Jerry Verrier's review of A Prime For The Millennium
Jerry Verrier's review appeared in the Galway Advertiser's issue of 17th February, 2000, but to access it from their web site one has to go to their search page, and search for 'Cosgrave' in the Entertainment section for the 17th February 2000 issue. However the download speed from that site is quite slow, and so I have faithfully copied it to this section of my web site, with some added comments of my own in square brackets:
A PRIME FOR THE MILLENIUM, by John B Cosgrave. Folding Landscapes. £15. (Royalties to Irish Cancer Society)
John B Cosgrave is a world famous mathematician [this is not so; however since it appeared in his review I don't feel I can omit it, but, gentle reader, take it from me: I am not world famous], head of mathematics at St Patrick's College, Drumcondra. His father came from Gort, Co. Galway [at the Kennys Bookshop launch of my booklet on December 3rd 1999 I mentioned that I was delighted to be in Kennys, not least because my father was from just down the road, from Gort. Jerry Verrier was present, and obviously picked up on the Gort connection].
Childhood heroes, I would suggest, are generally to be found in the realms of sport or entertainment. From time to time an individual will come along from outside these fields and make such a profound mark upon the world that many people might take him or her as a model for life; people of my generation have the first manned moon landing and Mahatma Ghandi nestled away in the 'respect' section of the psyche. Not many of us have the British mathematician G H Hardy as a childhood hero; if we did we would probably keep it to ourselves.
John B Cosgrave 'tells all' in the first pages of this short but valuable book. He admires Hardy (and Henry Cabourne Pocklington, 1870-1952) with an infectious enthusiasm which most of us reserve for the members of the triumphant Galway football team of last year. These people are leading mathematicians whose ideas, frankly, are difficult for most people immediately to grasp. Yet the wonderful thing about this book - as with all mathematical books which are written for the general public by someone who really knows what he is talking about and knows how to teach - is that it convinces you of the importance of its subject matter and leaves you wanting more. My personal favourite in the genre is Mathematician's Delight, by W.W.Sawyer, which fate led me to in Charlie Byrne's bookshop and represents the best £1.50 I have ever spent!
In his book Dr Cosgrave explains in easy to understand terms the nature of his quest: The verification of the primacy of numbers of the form:
2X3 + 1, 2X3X5X5 + 1,
2X3X5X7X7X7 + 1, 2X3X5X7X11X11X11X11 + 1,
etc, where 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13,
17, . . . are the (infinite) sequence of prime numbers. He uses the word
'beautiful' to describe such underlying structures of number, and by the third page you do
not find such use of the adjective at all odd. The remarkable thing about the number which
Dr Cosgrave constructed and which turned out on the morning of January 7 1999 to be a
prime number, is that it has, when written out in full, 2,000 digits; thus it is
christened The Millennium Prime. If the number itself is the star of the show we get the
whole thing right up front on the book's cover, and very beautiful it is too, with a clean
post-Bauhaus look from designer Simon Cutts. For those of you who find the novelty of the
Millennium Prime fascinating, I suggest you contact the publishers and ask for a framed
copy of the cover. You could even make it a special gift and ask for a signed copy from Dr
Cosgrave's website (http://staff.spd.dcu.ie/johnbcos/) .
The royalties from this book are going to an excellent charity. I loved this book. It is
unique and wonderful.