# Gauss and primitive roots

In https://www.math.dartmouth.edu/~carlp/ordertalkunder.pdf Carl Pomerance writes: "... Over two centuries ago, Gauss asked if this deal with the decimal for $1/p$ occurred for infinitely many primes $p$. I.e., do we have $l_{10}(p) = p − 1$ for infinitely many primes $p$?"

Meanwhile in http://guests.mpim-bonn.mpg.de/moree/surva.pdf Pieter Moree writes: "... Hence we expect that there are infinitely many primes $p$ having 10 as a primitive root mod $p$. This conjecture is commonly attributed to Gauss, however, to the author’s knowledge there is no written evidence for it."

What evidence is there that Gauss raised the question, and what evidence is there that he hazarded a guess?

• A partial case of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artin%27s_conjecture_on_primitive_roots Oct 25 '17 at 11:45
• Maarten Bullynck, Decimal periods and their tables: a German research topic 1765-1801, Historia Mathematica Volume 36, Issue 2, May 2009, Pages 137-160, available at sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S031508600800092X doesn't answer the question, but does discuss several closely related topics. John Stillwell, Elements of Number Theory, page 61, attributes the conjecture to Gauss and gives a year for it, 1801 (but not, I think, a citation). Oct 25 '17 at 12:16
• If the year is 1801, then it must be Disquisitiones Arithmeticae where he gives the repeating decimal representation for $1/n$ for $n\le 1000$. Oct 26 '17 at 0:10

I found many references writing that Gauss conjectured that there exst infinitely many primes, with $10$ a primitive root, some referring to Disquitiones, others without any reference. Gauss studied the period of $1/p$ from his early days. A link to a manuscript (in German) by Siebeneicher, including handwritten tables from the Göttingen archive. https://www.math.uni-bielefeld.de/~sieben/fermat.pdf
In Disquisitiones, section 316, Gauss lists the relevant primes $7, 17, 19, 23, 29, 47, 59, 61, 97$ below 100 and writes he has the decimal periods of prime powers up to 1000 and might publish that list on some other occasion. It seems to me that he did not explictly write in Disquitiones (and possibly elsewhere) that there are infinitely many such primes. This makes this question by James an interesting one, and it should clearly be clarified why it eventually became a "conjecture" of Gauss in the modern literature!
However, it seems very very likely to me that Gauss observed from these small primes that this type of primes is not rare: Gauss famously counted primes in very young age, and conjectured a good approximation formula to $\pi(x)$, and the list above "looks like" a positive proportion of all primes below 100.