Prime numbers

In mathematics, prime numbers (or primes) are natural numbers greater than 1 that have no positive divisors other than 1 and itself. Natural numbers greater than 1 that are not a prime numbers are called composite numbers. 

The first 168 prime numbers (all the prime numbers less than 1000) are:

2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13, 17, 19, 23, 29, 31, 37, 41, 43, 47, 53, 59, 61, 67, 71, 73, 79, 83, 89, 97, 101, 103, 107, 109, 113, 127, 131, 137, 139, 149, 151, 157, 163, 167, 173, 179, 181, 191, 193, 197, 199, 211, 223, 227, 229, 233, 239, 241, 251, 257, 263, 269, 271, 277, 281, 283, 293, 307, 311, 313, 317, 331, 337, 347, 349, 353, 359, 367, 373, 379, 383, 389, 397, 401, 409, 419, 421, 431, 433, 439, 443, 449, 457, 461, 463, 467, 479, 487, 491, 499, 503, 509, 521, 523, 541, 547, 557, 563, 569, 571, 577, 587, 593, 599, 601, 607, 613, 617, 619, 631, 641, 643, 647, 653, 659, 661, 673, 677, 683, 691, 701, 709, 719, 727, 733, 739, 743, 751, 757, 761, 769, 773, 787, 797, 809, 811, 821, 823, 827, 829, 839, 853, 857, 859, 863, 877, 881, 883, 887, 907, 911, 919, 929, 937, 941, 947, 953, 967, 971, 977, 983, 991, 997

source: https://oeis.org/A000040



For example, 5 is a prime because 1 and 5 are its only positive integer factors, whereas 6 is composite because it has the divisors 2 and 3 in addition to 1 and 6.

 The fundamental theorem of arithmetic establishes the central role of primes in number theory: any integer greater than 1 can be expressed as a product of primes that is unique up to ordering. 

The uniqueness in this theorem requires excluding 1 as a prime because one can include arbitrarily many instances of 1 in any factorization, e.g., 3, 1 · 3, 1 · 1 · 3, etc. are all valid factorizations of 3.


The property of being prime (or not) is called primality. A simple but slow method of verifying the primality of a given number n is known as trial division. It consists of testing whether n is a multiple of any integer between 2 and √(n). 

Algorithms much more efficient than trial division have been devised to test the primality of large numbers. Particularly fast methods are available for numbers of special forms, such as Mersenne numbers. As of November 2015, the largest known prime number has 17,425,170 decimal digits.

Infinitely many primes

There are infinitely many primes, as demonstrated by Euclid around 300 BC. There is no known useful formula that sets apart all of the prime numbers from composites. However, the distribution of primes, that is to say, the statistical behaviour of primes in the large, can be modelled. The first result in that direction is the prime number theorem, proven at the end of the 19th century, which says that the probability that a given, randomly chosen number n is prime is inversely proportional to its number of digits, or to the logarithm of n.


How prime numbers are useful

Primes are used in several routines in information technology, such as public-key cryptography, which makes use of properties such as the difficulty of factoring large numbers into their prime factors. Prime numbers give rise to various generalizations in other mathematical domains, mainly algebra, such as prime elements and prime ideals.


Adapted from Prime number. (2015, November 21). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 04:20, November 23, 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Prime_number&oldid=691647316