Rolle’s Theorem

Rolle’s theorem says that if a function is continuous on a closed interval [a, b], differentiable on the open interval (a, b) and if f (a) = f (b), then there exists a number c in the open interval (a, b) such that {f}'\left( c \right)=0.  (“There exists a number” means that there is at least one such number; there may be more than one.)

The proof has two cases:

Case I: The function is constant (all of the values of the function are the same as f (a) and f (b)). The derivative of a constant is zero so any (every, all) value(s) in the open interval qualifies as c.

Case II: If the function is not constant then it must have a maximum or minimum in the open interval (a, b) by the Extreme Value Theorem. So, by Fermat’s theorem (see this post) the derivative at that point must be zero.

So, Fermat’s theorem makes Rolle’s theorem a piece of cake.

A lemma is a theorem whose result is used in the next theorem and makes it easier to prove. So Fermat’s theorem is a lemma for Rolle’s theorem.

On the other hand, a corollary is a theorem is a result (theorem) that follows easily from the previous theorem. So, Rolle’s theorem could also be called a corollary of Fremat’s theorem.

Rolle’s theorem makes a major appearance in the MVT and then more or less disappears from the stage. When you find critical number or critical points you are using Fermat’s theorem.

I like this proof because it’s so simple. It really just comes immediately from Fermat’s theorem.

The next post: The Mean Value Theorem.


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