The Music of the Primes

The Music of the Primes
Genre : Popular Science
Published : 1 Aug 2003 - Fourth Estate
Prime numbers are the atoms of arithmetic, the building blocks of all other numbers. In school we are taught that a prime is a number that cannot be divided evenly by any other number except one and itself. What we are not taught is that primes represent some of the most vexing mysteries in the pursuit of human knowledge, mysteries that have confounded mathematicians since the ancient Greeks. The significance of the primes reaches far into the areas of internet and e-commerce security, quantum mechanics and chaos theory. In MUSIC OF THE PRIMES, Marcus du Sautoy takes the reader on a fascinating excursion into this realm, as he studies the range of research that has gone into uncovering the secrets of the primes: from Euclid to Ramanujan, from Reimann and his tantalising Hypothesis to the formation of RSA encryption and finally to the cutting-edge science of the present day.


Du Sautoy brings out well the character of mathematicians and their world ... as in Simon Singh's book FERMAT'S LAST THEOREM, the exhilaration of the chase comes over even when you don't know exactly what the quarry looks like.

Financial Times

He brings hugely enjoyable writing, full of zest and passion, to the most fundamental questions in the pursuit of true knowledge.

The Sunday Times

Du Sautoy provides an engaging and accessible history of work on prime numbers and the Riemann Hypothesis. He also has an eye for modern applications

The Economist

The connection between music and the primes is not trivial, but it is cleverly made plausible to the mathematically terrified in this delightfully entertaining book … He has certainly been successful in setting up a compelling dramatis personae of mathematicians, with every character vividly illuminated with anecdotes and felicitous comment.

The Guardian

Du Sautoy laces the ideas with history, anecdote and personalia - an entertaining mix that renders an austere subject palatable … Even those with a mathematical allergy can enjoy du Sautoy's depictions of his cast of characters, just as a vividly-written book about composers could hold the attention of someone with no musical ear nor musical knowledge.

The Times

Marcus du Sautoy whose combination of brains and charm should soften up even the most willfully innumerate of readers.

The Observer

This is a gripping, entertaining and thought-provoking book. Du Sautoy is certainly a brilliant storyteller. Even if you don't understand the maths, this is still a fascinating book.

The Sunday Independent

Marcus du Sautoy's THE MUSIC OF THE PRIMES is a mesmerising journey into the world of mathematics. The subject - what are prime numbers and what are their secrets? - is daunting but du Sautoy writes with admirable clarity and verve.

Daily Mail

THE MUSIC OF THE PRIMES (Fourth Estate, £18.99), Prof Marcus du Sautoy's fascinating new book on a mystery in the theory of numbers … Prof du Sautoy's book is an engrossing account of the struggle of some of the world's most brilliant mathematicians to find the order amid this chaos, and to hear the 'music' of the primes.

The Daily Telegraph

Du Sautoy offers an engaging account of those - including John Nash of A Beautiful Mind fame - who have tried and failed to make the primes sing.


Look swotty by carrying around maths book THE MUSIC OF THE PRIMES.


Marcus du Sautoy's entertaining book THE MUSIC OF THE PRIMES is aimed at the more popular end of the market and looks certain to be a great success.

Timothy Gowers, Fields Medal winner 2002, Nature vol 425 9 October 2003

Du Sautoy provides a panoramic history of prime-number crunching, rich with anecdote and unfailingly patient with the mathematical fine points.

Village Voice

This fascinating account is written like the purest poetry. Marcus du Sautoy’s enthusiasm shines through every line of this hymn to the joy of high intelligence, illuminating as it does so even the darkest corners of his most arcane universe.

Simon Winchester, author of THE PROFESSOR AND THE MADMAN

A highly engaging and entertaining account of the problem that most mathematicians put at the top of their most wanted list. No matter what your mathematical IQ, you will enjoy reading THE MUSIC OF THE PRIMES.

Keith Devlin, Stanford University, author of THE MATH GENE and THE MILLENNIUM PROBLEMS: The Seven Greatest Unsolved Mathematical Puzzles of Our Time

Engaging … (Du Sautoy) is a fluent expositor of more tractable mathematics, and his portraits of math notables are quite vivid.

Publishers Weekly


Washington Post Book World

Du Sautoy shows how computers are used to discover reams of detail about the primes and how this detail is important to Web commerce. His account of current work takes us as close to the frontier as we can get without a passport.

Los Angeles Times Book Review

(T)his account is fascinating, filled with odd twists … Marcus du Sautoy attempts to explain some of the efforts that have been made on this 'Everest of Mathematics'.

Christian Science Monitor

This is a wonderful book about one of the greatest remaining mysteries in mathematics. Marcus du Sautoy has done an excellent job exploring this topic and explaining the significance of prime numbers and the zeta function.


(A) lively history … Du Sautoy keeps the story moving and gives a clear sense of the way number theory is played in his accessible text. A must for math buffs.

Kirkus Reviews

Du Sautoy’s narrative conjures up the characters and their profound ideas with wonderful verve and a poetic gift for explanation. It is enormously entertaining.

New Scientist

Poignant … As Marcus du Sautoy thrillingly shows, mathematicians love numbers so much that they invest them with the properties of things.

Financial Times

...both gripping and baffling. Du Sautoy’s engaging enthusiasm demands that one makes a bit of effort to overcome one’s incomprehension. He provides a wonderful portrait gallery of the obsessional, colourful eccentrics who have collectively extended the boundaries of numbers.


Marcus du Sautoy’s book is a highly engaging and entertaining account of the problem that most mathematicians put at the top of their most wanted list.

Keith Devlin

In THE MUSIC OF THE PRIMES the meaning of Riemann’s work unfolds by way of rich musical analogies.

Scientific American

The narrative flow of the book is kept afloat by the extraordinary nature of the men and women who struggled to solve those mysteries.

Financial Times Magazine

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