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Buxton, Jedediah

BUXTON, JEDEDIAH (1707-1772), English arithmetician, was born on the 20th of March 1707 at Elmton, near Chesterfield, in Derbyshire. Although his father was schoolmaster of the parish, and his grandfather had been the vicar, his education had been so neglected that he could not write; and his knowledge, except of numbers, was extremely limited. How he came first to know the relative proportions of numbers, and their progressive denominations, he did not remember; but on such matters his attention was so constantly riveted, that he frequently took no cognizance of external objects, and when he did, it was only with reference to their numbers. He measured the whole lordship of Elmton, consisting of some thousand acres, simply by striding over it, and gave the area not only in acres, roods and perches, but even in square inches. After this, he reduced them into square hairs'-breadths, reckoning forty-eight to each side of the inch. His memory was so great, that in resolving a question he could leave off and resume the operation again at the same point after the lapse of a week, or even of several months. His perpetual application to figures prevented the smallest acquisition of any other knowledge. His wonderful faculty was tested in 1754 by the Royal Society of London, who acknowledged their satisfaction by presenting him with a handsome gratuity. During his visit to the metropolis he was taken to see the tragedy of Richard III. performed at Drury Lane theatre, but his whole mind was given to the counting of the words uttered by David Garrick. Similarly, he set himself to count the steps of the dancers; and he declared that the innumerable sounds produced by the musical instruments had perplexed him beyond measure. He died in 1772.

A memoir appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine for June 1754, to which, probably through the medium of a Mr Holliday, of Haughton Hall, Nottinghamshire, Buxton had contributed several letters. In this memoir, his age is given as forty-nine, which points to his birth in 1705; the date adopted above is on the authority of Lysons' Magna Britannia (Derbyshire).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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