Artin's conjecture on primitive roots

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In number theory, Artin's conjecture on primitive roots states that a given integer a that is neither a square number nor −1 is a primitive root modulo infinitely many primes p. The conjecture also ascribes an asymptotic density to these primes. This conjectural density equals Artin's constant or a rational multiple thereof.

The conjecture was made by Emil Artin to Helmut Hasse on September 27, 1927, according to the latter's diary. The conjecture is still unresolved as of 2023. In fact, there is no single value of a for which Artin's conjecture is proved.


Let a be an integer that is not a square number and not −1. Write a = a0b2 with a0 square-free. Denote by S(a) the set of prime numbers p such that a is a primitive root modulo p. Then the conjecture states

  1. S(a) has a positive asymptotic density inside the set of primes. In particular, S(a) is infinite.
  2. Under the conditions that a is not a perfect power and that a0 is not congruent to 1 modulo 4 (sequence A085397 in the OEIS), this density is independent of a and equals Artin's constant, which can be expressed as an infinite product
    (sequence A005596 in the OEIS).

Similar conjectural product formulas[1] exist for the density when a does not satisfy the above conditions. In these cases, the conjectural density is always a rational multiple of CArtin.


For example, take a = 2. The conjecture claims that the set of primes p for which 2 is a primitive root has the above density CArtin. The set of such primes is (sequence A001122 in the OEIS)

S(2) = {3, 5, 11, 13, 19, 29, 37, 53, 59, 61, 67, 83, 101, 107, 131, 139, 149, 163, 173, 179, 181, 197, 211, 227, 269, 293, 317, 347, 349, 373, 379, 389, 419, 421, 443, 461, 467, 491, ...}.

It has 38 elements smaller than 500 and there are 95 primes smaller than 500. The ratio (which conjecturally tends to CArtin) is 38/95 = 2/5 = 0.4.

Partial results[edit]

In 1967, Christopher Hooley published a conditional proof for the conjecture, assuming certain cases of the generalized Riemann hypothesis.[2]

Without the generalized Riemann hypothesis, there is no single value of a for which Artin's conjecture is proved. D. R. Heath-Brown proved (Corollary 1) that at least one of 2, 3, or 5 is a primitive root modulo infinitely many primes p.[3] He also proved (Corollary 2) that there are at most two primes for which Artin's conjecture fails.

Some variations of Artin's problem[edit]

Elliptic curve[edit]

An elliptic curve given by , Lang and Trotter gave a conjecture for rational points on analogous to Artin's primitive root conjecture.[4]

Specifically, they said there exists a constant for a given point of infinite order in the set of rational points such that the number of primes () for which the reduction of the point denoted by generates the whole set of points in in , denoted by , is given by .[5] Here we exclude the primes which divide the denominators of the coordinates of .

Gupta and Murty proved... the Lang and Trotter conjecture for  with complex multiplication under the Generalized Riemann Hypothesis, for primes splitting in the relevant imaginary quadratic field, i. e., they proved some asymptotic formula for only half of the prime numbers without actually verifying any particular case of Lang and Trotter conjecture which is stated for all prime numbers and which probably is totally false! Moreover Gupta and Murty proved that the main term of their asymptotic formula is positive for some particular classes of elliptic curves with complex multiplication. If one consideres the group P generated by several independently linear points P1, P2,...,Pg in , for g sufficiently large (i.e. g>20), then indeed Goupta and Murty obtainded an asymptotic formula for all prime numbers with positive main term, for some particular classes of elliptic curves with complex multiplication, and one could ask what are the minimum subsets of P1, P2,...,Pg, for which such asymptotic formula exists. This result could be considered as an analogous to Artin's primitive root conjecture!


Even order[edit]

Krishnamurty proposed the question how often the period of the decimal expansion of a prime is even.

The claim is that the period of the decimal expansion of a prime in base is even if and only if where and is unique and p is such that .

The result was proven by Hasse in 1966.[4][7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Michon, Gerard P. (2006-06-15). "Artin's Constant". Numericana.
  2. ^ Hooley, Christopher (1967). "On Artin's conjecture". J. Reine Angew. Math. 1967 (225): 209–220. doi:10.1515/crll.1967.225.209. MR 0207630. S2CID 117943829.
  3. ^ D. R. Heath-Brown (March 1986). "Artin's Conjecture for Primitive Roots". The Quarterly Journal of Mathematics. 37 (1): 27–38. doi:10.1093/qmath/37.1.27.
  4. ^ a b Moree, Pieter. "Artin's Priimitive Root Conjecture – a survey" (PDF).
  5. ^ Lang and 2 Trotter (1977). "Primitive points on Elliptic Curves" (PDF). Bull. Amer. Math. Soc. 83 (2): 289–292. doi:10.1090/S0002-9904-1977-14310-3.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  6. ^ Gupta and Murty (1987). "Primitive points on elliptic curves". Compositio Mathematica. 58: 13–44.
  7. ^ Hasse, H (1966). "About the density of prime numbers p, for a given integral number a not equal to 0 of even or odd order mod p". Mathematische Annalen: 19–23. doi:10.1007/BF01361432. S2CID 121171472.