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In numerical linear algebra, the Arnoldi iteration is an eigenvalue algorithm and an important example of iterative methods. Arnoldi finds the eigenvalues of general (possibly non-Hermitian) matrices; an analogous method for Hermitian matrices is the Lanczos iteration. The Arnoldi iteration was invented by W. E. Arnoldi in 1951.
The term iterative method, used to describe Arnoldi, can perhaps be somewhat confusing. Note that all general eigenvalue algorithms must be iterative. This is not what is referred to when we say Arnoldi is an iterative method. Rather, Arnoldi belongs to a class of linear algebra algorithms (based on the idea of Krylov subspaces) that give a partial result after a relatively small number of iterations. This is in contrast to so-called direct methods, which must complete to give any useful results.
Arnoldi iteration is a typical large sparse matrix algorithm: It does not access the elements of the matrix directly, but rather makes the matrix map vectors and makes its conclusions from their images. This is the motivation for building the Krylov subspace.