Story of Thomas Fuller, the black slave with a mental calculator for a brain


The first black slave in American with a mental calculator for a brain, the man who could solve complex maths problem in his head.

An African slave in America, Thomas Fuller, was known as the “Negro Tom” and the ” Virginia Calculator” for his calculating skills in all of the states.

Thomas was born December 1710, in Africa, somewhere between present-day Liberia and Benin, he was enslaved and shipped to America in 1724 at the age of 14, and became the legal property of Presley and Elizabeth Cox of Alexandria, Virginia, and died 1790.

Rumours circulated about his ability to solve math problems, but unfortunately, like all servants, he could not read nor write.

Many believed that he may have gained his skills from his homeland in Africa, which brought about the mentality of the whites, which is nowhere inferior to the blacks.

At age 70, William Hartshorne and Samuel Coates of Pennsylvania heard of Fuller’s powers and sent for him in Alexandria, and out of curiosity, asked him two questions.

The first question was, how many seconds were there in a year and a half? Fuller answered in about two minutes, saying 47, 304, 000 seconds.

The second was, how many seconds a man has lived in is 70 years, 17 days and 12 hours old? which he answered in a minute and a half, saying 2, 210, 500, 800.

One of the men was working out the problems on paper and informed Fuller that he was wrong because the answer was much smaller, and replied by saying “Top, Massa, you forget de leap year.”

When it was added, the sums matched, and it appeared to Hartshorne and Coates that his mental abilities must have once been greater, so he wrote.

“He was grey-headed and exhibited several other marks of the weakness of old age, he had worked hard upon a farm during the whole of life but had never been intemperate in the use of spirituous liquors.

“He spoke with great respect of his mistress and mentioned in a particular manner his obligations to her for refusing to sell him, which she had been tempted to by offers of large sums of money from several persons.”

One of the gentlemen, Mr Coates, having remarked in his presence that it was a pity he had not an education equal to his genius. Fuller replies, saying, “No, Massa, it is best I had no learning, for many learned men be great fools.”


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