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Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society

The Bulletin publishes expository articles on contemporary mathematical research, written in a way that gives insight to mathematicians who may not be experts in the particular topic. The Bulletin also publishes reviews of selected books in mathematics and short articles in the Mathematical Perspectives section, both by invitation only.

ISSN 1088-9485 (online) ISSN 0273-0979 (print)

The 2020 MCQ for Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society is 0.84.

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It is easy to determine whether a given integer is prime
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by Andrew Granville PDF
Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 42 (2005), 3-38 Request permission


“The problem of distinguishing prime numbers from composite numbers, and of resolving the latter into their prime factors is known to be one of the most important and useful in arithmetic. It has engaged the industry and wisdom of ancient and modern geometers to such an extent that it would be superfluous to discuss the problem at length. Nevertheless we must confess that all methods that have been proposed thus far are either restricted to very special cases or are so laborious and difficult that even for numbers that do not exceed the limits of tables constructed by estimable men, they try the patience of even the practiced calculator. And these methods do not apply at all to larger numbers ... It frequently happens that the trained calculator will be sufficiently rewarded by reducing large numbers to their factors so that it will compensate for the time spent. Further, the dignity of the science itself seems to require that every possible means be explored for the solution of a problem so elegant and so celebrated ... It is in the nature of the problem that any method will become more complicated as the numbers get larger. Nevertheless, in the following methods the difficulties increase rather slowly ... The techniques that were previously known would require intolerable labor even for the most indefatigable calculator.” —from article 329 of Disquisitiones Arithmeticae (1801) by C. F. Gauss
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Additional Information
  • Andrew Granville
  • Affiliation: Département de Mathématiques et Statistique, Université de Montréal, CP 6128 succ. Centre-Ville, Montréal, QC H3C 3J7, Canada
  • MR Author ID: 76180
  • ORCID: 0000-0001-8088-1247
  • Email:
  • Received by editor(s): January 27, 2004
  • Received by editor(s) in revised form: August 19, 2004
  • Published electronically: September 30, 2004
  • Additional Notes: L’auteur est partiellement soutenu par une bourse du Conseil de recherches en sciences naturelles et en génie du Canada.

  • Dedicated: Dedicated to the memory of W. ‘Red’ Alford, friend and colleague
  • © Copyright 2004 American Mathematical Society
    The copyright for this article reverts to public domain 28 years after publication.
  • Journal: Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 42 (2005), 3-38
  • MSC (2000): Primary 11A51, 11Y11; Secondary 11A07, 11A41, 11B50, 11N25, 11T06
  • DOI:
  • MathSciNet review: 2115065