a math student recently challenged me on the old comparison/ analogy of prime numbers to "the atoms of number theory or arithmetic" and then was wondering the origin of the phrase.
where does this analogy of prime numbers to atoms originate, who was the 1st to use it?
for starters this page includes the quote by Sautoy from 1998 (M. du Sautoy, "The Music of the Primes", Science Spectra 11, 1998)
It remains unresolved but, if true, the Riemann Hypothesis will go to the heart of what makes so much of mathematics tick: the prime numbers. These indivisible numbers are the atoms of arithmetic.
am thinking that this analogy might be very old, say maybe decades or more, but could it predate even 21st century physics? also looking for other extended comparisons of the two beyond a mere passing sentence.