harmonic boundary value problem are considered; these two formulations are shown to be equivalent. In the final section of the paper examples are considered which show that the Harmonic operator, defined by the methods of symplectic algebra, has a domain that cannot be determined by applying either classical or generalized local conditions on the boundary of the region.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1303-1324
Number of pages22
JournalTransactions of the American Mathematical Society
Issue number4
Early online date4 Nov 2004
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2005


  • spectral theory
  • linear partial differential equations
  • self-adjoint partial differential operators


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