Not so long ago: Thomas Fuller, also known as "Negro Tom" and the "Virginia Calculator", was an enslaved African renowned for his mathematical abilities. Born in Africa somewhere between present-day Liberia and Benin, Fuller was enslaved and shipped to America in 1724 at the age of 14, eventually becoming the legal property of Presley and Elizabeth Cox of Alexandria, Virginia. Both Fuller and the Coxes were illiterate. Stories of his math abilities spread through the Eastern seaboard. He never learned to read or write but had acquired the art of enumeration. He could multiply seven into itself, that product by seven, and the products by seven, for seven times. He could give the number of months, days, weeks, hours, minutes, and seconds in any period of time that any person chose to mention, including the leap years that happened in that time; he would give the number of poles, yards, feet, inches, and barley-corns in any distance, say the diameter of the earth's orbit; and in every calculation he would produce the answer in less time than ninety-nine men out of a hundred would produce with their pens. Sir Isaac Newton acknowledged him a Brother in Math and Science. His skill was even used as proof that enslaved Blacks were equal to whites in intelligence, which fueled pro-abolitionist discussion. When Fuller was 70 years old, William Hartshorne and Samuel Coates of Pennsylvania were in Alexandria and sent for him. First, they asked him how many seconds there were in a year and a half and he answered in about two minutes, 47,304,000. Second, they asked how many seconds a man has lived who is 70 years, 17 days and 12 hours old and he answered in a minute and a half 2,210,500,800. One of the men was working out the problems on paper, and informed Fuller that he was wrong, because the answer was much smaller. Fuller hastily replied, "'Top, massa, you forget de leap year." When the leap year was added in, the sums matched. Fuller the famous African Calculator died at aged 80.

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