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Calculating Prodigiers on the Web

The Resource for this week includes mention of Steven Smith's The Great Mental Calculators: The Psychology, Methods, and Lives of Calculating Prodigies Past and Present (1983). Thus, it is only appropriate that complementary web sites be reviewed as well, especially those that are specific to calculating prodigies.

These web site resources are offered as both useful and accessible:

  • Ron Doerfler's blog Dead Reckonings is a good place to start as it provides a good essay that provides overviews of both historical and modern lightning calculators, classic and modern methods of mental calculation, and a cautionary tale regarding "the shallow and deceptive nature of most media coverage of lightning calculators." He also includes links to biographical details about some of the "lightning calculators," including multiple videos about them and their techniques.
  • In turn, Ron Doerfler's Dead Reckoning: Calculating Without Instruments provides web-based material related to his book with the same name. The website includes links to articles, a forum, and other miscellaneous items he is interested in (e.g. sundials, astrolabs, Sherlock Holmes).
  • AllExperts overviews calculating prodigies then provides links to about 120 different such individuals...including the likes of Gauss and Euler. It also includes links to some websites that discuss special mental calculating techniques, such as the extraction of the 13th-root of a number (something I need to daily!).
  • The fourth link is a great Powerpoint presentation by Giovanni Pasqua Roxy entitled LIGHTNING CALCULATORS, given at the 10th Los Angeles Conference on Magic History (November, 8-10, 2007). Play it, learn, and enjoy!
If you know of other resources related to the calculating prodigies, please send them to me for inclusion on a future list.