Tables for
Volume B
Reciprocal space
Edited by U. Shmueli

International Tables for Crystallography (2010). Vol. B, ch. 1.3, pp. 24-25   | 1 | 2 |

Section Introduction

G. Bricognea

aGlobal Phasing Ltd, Sheraton House, Suites 14–16, Castle Park, Cambridge CB3 0AX, England, and LURE, Bâtiment 209D, Université Paris-Sud, 91405 Orsay, France Introduction

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The Fourier transformation and the practical applications to which it gives rise occur in three different forms which, although they display a similar range of phenomena, normally require distinct formulations and different proof techniques:

  • (i) Fourier transforms, in which both function and transform depend on continuous variables;

  • (ii) Fourier series, which relate a periodic function to a discrete set of coefficients indexed by n-tuples of integers;

  • (iii) discrete Fourier transforms, which relate finite-dimensional vectors by linear operations representable by matrices.

At the same time, the most useful property of the Fourier transformation – the exchange between multiplication and convolution – is mathematically the most elusive and the one which requires the greatest caution in order to avoid writing down meaningless expressions.

It is the unique merit of Schwartz's theory of distributions (Schwartz, 1966[link]) that it affords complete control over all the troublesome phenomena which had previously forced mathematicians to settle for a piecemeal, fragmented theory of the Fourier transformation. By its ability to handle rigorously highly `singular' objects (especially δ-functions, their derivatives, their tensor products, their products with smooth functions, their translates and lattices of these translates), distribution theory can deal with all the major properties of the Fourier transformation as particular instances of a single basic result (the exchange between multiplication and convolution), and can at the same time accommodate the three previously distinct types of Fourier theories within a unique framework. This brings great simplification to matters of central importance in crystallography, such as the relations between

  • (a) periodization, and sampling or decimation;

  • (b) Shannon interpolation, and masking by an indicator function;

  • (c) section, and projection;

  • (d) differentiation, and multiplication by a monomial;

  • (e) translation, and phase shift.

All these properties become subsumed under the same theorem.

This striking synthesis comes at a slight price, which is the relative complexity of the notion of distribution. It is first necessary to establish the notion of topological vector space and to gain sufficient control (or, at least, understanding) over convergence behaviour in certain of these spaces. The key notion of metrizability cannot be circumvented, as it underlies most of the constructs and many of the proof techniques used in distribution theory. Most of Section[link] builds up to the fundamental result at the end of Section[link], which is basic to the definition of a distribution in Section[link] and to all subsequent developments.

The reader mostly interested in applications will probably want to reach this section by starting with his or her favourite topic in Section 1.3.4[link], and following the backward references to the relevant properties of the Fourier transformation, then to the proof of these properties, and finally to the definitions of the objects involved. Hopefully, he or she will then feel inclined to follow the forward references and thus explore the subject from the abstract to the practical. The books by Dieudonné (1969)[link] and Lang (1965)[link] are particularly recommended as general references for all aspects of analysis and algebra.


Dieudonné, J. (1969). Foundations of Modern Analysis. New York, London: Academic Press.
Lang, S. (1965). Algebra. Reading: Addison-Wesley.
Schwartz, L. (1966). Théorie des Distributions. Paris: Hermann.

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