Amicable numbers are two different numbers so related that the sum of the proper divisors of each is equal to the other number. (A proper divisor of a number is a positive integer divisor other than the number itself. For example, the proper divisors of 6 are 1, 2, and 3.) A pair of amicable numbers constitutes an aliquot sequence of period 2. A related concept is that of a perfect number, which is a number which equals the sum of its own proper divisors, in other words a number which forms an aliquot sequence of period 1. Numbers that are members of an aliquot sequence with period greater than 2 are known as sociable numbers.
For example, the smallest pair of amicable numbers is (220, 284); for the proper divisors of 220 are 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 11, 20, 22, 44, 55 and 110, of which the sum is 284; and the proper divisors of 284 are 1, 2, 4, 71, and 142, of which the sum is 220.
The first few amicable pairs are: (220, 284), (1184, 1210), (2620, 2924), (5020, 5564), (6232, 6368) (sequence A063990 in OEIS).
Amicable numbers were known to the Pythagoreans, who credited them with many mystical properties. A general formula by which some of these numbers could be derived was invented circa 850 by Thābit ibn Qurra (826-901). Other Arab mathematicians who studied amicable numbers are al-Majriti (died 1007), al-Baghdadi (980-1037), and al-Fārisī (1260-1320). The Iranian mathematician Muhammad Baqir Yazdi (16th century) discovered the pair (9363584, 9437056), though this has often been attributed to Descartes. Much of the work of Eastern mathematicians in this area has been forgotten.
Thābit's formula was rediscovered by Fermat (1601-1665) and Descartes (1596-1650), to whom it is sometimes ascribed, and extended by Euler (1707–1783). It was extended further by Borho in 1972. Fermat and Descartes also rediscovered pairs of amicable numbers known to Arab mathematicians. Euler also discovered dozens of new pairs. The second smallest pair, (1184, 1210), was discovered in 1866 by a then teenage B. Nicolò I. Paganini, having been overlooked by earlier mathematicians.
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