Mathematical Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society

Research Article

On the circle polynomials of Zernike and related orthogonal sets

A. B. Bhatiaa1 p1 and E. Wolfa1

a1 Department of Mathematical Physics University of Edinburgh


The paper is concerned with the construction of polynomials in two variables, which form a complete orthogonal set for the interior of the unit circle and which are ‘invariant in form’ with respect to rotations of axes about the origin of coordinates. It is found that though there exist an infinity of such sets there is only one set which in addition has certain simple properties strictly analogous to that of Legendre polynomials. This set is found to be identical with the set of the circle polynomials of Zernike which play an important part in the theory of phase contrast and in the Nijboer-Zernike diffraction theory of optical aberrations.

The results make it possible to derive explicit expressions for the Zernike polynomials in a simple, systematic manner. The method employed may also be used to derive other orthogonal sets. One new set is investigated, and the generating functions for this set and for the Zernike polynomials are also given.

(Received January 19 1953)


p1 Present address: Physics Division. National Research Council, Ottawa.