Date of Completion

Spring 5-1-2013

Thesis Advisor(s)

Keith Conrad

Honors Major





Dirichlet's theorem states that there exist an infinite number of primes in an arithmetic progression a + mk when a and m are relatively prime and k runs over the positive integers. While a few special cases of Dirichlet's theorem, such as the arithmetic progression 2 + 3k, can be settled by elementary methods, the proof of the general case is much more involved. Analysis of the Riemann zeta-function and Dirichlet L-functions is used.

The proof of Dirichlet's theorem suggests a method for defining a notion of density of a set of primes, called its Dirichlet density, and the primes of the form a+mk have a Dirichlet density 1/φ(m), which is independent of a. While the definition of Dirichlet density is not intuitive, it is easier to compute than a more natural concept of density, and the two notions of density turn out to be equal when they both exist.

Dirichlet's theorem is often used to show a prime number exists satisfying a particular congruence condition while avoiding a finite set of "bad" primes. For example, it allows us to find the density of the set of primes p such that a given nonzero integer a is or is not a square mod p. More generally, it lets us find the density of the set of primes at which a finite set of integers have prescribed Legendre symbol values.

Included in

Mathematics Commons