Thomas Fuller: African Slave and Mathematician in the 1700s

African Heritage

Newton_Isaac_Newton_by_Sir_Godfrey_Kneller,_1701 Sir Isaac Newton

Here is a quote from the obituary of an African man born somewhere between modern-day Liberia and Benin in 1710, and enslaved and shipped to become a slave in America: “Thus died Negro Tom, this self-taught arithmetician, this untutored Scholar! — Had his opportunities of improvement been equal to those of thousands of his fellow-men, neither the Royal Society of London, the Academy of Science at Paris, nor even Newton himself, need have been ashamed to acknowledge him a Brother in Science” [Columbian Centenial, December 29, 1790, No. 707, p.123, col.32, Boston, Massachusettes]. So who was this Negro Tom, a slave who was given an obituary in a American journal in the 1700s?

ArithmeticsThomas Fuller, also known as Negro Tom or the “Virginia Calculator”, can be called today a mental calculator or simply a human calculator. In today’s…

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