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Cliff Taubes wrote in his differential geometry book that:

We now calculate the directional derivatives of the map $$M\rightarrow M^{-1}$$ Let $\alpha\in M(n,\mathbb{R})$ denote any given matrix. Then the directional derivatives of the coordinates of the map $M\rightarrow M^{-1}$ in the drection $\alpha$ are the entries of the matrix $$-M^{-1}\alpha M^{-1}$$ Consider, for example, the coordinate given by the $(i,j)$th entry, $(M^{-1})_{ij}$. The directional derivative in the drection $\alpha$ of this function on $GL(n,\mathbb{R})$ is $$-(M^{-1}\alpha M^{-1})_{ij}$$ In particular, the partial derivative of the function $M\rightarrow (M^{-1})_{ij}$ with respect to the coordinate $M_{rs}$ is $-(M^{-1})_{ir}(M^{-1})_{sj}$.

I am wondering why this is true. He did not give any deduction of this formula, and all the formulas I know for matrix inverse does not generate anything similar to his result. So I venture to ask.

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Not sure if this is the type of answer you want, since I’m giving another argument rather than explain his argument. However, this is how I usually think of it.

Let $M$ be a matrix and $\delta M$ the infinitesimal perturbation (e.g. $\epsilon$ times the derivative). Now, let $N=M^{-1}$ and $\delta N$ the corresponding perturbation of the inverse so that $N+\delta N=(M+\delta M)^{-1}$. Including only first order perturbations (i.e. ignoring terms with two $\delta$s), this gives

$$

\begin{split}

I=&(M+\delta M)(N+\delta N)=MN+M\,\delta N+\delta M\,N\\

&\implies M\,\delta N=-\delta M\,N=-\delta M\,M^{-1}\\

&\implies \delta N=-M^{-1}\,\delta M\,M^{-1}.\\

\end{split}

$$

Written in terms of derivatives, i.e. $M’=dM/ds$ and $N’=dN/ds$ where $M=M(s)$ and $N=N(s)$ and $M(s)N(s)=I$, the same would be written

$$

0=I’=(MN)’=M’N+MN’\implies N’=-M^{-1}\,M’\,M^{-1}.

$$

To address some of the comments, although a bit belatedly:

For example, if you let $M(s)=M+s\Delta M$, this makes the derivative $M'(s)=\Delta M$ for all $s$. This makes $N(s)=M(s)^{-1}=(M+s\Delta M)^{-1}$, and you can use $M(s)\cdot N(s)=I$, and differentiate to get the above expressions.

For any partial derivative, e.g. with respect to $M_{rs}$, just set $\Delta M$ to be the matrix $E^{[rs]}$ with $1$ in cell $(r,s)$ and zero elsewhere, and you get

$$

\frac{\partial}{M_{rs}} M^{-1}

= -M^{-1}\frac{\partial M}{\partial M_{rs}} M^{-1}

= -M^{-1} E^{[rs]} M^{-1}

$$

which makes cell $(i,j)$ of the inverse

$$

\frac{\partial (M^{-1})_{ij}}{\partial M_{rs}}

= -(M^{-1})_{ir}(M^{-1})_{sj}.

$$

I have the following result. I am assuming you already proved that the inversion map (I will call it $f$) is differentiable. We will look at the total derivative $Df(A)$ at $A\in GL(n,\mathbb{R})$.

Take the identity map $Id:GL(n,\mathbb{R})\to GL(n,\mathbb{R}):A\mapsto A$ and the map $g:GL(n,\mathbb{R})\to GL(n,\mathbb{R}):A\mapsto A\cdot A^{-1}=I_n$. Note that the derivative of $Id$ is $DId(A)(H)=Id(H)=H$ for $A,H\in GL(n,\mathbb{R})$ since $Id$ is a linear map. Furthermore, note that $g=Id\cdot f$ and that since $g$ is a constant map, it’s derivative is the zero matrix. Here I use the following result that I will prove later on:

Let $h,k:GL(n,\mathbb{R})\to GL(n,\mathbb{R})$ be differentiable at $A\in GL(n,\mathbb{R})$. Then $$D(h\cdot k)(A)(H)=Dh(A)(H)k(A)+h(A)Dk(A)(H)\;\text{for}\; H\in GL(n,\mathbb{R})$$

From this follows:

$$Dg(A)(H)=DId(A)(H)f(A)+Id(A)Df(A)(H)$$

$$0=H\cdot f(A)+A\cdot Df(A)(H)$$

$$-H\cdot A^{-1}=A\cdot Df(A)(H)$$

$$-A^{-1}HA^{-1}=Df(A)(H)$$

Which is the desired result. Now we have to show that the result I used is true. This is a bit iffy since I will prove it for functions on $\mathbb{R}^n$ and since there exists an isomorphism of vector spaces between $n\times m$-matrices and the metric space $\mathbb{R}^{nm}$ I think it also holds for matrices. Input is welcome but here it goes:

Suppose we have two functions $f:U\to\mathbb{R}^{n_1n_2}$ and $g:U\to\mathbb{R}^{n_2n_3}$ that are differentiable at $x_0$ with $U\subset\mathbb{R}^m$ an open subset. Define $\phi:\mathbb{R}^{n_1n_2}\times\mathbb{R}^{n_2n_3}\to\mathbb{R}^{n_1n_3}:(x,y)\mapsto xy$. Note that $h$ is bilinear and thus is differentiable with derivative: $Dh(x,y)(v,w)=h(v,y)+h(x,w)=vy+xw$ (nice exercise to prove this).

We define $k:U\to\mathbb{R}^{n_1n_2}\times\mathbb{R}^{n_2n_3}:x\mapsto (f(x),g(x))$. Note that $k$ is differentiable at $x_0$ if and only if it’s components are. But it’s components are $f$ and $g$ and so differentiable at $x_0$ by definition, thus $k$ is differentiable at $x_0$. Similarly the derivative of $k$ is the vector of derivatives of it’s components.

By the Chain Rule $h\circ k$ is differentiable at $x_0$ with derivative: $$D(h\circ k)(x_0)=Dh(k(x_0))\circ Dk(x_0)$$

$$D(h\circ k)(x_0)=Dh((f(x_0),g(x_0))\circ (Df(x_0),Dg(x_0))$$

$$D(h\circ k)(x_0)=Df(x_0)g(x_0)+f(x_0)Dg(x_0)$$

The last part was obtained by using the identity for the derivative of bilinear maps I gave earlier.

Hope this is clear and any additions to the solution are welcome!

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