Definition:Natural Logarithm

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Positive Real Numbers

The (natural) logarithm of $x$ is the real-valued function defined on $\R_{>0}$ as:

$\ds \forall x \in \R_{>0}: \ln x := \int_1^x \frac {\d t} t$

Complex Numbers

Let $z = r e^{i \theta}$ be a complex number expressed in exponential form such that $z \ne 0$.

The complex natural logarithm of $z \in \C_{\ne 0}$ is the multifunction defined as:

$\map \ln z := \set {\map \ln r + i \paren {\theta + 2 k \pi}: k \in \Z}$

where $\map \ln r$ is the natural logarithm of the (strictly) positive real number $r$.


The notation for the natural logarithm function is misleadingly inconsistent throughout the literature. It is written variously as:

$\ln z$
$\log z$
$\Log z$
$\log_e z$

The first of these is commonly encountered, and is the preferred form on $\mathsf{Pr} \infty \mathsf{fWiki}$. However, many who consider themselves serious mathematicians believe this notation to be unsophisticated.

The second and third are ambiguous (it doesn't tell you which base it is the logarithm of).

While the fourth option is more verbose than the others, there is no confusion about exactly what is meant.


Natural Logarithm: $\ln 2$

Mercator's constant is the real number:

\(\ds \ln 2\) \(=\) \(\ds \sum_{n \mathop = 1}^\infty \frac {\paren {-1}^\paren {n - 1} } n\)
\(\ds \) \(=\) \(\ds 1 - \frac 1 2 + \frac 1 3 - \frac 1 4 + \dotsb\)
\(\ds \) \(=\) \(\ds 0 \cdotp 69314 \, 71805 \, 59945 \, 30941 \, 72321 \, 21458 \, 17656 \, 80755 \, 00134 \, 360 \ldots \ldots\)

Natural Logarithm: $\ln 3$

The natural logarithm of $3$ is:

$\ln 3 = 1.09861 \, 22886 \, 68109 \, 69139 \, 5245 \ldots$

Natural Logarithm: $\ln 10$

The natural logarithm of $10$ is approximately:

$\ln 10 \approx 2 \cdotp 30258 \, 50929 \, 94045 \, 68401 \, 7991 \ldots$

Also known as

The natural logarithm is sometimes referred to as the Napierian logarithm for John Napier, although this name is rare nowadays.

It needs to be noted that the Napierian logarithm proper was in fact a different construction.

Some sources call it the hyperbolic logarithm.

Also see

  • Results about logarithms can be found here.

Historical Note

The natural logarithm was discovered by accident by John Napier in around $1590$, evolving from his invention of the Napierian logarithm as a tool for multiplication of numbers by addition.

He had no concept of the notion of the base of a logarithm and certainly did not use Euler's number $e$.

Linguistic Note

The word logarithm comes from the Ancient Greek λόγος (lógos), meaning word or reason, and ἀριθμός (arithmós), meaning number.