Because of the many relations connecting the special functions to each other, and to the elementary functions, it is natural to inquire whether more general functions can be developed so that the special functions and elementary functions are merely specializations of these general functions. General functions of this nature have in fact been developed and are collectively referred to as functions of the hypergeometric type. There are several varieties of these functions, but the most common are the standard hypergeometric function (which we discuss in this chapter) and the confluent hypergeometric function (Chap. 10). Still, other generalizations exist, such as MacRobert's E function and Meijer's G function, for which even generalized hypergeometric functions are certain specializations (Chap. 11).
The major development of the theory of the hypergeometric function was carried out by Gauss and published in his famous memoir of 1812, a memoir that is also noted as being the real beginning of rigor in mathematics. Some important results concerning the hypergeometric function had been developed earlier by Euler and others, but it was Gauss who made the first systematic study of the series that defines this function.
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