In mathematics, a functional calculus is a theory allowing one to apply mathematical functions to mathematical operators. It is now a branch (more accurately, several related areas) of the field of functional analysis, connected with spectral theory. (Historically, the term was also used synonymously with calculus of variations; this usage is obsolete, except for functional derivative. Sometimes it is used in relation to types of functional equations, or in logic for systems of predicate calculus.)
The polynomial calculus is not as informative in the infinite-dimensional case. Consider the unilateral shift with the polynomials calculus; the ideal defined above is now trivial. Thus one is interested in functional calculi more general than polynomials. The subject is closely linked to spectral theory, since for a diagonal matrix or multiplication operator, it is rather clear what the definitions should be.