# Hermitian Operator has Orthogonal Eigenvectors

## Theorem

The eigenvectors of a Hermitian operator are orthogonal.

## Proof

Let $\hat H$ be a Hermitian operator on an inner product space $V$ over the complex numbers $\C$, with a simple spectrum:

$\hat H \left\vert{x_i}\right\rangle = \lambda_i \left\vert{x_i}\right\rangle$
$\lambda_i \ne \lambda_j$
$\forall i, j \in \N: i \ne j$

Now we compute the following:

 $\ds \left\langle{x_j}\middle \vert{\hat H}\middle \vert{x_i}\right\rangle$ $=$ $\ds \left\langle{x_j}\middle \vert{\left({\hat H}\middle \vert{x_i}\right\rangle}\right)$ $\ds$ $=$ $\ds \left\langle{x_j}\middle \vert{\lambda_i}\middle \vert{x_i}\right\rangle$ $\ds$ $=$ $\ds \lambda_i \left\langle{x_j}\middle \vert{x_i}\right\rangle$

and:

 $\ds \left\langle{x_i}\middle \vert{\hat H}\middle \vert{x_j}\right\rangle^*$ $=$ $\ds \left({\left\langle{x_i}\middle \vert{\left({\hat H}\middle \vert{x_j}\right\rangle}\right)}\right)^*$ $\ds$ $=$ $\ds \left\langle{x_i}\middle \vert{\lambda_j}\middle \vert{x_j}\right\rangle^*$ $\ds$ $=$ $\ds \left({\lambda_j \braket {x_i} {x_j} }\right)^*$

From the property $\lambda_j = \lambda_j^*$ and the conjugate symmetry of the inner product:

$\braket {x_i} {x_j} = \braket {x_j} {x_i}^*$

this becomes:

$\left\langle{x_i}\middle \vert{\hat H}\middle \vert{x_j}\right\rangle^* = \lambda_j \braket {x_j} {x_i}$

It can be shown that the following relation holds since $\hat H = \hat H^\dagger$:

$\left\langle{x_j}\middle \vert{\hat H}\middle \vert{x_i}\right\rangle = \left\langle{x_i}\middle \vert{\hat H}\middle \vert{x_j}\right\rangle^*$

This now gives us the equations:

$(1): \quad \left\langle{x_j}\middle \vert{\hat H}\middle \vert{x_i}\right\rangle = \lambda_i \braket {x_j} {x_i}$
$(2): \quad \left\langle{x_j}\middle \vert{\hat H}\middle \vert{x_i}\right\rangle = \lambda_j \braket {x_j} {x_i}$

Subtracting $(2)$ from $(1)$ gives:

$\paren {\lambda_i - \lambda_j} \braket {x_j} {x_i} = 0$

Note that $\paren {\lambda_i - \lambda_j} \ne 0$ since we were given $\lambda_i \ne \lambda_j$.

Therefore:

$\braket {x_j} {x_i} = 0$

Two vectors have inner product $0$ if and only if they are orthogonal.

Therefore the eigenvectors of $\hat H$ are orthogonal.

$\blacksquare$