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# Self-Adjoint Linear Operators

Recall that if $V$ and $W$ are finite-dimensional nonzero inner product space and if $T \in \mathcal L(V, W)$ them the adjoint of $T$ denoted $T^*$ is the linear map $T^* : W \to V$ is defined by considering the linear function $\varphi : V \to \mathbb{F}$ defined by $\varphi (v) =

If we now look only at linear operators, say $T \in \mathcal L (V)$ then $T : V \to V$ and $T^* : V \to V$, and in some cases, we will have that $T = T^*$. These type of linear operators are special and are defined below.

Definition: Let $V$ be a finite-dimensional nonzero inner product space. Let $T \in \mathcal L (V)$. Then $T$ is said to be Self-Adjoint if $T = T^*$. |

*The term “ Hermitian” is used interchangeably as opposed to “Self-Adjoint”.*

We have already seen one type of self-adjoint linear operator, namely the identity operator since $I = I^*$.

For a more complex example, consider the linear operator $T \in \mathcal (\mathbb{F}^2)$ defined by $T(x, y) = (2x + 3y, 3x + 2y)$ and consider the standard basis $\{ (1, 0), (0, 1) \}$ of $\mathbb{F}^2$. Note that $T(1, 0) = (2, 3)$ and $T(0, 1) = (3, 2)$, so we can construct the matrix $\mathcal M (T)$ with respect to the basis $\{ (1, 0), (0, 1) \}$ to be:

(1)

As we saw on The Matrix of the Adjoint of a Linear Map, the matrix of $T^*$ with respect to this basis $\{ (1, 0), (0, 1) \}$ can be obtained taking the conjugate transpose of $\mathcal M (T, \{ (1, 0), (0, 1) \}$, however, note that $\mathcal M (T, \{ (1, 0), (0, 1) \} = \mathcal M (T^*, \{ (1, 0), (0, 1) \}$ so $T$ is self-adjoint.

We will now look at some basic properties of self-adjoint matrices.

Proposition 1: Let $V$ be a finite-dimensional nonzero inner product space and let $S, T \in \mathcal L (V)$. If $S$ and $T$ are self-adjoint then $(S + T)$ is also self-adjoint. |

**Proof:**Let $S$ and $T$ both be self-adjoint. Then $S = S^*$ and $T = T^*$. Thus we have that:

(2)

- Therefore $(S + T) = (S + T)^*$ so $(S + T)$ is self-adjoint.

Proposition 2: Let $V$ be a finite-dimensional nonzero inner product space and let $T \in \mathcal L(V)$ and $a \in \mathbb{R}$. If $T$ is self-adjoint then $aT$ is also self-adjoint. |

*Note that proposition 2 holds only if $a$ is a real number since in the proof below we require that $a = \bar{a}$ which holds if and only if $a \in \mathbb{R}$.*

**Proof:**Let $T$ be self-adjoint and let $a \in \mathbb{R}$. Then $T = T^*$. Thus we have that:

(3)

- Therefore $(aT) = (aT)^*$ so $aT$ is self-adjoint.

## Example 1

**Let $T$ be a linear operator on the inner product space $V$. Prove that $(T – T^*)^2$ is self-adjoint.**

To prove that $(T – T^*)^2$ is self-adjoint we must show that $(T – T^*)^2 = ((T – T^*)^2)^*$. We have that:

(4)

So indeed $(T – T^*)^2$ is self-adjoint.