Cohn's irreducibility criterion

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Arthur Cohn's irreducibility criterion is a sufficient condition for a polynomial to be irreducible in —that is, for it to be unfactorable into the product of lower-degree polynomials with integer coefficients.

The criterion is often stated as follows:

If a prime number is expressed in base 10 as (where ) then the polynomial
is irreducible in .

The theorem can be generalized to other bases as follows:

Assume that is a natural number and is a polynomial such that . If is a prime number then is irreducible in .

The base-10 version of the theorem is attributed to Cohn by Pólya and Szegő in one of their books[1] while the generalization to any base, 2 or greater, is due to Brillhart, Filaseta, and Odlyzko.[2]

In 2002, Ram Murty gave a simplified proof as well as some history of the theorem in a paper that is available online.[3]

The converse of this criterion is that, if p is an irreducible polynomial with integer coefficients that have greatest common divisor 1, then there exists a base such that the coefficients of p form the representation of a prime number in that base; this is the Bunyakovsky conjecture and its truth or falsity remains an open question.

Historical notes[edit]

  • Polya and Szegő gave their own generalization but it has many side conditions (on the locations of the roots, for instance)[citation needed] so it lacks the elegance of Brillhart's, Filaseta's, and Odlyzko's generalization.
  • It is clear from context that the "A. Cohn" mentioned by Polya and Szegő is Arthur Cohn (1894–1940), a student of Issai Schur who was awarded his doctorate from Frederick William University in 1921.[4][5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pólya, George; Szegő, Gábor (1925). Aufgaben und Lehrsätze aus der Analysis, Bd 2. Springer, Berlin. OCLC 73165700.  English translation in: Pólya, George; Szegő, Gábor (2004). Problems and theorems in analysis, volume 2. 2. Springer. p. 137. ISBN 3-540-63686-2. 
  2. ^ Brillhart, John; Filaseta, Michael; Odlyzko, Andrew (1981). "On an irreducibility theorem of A. Cohn". Canadian Journal of Mathematics. 33 (5): 1055–1059. doi:10.4153/CJM-1981-080-0. 
  3. ^ Murty, Ram (2002). "Prime Numbers and Irreducible Polynomials" (PDF). American Mathematical Monthly. The American Mathematical Monthly, Vol. 109, No. 5. 109 (5): 452–458. doi:10.2307/2695645. JSTOR 2695645.  (dvi file)
  4. ^ Arthur Cohn's entry at the Mathematics Genealogy Project
  5. ^ Siegmund-Schultze, Reinhard (2009). Mathematicians Fleeing from Nazi Germany: Individual Fates and Global Impact. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press. p. 346. ISBN 9781400831401. 

External links[edit]