# Primes of form Power Less One

## Contents

## Theorem

Let $m, n \in \N_{>0}$ be natural numbers.

Let $m^n - 1$ be prime.

Then $m = 2$ and $n$ is prime.

## Proof

First we note that by Integer Less One divides Power Less One:

- $\paren {m - 1} \divides \paren {m^n - 1}$

where $\divides$ denotes divisibility.

Thus $m^n - 1$ is composite for all $m \in \Z: m > 2$.

Let $m = 2$, and consider $2^n - 1$.

Suppose $n$ is composite.

Then $n = r s$ where $r, s \in \Z_{> 1}$.

Then by the corollary to Integer Less One divides Power Less One:

- $\paren {2^r - 1} \divides \paren {2^{r s} - 1}$

Thus if $n$ is composite, then so is $2^n - 1$.

So $2^n - 1$ can be prime only when $n$ is prime.

$\blacksquare$

## Also see

Primes of the form $2^n - 1$ are called Mersenne primes.

They are particularly interesting because there is a convenient algorithm (the Lucas-Lehmer Test) which can determine the primality of such a number with high computational efficiency. Therefore the largest primes known are Mersenne.

## Historical Note

The proof that if $n$ is composite, then so is $2^n - 1$, is historically attributed to Cataldi, who gave it in $1603$.

Marin Mersenne was aware of this result, but took it further to ask the question as to which numbers of the form $2^p - 1$ are prime when $p$ is prime.

## Sources

- 1926: Sir Thomas L. Heath:
*Euclid: The Thirteen Books of The Elements: Volume 2*(2nd ed.) ... (previous) ... (next): Book $\text{IX}$. Proposition $36$: Footnote - 1982: P.M. Cohn:
*Algebra Volume 1*(2nd ed.) ... (previous) ... (next): $\S 2.4$: The rational numbers and some finite fields: Further Exercises $7$ - 1986: David Wells:
*Curious and Interesting Numbers*... (previous) ... (next): $127$ - 1992: George F. Simmons:
*Calculus Gems*... (previous) ... (next): Chapter $\text {B}.2$: More about Numbers: Irrationals, Perfect Numbers and Mersenne Primes - 1996: H. Jerome Keisler and Joel Robbin:
*Mathematical Logic and Computability*... (previous) ... (next): $\S 1.14$: Exercise $18 \ (5)$ - 1997: David Wells:
*Curious and Interesting Numbers*(2nd ed.) ... (previous) ... (next): $127$ - 2008: David Nelson:
*The Penguin Dictionary of Mathematics*(4th ed.) ... (previous) ... (next): Entry:**Mersenne numbers**