Meet the African slave whose maths sense put the whites to shame

Meet the African slave whose maths sense put the whites to shame

The story is being told of Thomas Fuller, an African slave, about 400 years after his life, of his mathematical ingenuity that surprised even slaveholders of his time.

In 1710, a man who would be called Thomas Fuller because of slavery, was born. But Fuller's life was going to challenge the very views that sought to keep him as inferior to white people.

Often called the “Virginia Calculator”, Fuller is believed to gave been born between the "Slave Coast” of West Africa (present-day Liberia) and the Kingdom of Dahomey (modern-day Benin).

According to, Fuller was taken away from his native land during the scramble for slaves and sold to buyers. At the age of 14, Fuller was taken to Colonial America in 1724.

He was an illiterate in English but had a rare gift; the ability to give accurate and speedy calculation so much so that supposedly superior white people were impressed.

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Fuller was solving complex mathematics questions quickly and in his head.

Antislavery campaigners who even recognised his rare talent used him to drum home the point that blacks were not mentally inferior to whites.

Northern Virginia planters, Presley and Elizabeth Cox, also used Fuller’s talent in the management of their plantation farm, about four miles from Alexandria, Virginia.

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It is reported that one time he was asked how many seconds were in a year and a half and how many seconds had a man lived who is 70 years, 17 days and 12 hours old?

When Fuller correctly answered 47,304,000 and 2,210,500,800, respectively, in less than two minutes each time, one white man raised an objection, saying his own calculations were much smaller.

The white man had forgotten the leap years, apparently.

For all his genius, it is said Fuller's skills came from experimental applications around the farm such as counting the hairs in a cow’s tail.

Such a modest path to brilliance.

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