Wonder whether any of you guys know why it is that the proof of the infinitude of primes that is based on the coprimality of any pair of (distinct) Fermat numbers is commonly attributed to Pólya.

In the first paragraph of this letter from Golbach to Euler, there already appears the approach along those lines but since documents crediting it to Pólya altogether are not rare out there, it seems like it's passed unnoticed by a nonzero number of persons.

So, what do you think about this? It's not like Fermat numbers are essential to the proof or that there are no other demonstrations of the result... It's just that I'd really like to know about the origins of this discrepancy between the sources.

**UPDATE:** Robert Haas implies in **1** that it was Adolf Hurwitz the first mathematician that stated explicitly the fact that the coprimality of any two (distinct) Fermat numbers implies the infinitude of the prime numbers. According to Mr. Haas, Adolf Hurwitz began, in the summer of 1891, a
compilation of number-theoretic problems which he would eventually entitle
"Übungen zur Zahlentheorie" (follow the link if you wish to download a PDF copy of it): the coprimality of any pair of (distinct) Fermat numbers and its relation to the infinitude of the primes is the subject matter of the second entry of this compilation.

In Mr. Haas's paper one can even find a potential explanation as to why it is that the proof of the infinitude of the primes via the coprimality of any two (distinct) Fermat numbers is usually attributed to Pólya (or Pólya & Szegö, while we are at it):

"Through most of the twentieth century, until Hurwitz's book [*Die* Übungen zur Zahlentheorie] was printed in 1993, the primes proof was attributed to Pólya and Szegö, who presented it (without references or claim of originality) as a problem and solution in their famous 1925 'Aufgaben und Lehrsätze aus der Analysis'. But considering that Pólya was Hurwitz's colleague and posthumous editor, the idea may well have come directly from Hurwitz's 'Übungen zur Zahlentheorie'. At any rate, Hurwitz had at least 7 year's priority [the last entry of the 'Übungen zur Zahlentheorie' was added sometime in 1918]."

Nevertheless, in the light of Mr. Lemmermeyer's answer below, I consider that the real priority dispute in this matter is not between Hurwitz and Pólya (or Pólya & Szegö) but between Hermann Scheffler and Adolf Hurwitz. Oddly enough, Scheffler's "Beiträge zur Zahlentheorie, insbesondere zur Kreis und Kugeltheilung, mit einem Nachtrage zur Theorie der Gleichungen" was published **in the same year** in which Hurwitz began putting together his "Übungen zur Zahlentheorie"!

Do you think that it is possible to determine at this stage of the game whether Scheffler's book had something to do with Hurwitz's impulse to recognize in print what Goldbach apparently never did, i.e., that the pairwise relatively prime sequence of Fermat numbers guarantees the infinitude of the prime numbers? **What is more**: did Hurwitz have in his possession a copy of Scheffler's book once?

Let me close this update by quoting the paragraph of Mr. Haas's paper wherein he tells us why it is that Goldbach has never received full credit for this approach to the infinitude of the prime numbers:

"Goldbach, having showed that the Fermat numbers are pairwise relatively prime, clearly had a proof of the infinitude of primes in his hands. But being absorbed in whether the Fermat numbers are absolutely prime, he overlooked that consequence of his work. Holding a mathematical proof to be a DELIBERATE act of reasoned argument, one must therefore award shared credit to his "collaborator" 160 years later who did notice it, Hurwitz. Goldbach dug out the ore, and Hurwitz spotted the diamond and showed it off."

**References**

[**1**] R. Haas, *Goldbach, Hurwitz, and the Infinitude of Primes: Weaving a Proof
across the Centuries*. Math Intelligencer, Vol. 36, 1, 2014.

. Does anyone here know if Sylvester mentioned that such a sequence constitutes a proof of the infinitude of primes? $\endgroup$ – Jeppe Stig Nielsen Nov 30 '17 at 12:09in 1880