The Goldbach Variations

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A Prussian by the name of Christian Goldbach

As a mathematician no mean hack

Once noticed in numbers a hidden structure

Which he set out as a conjecture

That every number in the number zoo

As long as it was larger than 2

Could be expressed as the sum

Of three primes, wasn’t that rum?

Not having a proof, he thought it better

To write it up and send it to the great Euler, in a letter

Euler took what Goldbach had wrought

Played with it, making it elegant and taut

By suggesting that one should see

Every even as the sum of two primes not three!

Adding the caveat that this was true

of all even numbers greater than 2.

It is of course no surprise

That a question should arise

Should the one who first saw

A version of this numerical law

(That would be Goldbach whose song

Turned out, in essence to be wrong)

Should he be the one to receive the credit

Or should it be the one who did the final edit.

Euler was more famous, the deck was stacked

in his favour, rather than lesser known Goldbach

Would this be the conjecture of Euler

Of Goldbach’s name would he be the spoiler

But as it happens the workings of history

Often remains, to us mere mortals, a mystery

History does not really care

If the attribution is truly fair

Thus it is surprising to anyone who looks

In most standard textbooks

Or sits in mathematical lectures

On hitherto unproven mathematical conjectures

That Euler today receives none of the credit

Though, clearly one can say that he did it.

The idiosyncrasies of life and citation you can blame

For this becoming Goldbach’s significant claim to fame.

About history and credit you may quaff

It was Goldbach who had the last laugh.

More so since this conjecture has remained just that

A conjecture! Unproven, till today, nothing to scoff at.