June 8, 2004
Purdue mathematician claims proof for Riemann hypothesis
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – A Purdue University mathematician claims to have proven the Riemann hypothesis, often dubbed the greatest unsolved problem in mathematics.
Louis De Branges de Bourcia, or de Branges (de BRONZH) as he prefers to be called, has posted a 23-page paper detailing his attempt at a proof on his university Web page. While mathematicians ordinarily announce their work at formal conferences or in scientific journals, the spirited competition to prove the hypothesis – which carries a $1 million prize for whomever accomplishes it first – has encouraged de Branges to announce his work as soon as it was completed.
"I invite other mathematicians to examine my efforts," said de Branges, who is the Edward C. Elliott Distinguished Professor of Mathematics in Purdue's School of Science. "While I will eventually submit my proof for formal publication, due to the circumstances I felt it necessary to post the work on the Internet immediately."
The Riemann hypothesis is a highly complex theory about the nature of prime numbers – those numbers divisible only by 1 and themselves – that has stymied mathematicians since 1859. In that year, Bernhard Riemann published a conjecture about how prime numbers were distributed among other numbers. He labored over his own theory until his death in 1866, but was ultimately unable to prove it.