Buxton

Jedediah Buxton

Jedediah Buxton was an eighteenth century English savant who was able to compute some of the most complex mathematical problems in his head as fast as a modern calculator could. What is so unusual about Jedediah is the fact that he labored as a farmer all of his life and was not an educated person by any means. He could neither read nor write, having never been formally educated even though his father was a schoolteacher and his grandfather was also a learned man. But Jedediah was talented at numbers in a way that very people are and it was this one ability that he became very well known for in his time.

He was born in the village of Elmton Derbyshire in 1707. Young Jedediah was a hard working boy who discovered that he was able to view the world around him in mathematical terms. It is recorded that he could measure any length he walked and random objects around him with ease and be able to make complex multiplication and division problems in his head, even if he was carrying on a conversation with a friend or family member. For Jedediah it was perfectly natural, even though those around him considered Jedediah to be a unique talent. It wasn't long before his family decided to introduce him to the Royal Society of London to exhibit his mathematical prowess. After giving answers to difficult math problems, members of the Society were impressed with him enough to grant him with a stipend. Jedediah's unusual ability, however, had its downside, as it appeared to prevent him from appreciating life's enjoyments. In 1754 shortly after presenting himself in front of the Royal Society, he decided to attend the theatre where the famous actor David Garrick was performing in the title role of Richard III at Drury Lane. Jedediah found himself measuring the length of Garrick's speaking parts which no doubt inhibited any ability to enjoy Garrick's acting talents, as he was considered to be one of the greatest eighteenth century stage actors in London. Returning home to Elmton, Jedediah continued to work in the fields as a farmer. Despite the fact he was already well into his adult years, Jedediah still could not read or write, making it impossible for him to even hold a position as a math teacher in his home town.

Jedediah died in 1772 at the age of 65 and is buried in an unmarked grave in a churchyard at Elmton in Derbyshire.

             © Tony Dowd 2012