Prime Obsession

Prime Obsession

Berhhard Riemann and the Greatest Unsolved Problem in Mathematics

John Derbyshire

  • Paperback
  • ISBN 9780452285255
  • 448 Pages
  • Plume
  • Adult


In 1859, Bernhard Riemann, a little-known thirty-two year old mathematician, made a hypothesis while presenting a paper to the Berlin Academy titled  “On the Number of Prime Numbers Less Than a Given Quantity.”  Today, after 150 years of careful research and exhaustive study, the Riemann Hyphothesis remains unsolved, with a one-million-dollar prize earmarked for the first person to conquer it.

Alternating passages of extraordinarily lucid mathematical exposition with chapters of elegantly composed biography and history, Prime Obsession is a fascinating and fluent account of an epic mathematical mystery that continues to challenge and excite the world.

Prime Obsession

Prime Obsession

John Derbyshire


“Derbyshire’s attempt to take nonmathematicians into this subject had me on the edge of my seat.” —Los Angeles Times

“Riemann and his colleagues come to life as real characters and not just adjectives for conjectures and theorems.” —Scientific American

Table of Contents


Part I: The Prime Number Theorem

Chapter 1: Card Trick
Chapter 2: The Soil, the Crop
Chapter 3: The Prime Number Theorem
Chapter 4: On the Shoulders of Giants
Chapter 5: Riemann’s Zeta Function
Chapter 6: The Great Fusion
Chapter 7: The Golden Key, and an Improved Prime Number Theorem
Chapter 8: Not Altogether Unworthy
Chapter 9: Domain Stretching
Chapter 10: A Proof and a Turning Point

Part II: The Riemann Hypothesis

Chapter 11: Nine Zulu Queens Ruled China
Chapter 12: Hilbert’s Eighth Problem
Chapter 13: The Argument Ant and the Value Ant
Chapter 14: In the Grip of an Obsession
Chapter 15: Big Oh and M