Maximum modulus principle

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A plot of the modulus of cos(z) (in red) for z in the unit disk centered at the origin (shown in blue). As predicted by the theorem, the maximum of the modulus cannot be inside of the disk (so the highest value on the red surface is somewhere along its edge).

In mathematics, the maximum modulus principle in complex analysis states that if f is a holomorphic function, then the modulus |f | cannot exhibit a strict local maximum that is properly within the domain of f.

In other words, either f is locally a constant function, or, for any point z0 inside the domain of f there exist other points arbitrarily close to z0 at which |f | takes larger values.

Formal statement[edit]

Let f be a function holomorphic on some connected open subset D of the complex plane ℂ and taking complex values. If z0 is a point in D such that

for all z in some neighborhood of z0, then f is constant on D.

This statement can be viewed as a special case of the open mapping theorem, which states that a nonconstant holomorphic function maps open sets to open sets: If |f| attains a local maximum at z, then the image of a sufficiently small open neighborhood of z cannot be open, so f is constant.

Related statement[edit]

Suppose that is a bounded nonempty open subset of . Let be the closure of . Suppose that is a continuous function that is holomorphic on . Then attains a maximum at some point of the boundary of .

This follows from the first version as follows. Since is compact and nonempty, the continuous function attains a maximum at some point of . If is not on the boundary, then the maximum modulus principle implies that is constant, so also attains the same maximum at any point of the boundary.

Minimum modulus principle[edit]

For a holomorphic function f on a connected open set D of , if z0 is a point in D such that

for all z in some neighborhood of z0, then f is constant on D.

Proof: Apply the maximum modulus principle to .

Sketches of proofs[edit]

Using the maximum principle for harmonic functions[edit]

One can use the equality

for complex natural logarithms to deduce that is a harmonic function. Since z0 is a local maximum for this function also, it follows from the maximum principle that is constant. Then, using the Cauchy–Riemann equations we show that = 0, and thus that is constant as well. Similar reasoning shows that can only have a local minimum (which necessarily has value 0) at an isolated zero of .

Using Gauss's mean value theorem[edit]

Another proof works by using Gauss's mean value theorem to "force" all points within overlapping open disks to assume the same value. The disks are laid such that their centers form a polygonal path from the value where is maximized to any other point in the domain, while being totally contained within the domain. Thus the existence of a maximum value implies that all the values in the domain are the same, thus is constant.

Physical interpretation[edit]

A physical interpretation of this principle comes from the heat equation. That is, since is harmonic, it is thus the steady state of a heat flow on the region D. Suppose a strict maximum was attained on the interior of D, the heat at this maximum would be dispersing to the points around it, which would contradict the assumption that this represents the steady state of a system.


The maximum modulus principle has many uses in complex analysis, and may be used to prove the following:


  • Titchmarsh, E. C. (1939). The Theory of Functions (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. (See chapter 5.)
  • E. D. Solomentsev (2001) [1994], "Maximum-modulus principle", Encyclopedia of Mathematics, EMS Press

External links[edit]