Buxton, Jedediah

, an extraordinary calculator, was born at Elmeton, or Elmton, a small village not far from Chesterfield, in Derbyshire. His grandfather John Buxton was vicar of Elmeton, and his father William Buxton was schoolmaster in the same parish. We cannot precisely ascertain the year in which Jedediah was born; but it is probable that it was in 1704 or 1705. Notwithstanding the profession of his father, Jedediah’s education seems to have been totally neglected, for he was never taught either to read or write. How he came first to know the relative proportions of numbers, their denominations and powers, he never could remember; but upon these his attention was constantly riveted, and he scarcely took any notice of external objects, except with respect to their numbers. If any space of time was mentioned before | him, he would soon after say that it contained so many minutes; and if any distance, he would assign the number of hair breadths in it, even when no question was asked him by the company. His power of abstraction was so great, that no noise whatever could disturb him, and when asked any question, he would immediately reply, and return to his calculation without any confusion, or the loss of more time than the answer required. A person who had heard of his astonishing performances, meeting with him accidentally, in order to try his calculating powers, proposed to him the following question: In a body whose three sides are 23,145,789 yards, 5,642,732 yards, and |4,965 yards, how many cubical eighths of an inch? After once naming the several figures distinctly, one after the other, in order to assure himself of the several dimensions, this self-taught calculator fell to work amidst more than a hundred of his fellow-labourers, and the proposer of the question leaving him for about five hours, returned and found Jedediah ready with his answer, which was exactly right. A variety of questions, too numerous to be here inserted, he would solve in very little time, by the mere force of memory. He would multiply any number of figures, either by the whole or any part of them, and at different times, and store up the various products in his memory, so as to give the answers several months after. He would work at several questions; first begin one and work it half through; then another, and so on, working in this manner six or eight questions, and would either as soon as finished, or several months after, tell the result. This extraordinary man would stride over a piece of land, and tell the contents of it with as much exactness as if he had measured it by the chain; and in this manner he measured the whole lordship of Elmton, of some thousand acres, belonging to sir John Rhodes, and brought him the contents, not only in acres, roods, and perches, but in square inches, and after this reduced them into square hair-breadths, computing forty-eight to each side of the inch, which produced an incomprehensible number,

His perpetual application to figures prevented him from making the smallest acquisition in any other branch of knowledge; for, beyond mere calculation, his ideas were as confined, perhaps, as those of a boy at ten years of age in the same class of life. The only objects of Jedediah’s | curiosity, next to figures, were the king and royal family; and his desire to see them was so strong, that in the beginning of spring, 1754, he walked up to London for that purpose, but was obliged to return disappointed, as his majesty had removed to Kensington just as he arrived in town. He was however introduced to the royal society, whom he called the volk of the siety court. He was likewise taken to see the tragedy of Richard III. at Drury-lane, and it was expected that the novelty of every thing in this place, together with the splendour of the surrounding objects, would have fixed him in astonishment, or that his passions would in some degree have been roused by the action of the performers, even if he did not fully comprehend the dialogue. Instead of this, during the dances his attention was engaged in reckoning the number of steps. After a fine piece of music, he declared that the innumerable sounds produced by the instruments perplexed him beyond measure, but he counted the words uttered by Mr. Garrick in the whole course of the entertainment, and affirmed that in this he had perfectly succeeded. He lived to about seventy years of age, but the exact time of his death we cannot learn. He was married, and had several children. 1


Many more singular particulars of this man may be seen in —Gent. Mag. vol. LI. LIII. and LIV.