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A three-dimensional localization algorithm for wireless sensor networks based on the BFGS (Broyden, Fletcher, Goldfarb, Shanno) optimization is proposed. By defining an objective function for three-dimensional localization, the localization work is transformed into an unconstrained optimization problem. The BFGS algorithm, which is a classical algorithm for the unconstrained optimization problem, is adopted for localization for wireless sensor networks, and avoids the inverse matrix calculation in the least square algorithm. The effects of the amount and the distribution of the beacon nodes are analyzed, and the experimental results show that the localization accuracy under the marginal distribution of the beacon nodes is better than the one under the random distribution of the beacon nodes. The final simulation results indicate that the BFGS algorithm has a higher accuracy and less calculation, and is less affected by the non-line-of-sight error than the least square algorithm.