Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2014

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Palle E. Jorgensen

Second Advisor

Laurent O. Jay


In 1948, Richard Feynman published the first paper on his new approach to non-relativistic quantum mechanics. Before Feynman's work there were two mathematical formulations of quantum mechanics. Schrödinger's formulation was based on PDE (the Schrödinger equation) and states representation by wave functions, so it was in the framework of analysis and differential equations. The other formulation was Heisenberg's matrix algebra. Initially, they were thought to be competing. The proponents of one claimed that the other was “ wrong. ” Within a couple of years, John von Neumann had proved that they are equivalent.

Although Feynman's theory was not fundamentally new, it nonetheless offered an entirely fresh and different perspective: via a precise formulation of Bohr's correspondence principle, it made quantum mechanics similar to classical mechanics in a precise sense. In addition, Feynman's approach made it possible to explain physical experiments, and, via diagrams, link them directly to computations. What resulted was a very powerful device for computing energies and scattering amplitudes - the famous Feynman's diagrams.

In his formulation, Feynman aimed at representing the solution to the non-relativistic Schrödinger equation in the form of an “ average ” over histories or paths of a particle. This solution is commonly known as the Feynman path integral. It plays an important role in the theory but appears as a postulate based on intuition coming from physics rather than a justified mathematical object. This is why Feynman's vision has caught the attention of many mathematicians as well as physicists.

The papers of Gelfand, Cameron, and Nelson are among the first, and more substantial, attempts to supply Feynman's theory with a rigorous mathematical foundation. These attempts were followed by many others, but unfortunately all of them were not quite satisfactory. The difficulty comes from a need to define a measure on an infinite-dimensional space of continuous functions that represent all possible paths of a particle. This Feynman's measure has to produce an integral with the properties requested by Feynman. In particular, the expression for the Feynman measure has to involve the non-absolutely integrable Fresnel integrands. The non-absolute integrability of the Fresnel integrands makes the measure fail to be positive and to have the countably additive property. Thus, a well-defined measure in the case of the Feynman path integral does not exist.

Extensive research has been done on the methods of relating the Feynman path integral to the integral with respect to the Wiener measure. The method of analytic continuation in mass defines the Feynman path integral as a certain limit of the Wiener integrals. Unfortunately, this method can be used as definition for only almost all values of the mass parameter in the Schrödinger equation. For physicists, this is not a satisfactory result and needs to be improved.

In this work we examine those questions which originally led to the Feynman path integral. By now we know that Feynman's “ dream ” cannot be realized as a positive and countably additive measure on the path-space. Here, we offer a new way out by modifying Feynman's question, and thereby achieving a solution to the Schrödinger equation via a different kind of averages in the path-space.

We give our version of the question that Feynman “ should have asked ” in order to realize the elusive path integral. In our formulation, we get a Feynman path integral as a limit of linear functionals, as opposed to the more familiar inductive limits of positive measures, traditionally used for constructing the Wiener measure, and related Gaussian families. We adapt here an approach pioneered by Patrick Muldowney. In it, Muldowney suggested a Henstock integration technique in order to deal with the non-absolute integrability of the kind of Fresnel integrals which we need in our solution to Feynman's question. By applying Henstock's theory to Fresnel integrals, we construct a complex-valued “ probability distribution functions ” on the path-space. Then we use this “ probability ” distribution function to define the Feynman path integral as an inductive limit. This establishes a mathematically rigorous Feynman limit, and at the same time, preserves Feynman's intuitive idea in resulting functional. In addition, our definition, and our solution, do not place any restrictions on any of the parameters in the Schrödinger equation, and have a potential to offer useful computational experiments, and other theoretical insights.


Distributions on Path-Space, Feynman Path Integral, Feynman's measure, Functional Analysis, Henstock Integral, Stochastic Analysis


vii, 104 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 103-104).


Copyright 2014 Ekaterina Nathanson

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