Ralph Ernest Powers

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Ralph Ernest Powers (April 27, 1875 – January 31, 1952) was an American amateur mathematician who worked on prime numbers.

He is credited with discovering the Mersenne primes M89 and M107, in 1911 and 1914 respectively.[1][2] In 1934 he verified that the Mersenne number M241 is composite.[3]


Details of his life are little-known,[4] though he appears to have been an employee of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad.[5]

Soon after Powers announced the discovery of M107, the Frenchman E. Fauquembergue claimed that he had discovered it earlier, but many of Fauquembergue's other claims were later demonstrated as erroneous; thus, many prefer recognizing Powers as the discoverer, including the well-known Internet resource The Prime Pages.


  • ‘The Tenth Perfect Number', American Mathematical Monthly, Vol. 18 (1911), pp. 195–7
  • ’On Mersenne's Numbers', Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society, Vol. 13 (1914), p. xxxix
  • 'A Mersenne Prime', Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, Vol. 20, No. 10 (1914), p. 531
  • ’Certain composite Mersenne's numbers', Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society Vol. 15 (1916), p. xxii
  • (with D. H. Lehmer) 'On Factoring Large Numbers', Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, Vol. 37. No. 10 (1931), pp. 770–76
  • ’Note on a Mersenne Number', Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, Vol. 40, No. 12 (1934), p. 883

See also[edit]


  1. ^ R. E. Powers (1911). "The Tenth Perfect Number". American Mathematical Monthly. 18 (11): 195–197. doi:10.2307/2972574. JSTOR 2972574. The article is signed "DENVER, COLORADO, June, 1911"
  2. ^ http://plms.oxfordjournals.org/content/s2-13/1/1.1.full.pdf Proc. London Math. Soc. (1914) s2–13 (1): 1. Result presented at a meeting with London Mathematical Society on June 11, 1914. Retrieved 2016-04-17.
  3. ^ R. E. Powers (1934). "Note on a Mersenne Number". Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society. 40 (12): 883. doi:10.1090/s0002-9904-1934-05994-9.
  4. ^ Obituary by D. H. Lehmer
  5. ^ Hugh C. Williams (1998). Édouard Lucas and Primality Testing. Wiley. ISBN 978-0-471-14852-4.

External links[edit]