Marin Mersenne
[Old painting of Marin Mersenne]
Our Hero (1588 – 1648)
digitized by Doug Anderson


Corrections — Please Read
(4 December 1996)
Mersenne was a Minim friar. Minims are not Jesuits. He was, however, educated by the Jesuits. Furthermore, Mersenne was not an Inquisitor. Indeed, he was probably quite a pleasant fellow. Please read these enlightening and scholarly emails that I received. (Learn the fate of his old residence!)


Who was Marin Mersenne?

You are probably visiting here because of an interest in Mersenne Primes. It was not until the mid 20th century that Mersenne became known primarily for his Prime Number Conjecture. Historically, he was much better known for his correspondence with leading scientists of the day (hence the other Mersenne Mailing List). Interested in optics, he also been called (no pun intended) the Father of Acoustics. Here are some links that will tell you something about the man himself:

[Yellow Dot] a nice biography (and another picture!) courtesy of the Algebra Group WWW Server of the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. Here is a larger version of the same portrait (jpeg, 280×340, 9 KB). Thanks twice to Björn Hedin and to Björn Hedin
[Yellow Dot] another nice biography by Richard S. Westfal of Indiana University, Bloomington as part of the wonderful Galileo Project at Rice University (my Mom’s school).
[Yellow Dot] a biography from the Encylopedia Britannica Online. Evidently, Mersenne was the grandfather of the pendulum clock, or did he get the idea from Galileo?
[Yellow Dot] a biography from the Encyclopedia Americana
[Yellow Dot] a biography from the Grolier‘s Encyclopedia Windows CD-ROM
[Yellow Dot] a book by Peter Dear, Mersenne And The Learning Of The Schools, is currently (4 July 1997) available at the Amazon dot Com cyberbookstore. I read Chapter 1: Introduction. And Chapter 2: Humanism and the Implications of Rhetoric. But I’m stalled near the end of Chapter 3: Dialectic, Probabilism, and “Mitigated Scepticism”. Lots of footnotes and a 21-page bibliography. US$40 plus US$4 shipping.

Mersenne Numbers and Mersenne Primes

[Green Dot] MUST READ   Chris Caldwell has an absolutely first-rate page Mersenne Primes: History, Theorems and Lists. He also maintains the definitive Largest Known Primes page.
[Green Dot] Visit my Mersenne Number Library and Bibliography with a lot of articles and links to people like Hans Riesel (M3217), Landon Noll (M21701 and M23209), and Samuel Wagstaff (distribution of factors).
[Finger pointing to the right] Here’s the link everybody is looking for: George Woltman’s Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search. People all over the world are using his program in an orchestrated search for the next Mersenne Prime. George has highly Pentium-optimized a specialized multiplication algorithm byRichard Crandall (of Perfectly Scientific, Inc — ‘the scientific algorithm company’, and formerly with NeXT) and Barry Fagin. 486, PowerMac, Alpha, HP users, almost everybody, can help, too. Dan Gilmore, of the San Jose Mercury News, wrote a newspaper article about GIMPS, dated June 22, 1996. Also Len Ruth and his students at The Sinclair Community College are searching.

GIMPS Mirrors
[flag of North Carolina] GIMPS Home Page
[flag of Poland] (dead?) WIELKIE Internetowe Poszukiwania Liczb Pierwszych Mersenne’a
(dead?) The GREAT Internet Mersenne Prime Search
[flag of France] La Grande Recherche Internet sur les Nombres Premiers de Mersenne
[flag of Germany] Die große Internetsuche nach Mersenne’schen Primzahlen
[flag of Italy] La Grande Ricerca Internet dei Numeri Primi di Mersenne
[flag of Denmark] Den STORE Internet Mersenne Primtal Søgning
….thanks for the flags, David.


[Green Dot] (4 December 1996) GIMPS finds a new World’s Largest Prime Number! Joel Armengaud, running George Woltman’s program, found M1398269, the 35th known Mersenne prime. I’m hoping that Joel will send me a photo of himself taken on rue des Minimes in Paris.

[Yellow Dot] George Woltman’s official press release.
[Yellow Dot] Dan Gilmore always writes well. Here is his article in the San Jose Mercury News (northern California daily newspaper).
[Yellow Dot] Of course, Chris Caldwell will explain it better than I.
[Yellow Dot] Ivars Peterson’s well written article in Science News Magazine (American weekly magazine).
[Yellow Dot] Here’s a fun newspaper article about M1398269 and Jamie Foster. He is a GIMPS member in San Luis Obispo, one of my favorite cities along California’s beautiful coast and the gateway to Highway One.
[Green Dot] (1 September 1997) 22,976,221 – 1 is Prime! Another new discovery by GIMPS! The 36th known Mersenne prime is a whopper with 895,932 digits.

[Yellow Dot] George Woltman’s Press Release.
[Yellow Dot] Gordon Spence found it.
[Yellow Dot] Chris Caldwell discusses it.
[Yellow Dot] The Times of London newspaper article.
[Yellow Dot] very good article from CNN.
[Yellow Dot] Ivars Peterson comes through again.
[New!] (2 February 1998) Will they ever stop? 23,021,377 – 1 is Prime! Yet another new discovery by GIMPS! Not quite a million digits long, it is the 37th known Mersenne prime.

[Yellow Dot] George Woltman’s Press Release.
[Yellow Dot] It was discovered by Roland Clarkson, a student at Califonia State University, Dominguez Hills.
[Yellow Dot] Chris Caldwell’s Giant Slaying Refined page.
[Yellow Dot] San Jose Mercury News article of 2 Feb, 1998
[Yellow Dot] I’ll add a link here as soon as Ivars Peterson writes an article.
[Yellow Dot] The PrimeNet Server immediately sent this Special Advance Notice when M#37 was found.
[Yellow Dot] The PrimeNet Server immediately updated the ‘cleared’ page. Jean-Yves Canart downloaded a copy and has made it available for your perusal. (Search for ‘3021377’ and look at the residue.)
[New!] (6 Feb 1998 ) A newspaper article CSUDH student is in his prime (number) (The Press Telegram, Long Beach, California)
[New!] (6 Feb 1998) A newpaper article Student Finds Largest Prime Number Ever (Los Angeles Times, California)
[Yellow Dot] When I get a copy, I’ll link to an article in the Daily Breeze (Torrance, California)
[New!] (7 Feb 1998) Food Fight! Kurt Foster wrote the winning post.
[New!] (7 Feb 1998) Record battu !
[Green Dot] (15 March 1997) George Woltman sends out periodic GIMPS newsletters. You can read them all on Will Edgington’s Mersenne Newsletters Page.
[Green Dot] (9 February 1997) How fast is your PC? Lennart Grebelius now maintains an informative Mersenne Prime Benchmark page. The page should look familiar to GIMPS members. Can a Pentium 166 run faster than a Pentium 200? Lennart also tracks GIMPS progress in P90 CPU years/day. Great page!
[Green Dot] (17 October 1996) By popular demand, Herb Savage has created some colorful, graphical representations of the current status of the Mersenne prime search. Check back periodically and watch gray turn to blueblue to green, and maybe even a new, red pixel or two!
[New!] (31 January 1998) The Unofficial GIMPS Graphical Status Page by David J. Fred. Similar to Herb’s images, David graphically shows the current GIMPS staus to the highest p.
[Green Dot] (15 March 1997) The February 1997 issue Wired Magazine has an item on George Woltman and GIMPS. See Wired News: Electric Word: Prime Time. Unfortunately, they misspelled Joel Armengaud’s name. Here is a scanned image of the original (250Kb).
[Green Dot] The Mersenne Prime Mailing List. Communicate with people discussing anything and everything about Mersenne Primes. You don’t have to write anything, you are welcome to just listen in. You can read all of the old posts in the list’s archives.
[Green Dot] John Vinopal has been working on a helpful Mersenne Primes page. He explains some things quite well.
[Green Dot] His Mathematica notebook on Mersenne Primes has been made available by Paul Wellin. He also has one on searching for perfect numbers. You don’t have Mathematica? To view his notebooks, get a free copy of MathReader.
[Green Dot] Susan Stepney discusses Mersenne primesthe Lucas-Lehmer testPerfect numbers and more.
[Green Dot] A post dated 2 Apr 1992 by David Slowinski to comp.sys.super, comp.unix.cray, and sci.math (with a follow-up by Bob Silverman). He mentions different machines in the hunt and that M756839 took 19 hours on a Cray-2. Here is Bob Silverman’s reaction to the discovery of M756839.
[Green Dot] Courtesy of Eric’s Treasure Trove of Mathematics, a page that lists “Mersenne numbers” and their factorizations. This page defines a Mersenne number to be 2^n-1 (n not necessarily prime).
[Green Dot] This is the FORTRAN program (PrimeZilla) that found M110503 on the NEC SX-2 at the Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC). Optimized for the idiosyncrasies of parallel and vectorized computing, it ran at about 2 gigaflops and took about 11 minutes to test M110503.
[Green Dot] David Slowinski’s announcement of his and Paul Gage’s discovery that M859433 is prime. Thanks to Warut Roonguthai for the link.
[Green Dot] There is a growing list of Mersenne freeware. You should be able to find something that will run on your computer. The page is now maintained by and hosted by Conrad Curry. And a big Thanks! to Michael Taylor who was the previous host and maintainer.

Mersenne Freeware Mirrors
Mississippi flag
Conrad Curry, Southern US naster site
[flag of Massachussets] Ethan M. O’Connor, Eastern US mirror
[flag of Sweden] Lennart Grebelius, Sweden, European mirror
[flag of California] Luke Welsh, Northern California mirror


[Green Dot] Some of us Mersenne guys had a meeting at the Tied House and I took some photos. They turned out pretty well.
[Green Dot] (1 October 1996) David Slowinski and Paul Gage struck paydirt once again! They found M1257787, the 34th known Mersenne prime. Here’s where you can read all about it:

[Yellow Dot] Landon Noll’s SGI press release
[Yellow Dot] SGI’s official hack of Landon’s release
[Yellow Dot] A Cray page that says about the same thing.
[Yellow Dot] Chris Caldwell’s outstanding page (and corrections to SGI’s hack)
[Yellow Dot] Dan Gilmore’s excellent article in the San Jose Mercury News (northern California daily newspaper)
[Yellow Dot] Ivar Peterson’s also excellent article in Science News Magazine (American weekly magazine)
[Yellow Dot] A rather uninspired article from U.S. News And World Report (American weekly news magazine)
[Yellow Dot] Bloomberg Business News report. Nothing original, just a rehash of the facts.
[Yellow Dot] A short announcement on the American Math Society’s e-math site. Thanks (again) to Warut Roonguthai for the link.
[Green Dot] (1 Oktober 1996) Von Die Zeit “Auf Primzahl-Jagd im Internet”. Vielen Dank!, Cornelius Caesar.
[Green Dot] (10 October 1996) Jeffrey O. Shallit has a wonderful Mersenne Bibliography with many entries that I was not aware of.
[Green Dot] (29 October 1996) GIMPS’s George Woltman was on Canadian radio. George did a great job, as did the program’s host. I decided that the event warranted its own wwweb page.
[Green Dot] (4 December 1996) This is wonderful! The GIMPS project is exciting some young imaginations. More and more young people are becoming interested in Mersenne primes. The Student’s Mersenne Prime Page has just gone online. Oliver Grebelius is a 7th grade student in Sweden. Let’s wish him great success.
[Green Dot] (8 December 1996) I am awarding the Most Beautiful Prime Page Prize to Marlene Menard. You’ve seen how professional mathematicians design Mersenne wwweb pages. Take a look at how a professional graphics artist views the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search.
[Green Dot] (16 January 1997) Herr Factormeister Will Edgington has somehow found time to do a page on Mersenne numbers. This page is recommended reading.
[Green Dot] (26 March 1997) From the 1982 Guinness Book of World Records, Harry Nelson and David Slowinski “celebrate their discovery, clothed in computer printouts.”
[Green Dot] (22 April 1997) Psssssst! Yeah, you. Come over here. Do you want to see a picture of BESK? This baby can crank out nearly three thousand 40-bit multiplies per second. Learn more from Hans Riesel himself, plus some stories about his search for M3217.
[Green Dot] (4 July 1997) Largest Known Prime Number Discovered on the Vietnamese Association for Computing, Engineering Technology, and Science (VACETS) site. Dated 10 Sept 96, it apparently has been hiding from the search engines — I only recently found it. Very well written, I recommend this page even though my name is misspelled.
[Green Dot] (4 July 1997) Bekannte Mersenne-Primzahlen von Argee. Kriterium von Lucas-LehmerKriterium von EulerPerfekte (vollkommene) Zahlen, und Literaturnachweis.
[Green Dot] (4 July 1997) I don’t know why I didn’t link to this before. Robert Zubek has created a number of clean-looking GIMPS graphics, buttons, banners, etc. Check them out!
[New!] (31 January 1998) For every Mersenne Prime there is a corresponding Perfect Number. Naohiro Nomoto is a mathematics fan in Japan. He has made a Perfect Number Home Page. Also available in Japanese.

Mersenne Odds and Mersenne Ends

[Yellow Dot] Here’s an article on acoustics that discusses Mersenne’s Laws from the Encylopedia Britannica Online
[Yellow Dot] The Wave Theory of Sound by Allan D. Pierce mentions some of Mersenne’s contributions to acoustics. Courtesy of the Acoustical Society of America.
[Yellow Dot] Mersenne reproduced some experiments of Marin Getaldic. Which experiments? Visit this devil in mathematics whose inventions were feared by his compatriots and even more by his enemies. (Croatian site, .hr = Hrvatska).
[Yellow Dot] Pop Quiz: What is a Mersenne telescope? Give an example of a modern application. (NASA site.) Thanks go to Brian Jones. BTW, Stevick-Paul telescopes are similar to Mersenne telescopes.
[Yellow Dot] Coming Attraction: Magnetic Monster! Starring the SWAC as MANIAC with music by Mersenne and sets by Alex Hurwitz. Can the Earth be saved? I have it and hope to make a Quicktime clip. Here is a sneak preview (and a mirror). Und hier ist der Inhalt.
[Yellow Dot] A series of five articles on Doctor Robert Fludd (1574-1637) By Sharon M.W. “A French scientist and author named Marin Mersenne accused Fludd of being a magician, an atheist and heretic.” Articles 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. Mersenne is mentioned in Articles 4 and 5.
[Yellow Dot] Bagpipes? Mersenne and bagpipes? What? (Go there and use your web browser’s Search function.)
[Yellow Dot] If you are a young programmer or mathematician and you’ve never heard of him, do yourself a favor and visit the World’s Best Programmer. And here is the proof.
[Yellow Dot] Everybody know what twin primes are, but how many of you have ever seen prime twins? Walt Colquitt is going to retaliate against me for this, but it’s worth it.
[Yellow Dot] Bah! Who cares about World Record Mersenne Primes? Here is a page about what matters the Most about Mersenne primes!
[Yellow Dot] There are photographs of Mersenius a crater and a rift on the moon named in honor of Mersenne (US Navy site). The photos are also on a French site Navigation sur la LUNE. Susan Stepney kindly designed a Mersenne on the Moon page to help you locate the crater on the moon’s surface — in astronomical terms, it’s in the lower left-hand corner. Thanks to Richard Easther for tracking down Mersenius for me.
[Green Dot] (22 July 1997) Mersenne was a Minim priest and lived in the Minim convent in Paris. It was destroyed during the French Revolution. But there is still a street named rue des Minimes. You might be surprised.

Pronunciations by Native Speakers

Hopefully this will answer some questions. I’d like to add a few more like “Fermat”, “Euler”, “Uhler”, “Lehmer”, “Knuth”, “Kraitchik”, and especially “Fauquembergue”, etc. Any volunteers?

[Green Dot] (3 August 1996) The name of Marin Mersenne. The correct pronunciation of Marin was a surprise to me.
20 Kb audio file in WAV format. Recorded and spoken by Timour Jgenti, et ici en Français
[Green Dot] (3 August 1996) The name of François Édouard Anatole Lucas. The s in Lucas is silent.
30 Kb audio file in WAV format. Recorded and spoken by Timour Jgenti, et ici en Français
[Green Dot] (3 August 1996) The name of Anatolii Alekseevich Karatsuba.
27 Kb audio file in WAV format. Recorded and spoken by Timour Jgenti, et ici en Français
[Green Dot] (6 August 1996) The name of Emma Markovna Trotskaia (Emma Lehmer).
22 Kb audio file in WAV format. Spoken by Olga Sorkin.
[Green Dot] (6 August 1996) The name of Ivan Mikheevich Pervushin.
21 Kb audio file in WAV format. Spoken by Yuri Sorkin.
[Green Dot] (14 October 1996) The name of Hans Riesel.
21 Kb audio file in WAV format. Recorded and spoken by Oliver Grebelius.


[Yellow Dot] Links? You want links? Keith’ll give you links! Keith Matthews maintains the Number Theory Web with sites in North America and Australia.
[Yellow Dot] Mersenne People. Stand up and be counted! Add your name to the list of those who have an interest in Mersenne primes.

Stuff To Do

[Green Dot] Hang a photo or two of Walt and the NEC SX-2.
[Green Dot] Solicit other old Mersenne Number hunters for old photos, source code, horror stories, etc.
[Green Dot] Add more Stuff To Do.

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