Journal of Integer Sequences, Vol. 15 (2012), Article 12.9.8

The History of the Primality of One: A Selection of Sources

Chris K. Caldwell, Angela Reddick, and Yeng Xiong
Department of Mathematics and Statistics
University of Tennessee at Martin
Martin, TN 38238

Wilfrid Keller
Universität Hamburg


The way mathematicians have viewed the number one (unity, the monad) has changed throughout the years. Most of the early Greeks did not view one as a number, but rather as the origin, or generator, of number. Around the time of Simon Stevin (1548-1620), one (and zero) were first widely viewed as numbers. This created a period of confusion about whether or not the number one was prime. In this dynamic survey, we collect a cornucopia of sources which deal directly with the "question what is the smallest prime?" The goal is to create a source book for studying the history of the definition of prime, especially as applied to the number one.

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(Concerned with sequences A000027 A000040 A008578.)

Received September 27 2012; revised version received November 18 2012. Published in Journal of Integer Sequences, December 27 2012.

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