Jacobi elliptic coordinates, functions of Heun and Lamé type and the Niven transform

E. G. Kalnins, W. Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Lamé and Heun functions arise via separation of the Laplace equation in general Jacobi ellipsoidal or conical coordinates. In contrast to hypergeometric functions that also arise via variable separation in the Laplace equation, Lamé and Heun functions have received relatively little attention, since they are rather intractable. Nonetheless functions of Heun type do have remarkable properties, as was pointed out in the classical book "Modern Analysis" by Whittaker and Watson who devoted an entire chapter to the subject. Unfortunately the beautiful identities appearing in this chapter have received little notice, probably because the methods of proof seemed obscure. In this paper we apply the modern operator characterization of variable separation and exploit the conformal symmetry of the Laplace equation to obtain product identities for Heun type functions. We interpret the Niven transform as an intertwining operator under the action of the conformal group. We give simple operator derivations of some of the basic formulas presented by Whittaker and Watson and then show how to generalize their results to more complicated situations and to higher dimensions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)487-508
Number of pages22
JournalRegular and Chaotic Dynamics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Heun functions
  • Jacobi elliptic coordinates
  • Lamé functions
  • Niven transform


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