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Topic: 1 as a prime number
Replies: 11   Last Post: Dec 9, 1997 11:13 AM

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Vladimir Drobot

Posts: 12
Registered: 12/3/04
Re: 1 as a prime number
Posted: Dec 8, 1997 6:56 PM
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On Mon, 8 Dec 1997, John Conway wrote:

> I answered this at some length a few days ago. The tradition
> before this century (dating back to Euclid's Elements) was indeed
> to count 1 as a prime, and even Lehmer's 1914 list of prime numbers to
> 10 million does so. But the many inconveniences it causes have
> led people this century to put it into a new category, and call
> it a "unit" rather than a prime.
> John Conway

Some of this presisted into this century. N. Lehmer (father of D. Lehmer)
has published a count of primes up to some very large x, sometime in the
early 20's. When people checked his results on a machine, they were off
by one. It took a while to realize that he counted 1 as a prime.

In connection with this, there is a silly anecdote about late E.G.
Strauss. People (non-mathematicians) would perpetually ask him for an
opinion of why is 1 not a prime. One day he replied: Look, the primes are
the buiding blocks of inetgers. But is is plain that 1 is not a brick.

Sorry about that, I just could not resist.

Vladimir Drobot

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