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Miscellany: The Wonderful Vermont Boy

Miscellany: The Wonderful Vermont Boy image
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Letter to the Editor
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Ma. Editor - Being a few days since in tho vicinity of Royalton, Vt., or. business cnnectod with my Bible agency, I was induced, by thoropoits I had often teen n the public prints of a reniarkable boy of thattown, to pay him a visit. The name of ibis preco cious youth is Trummi Henry Suflord, Jr. He is the son of Trunmn Henry and Louisa Saöbrd, of Royalton, Vl. He was born tr.c eixth day ofJanuary, 1C3G. Ho was conscquontly ten yeara old last Tncsday the sixth of January, 184G. His constitution is frail, his health, thongh more robust than a ycar sinco, is yct delicate, his limbs small, his hair dark, his eyes darle, projecting and indescrihably brilliant, and his countonance palüd; yct open, smilling and beanung with intelligence. Ho is exceedingly modest and iinnssuming. He nevcr boasts; ncver shows the least pridc after performin his wondcrful exploiis. Uut ho is retiring in his nianuers, though free to converse when spoken to, and in disposition asgentleasa lamb. He probably does not fulíy realize his greatness. He reads every thing that comes in his way ; conscquently, he often seos the vnrious pnffs of him tliat nre frcquently seen floating in the papers. He is nlrio often complimenled by dwtingpishéd viaitors. But bis parents teil him not to believe nll these encominme, ae tliero is often a great dcalof humbug in tlie world. This has the effect to make him quite unmindful of praisc. Hts wonderful powers of mind bpgan to beveloped when very young. At the oge ot twenty months ho learned his lotters. Bcfore threc years old, ho would reckon lime upon a clock almost intuhively. Ho nlso learned to enumeróte nccorditig to the Roman method from Wubslcrs p; ej%jL book. He commenced going to school when ' thrce yofir'eold; bul tliis lic (lid not like. - Ilis mode of study wos perfect ]y nnique. He did not mirsuc the cmninon. circuitous route to tho results to study. Since then he has been a very littlc, and now goos none at all. Probably no college in the United States could nstruct him much, f nny. When he first began to go to school, his lenchers could not comprehend his ways, nor instruct his infant mind. Every brnnch of study hu could maEler alone with rapidity and easc. He commenced Adnms ncw urithmatic on Tuestlay morning and fiiiished t complet ely on Friday niglit! And when he finishes a book it is done pcrfectly. He would not fully eet down his sums, but cover his slate with a shower of figures, mid at once bring out the answer. The teocher would !ook on with astonislnrent, unible lo keep up with him, or lo comprehend his operatione ; these were opcrations, catiied on in his own mind wiih the rapid'ty of lightning, and then dashcd on to the slate, no muttor which end first. His thirst for u)l kinds of knowledge is very great. The whole circle of the sciences is os familiar lo him as a Household wvrd. His father obnined for him Gregory's Dictionary of Arls and Sciences, in thrce volumes. This work, you know is r. I vast encyclopedia of knowledge. This was just the work he wantod; for an outlino of any thing is enough - he can make tho rest. It was this book that first gnve him a taste for the higher mathemntics. More he found the definition of a logarithm, nnd from this alone went on and made almost an entire table before ever seeing one. One day he went to lus father and told him he wanted lo calcúlate the eclipse and make an Almanac! He said hc wanted some books nnd instruments. His father tried to pnt him off; but the boy foüowed him inio the fiold and whithersoevcr he went, bogging for books and instruments wilh a most aflectingtunity. FinalJy, his futher prornised to accompany him to Darlmouth College, and obtain for him if possible, what he wanted. At this, the boy was quite overjoyed ; so mucli so, that when thcy hovo in sight of the College, he cried out in raptores, '"Oh, tlicre is the College! there are the books! tiiere are the instmmcnts!" Bnt they did not flod all they wanted. At Norwich, howevcr, they made up their complement . On coming home, the boy took Gummerer's Astronomy, open ed it in the middle, rolling it to nnd fro, nnd dashingr through its dry and tedious formulas, went out al both ends. By the way, this il his usual mode of study. He does not begin any book at the begining, but always in the middle, and Ihen gocs with a rush both ways. I asked him if, when he opencd Gummerer's Astronomy in the midille, he could comprehend those complicated formulas which depended on previaos demonstrations.lic replied, he could generally, but sometimes 'looked back a lif.le." On arriv'mg ot home. he projected several, and also calcuIated them through all Uieir tediousoperations by figures. Tliis, as olí matlematici;nis know, involves a knowlcdge of labyrmlhs of malhemnlics and nlso of formulas and processen most complieatcd and c'ifiicult. He has reccntly mai'e an Almanac for A. D. 1046. Two editions, the first of scvon thousand copies, and the;econd of seventeen thousnnd, havi already been publishéd and nearly all fold. ït is but jusl to young Soflbrd to eay, ihat the miicellaneous part uf tlic Almanac, so bolish and devoid oí tiislc, was prepared by a young innn employed by tlie pubiïbhersof the work. TJiis is a greal pity. lt is to be hopcd ihat such twaddle will not be carricd throuih a tliird cdilion. The contrast bet ween tlie two authors is two awful. In the Almnnuc are the calculntions of two eclipses of tlie eun, vrought out wholly by its inf&nt au'hor, besides o; her valunble tables ; especinlly one buwirïg the amotint ofdulies on wool, under ie tariflö since the formation of the gnvernment act of 1842. Tliia the boy calculoted nlone. And tliat he calculated, without aid, tho two eclipses of t!ie &un, is atlcslcd by the publishéd cortificates of Judges, loctors, lawyers and clerrymen. If any 01 e lill doubt the boy's ability to calcúlate an eclipse and explain in all its parts, I woud ecommend them to Itoyalton Vt., where he s now to bc seen, and, by a personal examiï'Qtiqo, entisfy themsclves-. Ile will not only bury you, in a minute, bcneath a flood of figures, signs. tangenls.cosins and tangent?, but he will use all the ccliiiica! terms of mathematica with the jrie.-itest precisión - drslúng through abstruse 'brmulns and narrating every step of his work witti e;is, rapidily and neverfailing accuracy. Whcn in hispreöCnce, under such circumstauces, if any one, even the most learncd eau re iress the emolioiiH of wonder ihat must strogele in his soul, and not fee! that he is in the presence of a superior being; I confsss I should bc very muel) surprisèd. Not satisfied with the old circuituus process ofdelay, young SaiTurd is conslantly evolvinsr new mies for abridginn; his worK. He has fo'ind a new rule by which to calculato eclipses, hitherto lar as known, to any mathemutician. He told me it would shortcn tlie work neariy one third. VVhen finding this rule,for two or threo days he eeemcd to be in a sort of tr.ince.One morning, very oirly, lic carne rush ing clown stair, not stopping to dress hinisclf, pourcd on lo his slate a slroam of figures, and soon cricd ouL in the wildnese of his joy, "O! father, I Imve gol il ! I have got it ! it comes! it comes! I questioned him respecting this ru!e. He conimenced the explanation. His oyes rolled spasmodically in their sockete, and lie explnincd his work with rcadiness. To hcar Inm talk so rnpidly, and yet so technicnlly exact, and so lar abo ve the comprelimsionofall, save the rnost profound inalhema tician, put to flight all my doubts aml filled me with utter astonishment. He said he did not know as his new rule would work in ail cases, bnt as yet it ha'!. He remarkcd thut the nearer noon the cclipse cnme on, the easier it was to apply ihi rulo. But young Snfford's strenffth does not lie wholiy in the mathematics. He has a sort of mental nbserption. Ilis infant niiud drinks n knowledge as the sponge does wa'er. - Clietnislrj, botany, philosophy, gcography and history are his sport. It does not make mucli diliereuce whal question you aek him, honnswers very readily. I spoke to him of some of the recent discoveries in cliemiBtry. IIcTiiiderètood them. I spoke to him of the solidification of carbonic acid gas by Prf. Johnson, of ïhe Wctleyan Univeif'ity. lic said he miderstood it. Here his eye flushed flre, and lie began lo cxplain the proces?. - When only four years old, he would surround himself pon the floor with Morse's, Woodbrióge's, Olney?, Smith's and Malle Brun's geoirraphies, tracing them throtigh orid comparing thein, noting all iheiK points of diñbrence. His niemory too is very slrong. He has pored over Gregory's Dictionary of the Arts and Sciences bo much that I seriously iionbt j whether thcrecan ben queatiqn asked him,i!rau from eitlicr of thosc immense volumes, thal he vvi.ll not nnswer inetnntly. I saw ihe volumes and also noticed that he had left his marks on almost cvery poo. I nsked to sce his mathemnticnl vvoiks. He spjang to his study and j roduced Greenleaf's Arithmetic, Perkin's Algebra, Ilutton's Astronomy and several nautical almanacs. I askcd him if he had masterod thom all. He replied that hehod. And an examination of him for the epace ofihree hours convinced me he had; and not only so, but that he had far outstriped them. llis knowlcdjre is not intuitivo, lic is o pure and profound rensoner. In this he excels ui! other geniuse3 of u'hom I ever read. i lie connot only reckon figures in his mind wilh the rapidity of lightning, but lie reasons; compares, refleets, nnd wades at plensure throngh all thü ;nost abstrucc sciences, and comprehends and reduces to his own c'ear and brief rule?, the highest mathematical knowlcdge. II is mind is constantly active. No reercation or amusement enn avail for any lengt h of time or divert him from mental efturi. nccoiripanied by Rev. (.. N. Smith, of Rnndolph, Vt., who waa acqiiainted with Mr. and Mrs. Safford, [ liad free ac cess fo ! hè boy, and ampie opportunity for a long and thorough exarnination. I wenl firm ly expecting to bo able to confound him, as I prcviously prepared myself with various problema for his so lution. I did not suppose it possiblo for a boy of ten yearsonly to be able to play, as with a top; svitl) all the higher bronclics o matheinaücs. But in this I was disttppointed.Ilere follow some of the questions I put to liim nnd his answers. I said, Con you teil mr. how many seconds oíd I was last Mareh, the 12tli day, when I was 27 years old? lic replied inslnntly, '85,250,200.' Then said I. ihe hour and minute hands of a clock are exRCtly together at 12 o'clock: when are the I hands ne.xt together? Said he, as quick as j thought 'M h. 5 5-llm." And heie I wil.l reniark. that I hnd to rsad the suin to him once. He did not core to sec it, but only to hcar it announced once, no matter how long1, Let tliis fHCt bo remembered in con nection vvith some of the long and blind eums I sliall hereefter name, and see if it does not show hia nmazing power of porcoption and eomprëhension. Ile would perform the sumc mentally andalso on a elate, working by the briefest and strictest rules, and hurrvingf on to ilie answer wilh a rapidity outslriping all capacily to keep up with him. The next smn I gave him was this : A man and his wife usually dronk out a cask of beer in twelvo days ; but when tho man was from home it : lasted the womnn thirty days - hoxv many tlnys would the man alone be drinking il? - I He v'nir!ed about, rolled up his eyes nnd I plied al once, 'Y20 tínys." i Then I gave him this: How many acres in fi circular piece of ground whqse i ence is 31,416 miles? He Bprung on to liis Teet, flew round tho room, nnd in a minute i said, 50,265,6." Then .aid I, requircd the number of acres of blue 6ky in an eclipse whose se:ni axes are 35 and 25 miles? He bpgan to walk the Hoor ngain, twisting his little body, and whirling his eyes spasmodically, and in about a minute said, M, 1759,2915 acres.' IIow did you do il? said I. Said he, Multiply the eemi-axes together, and tliat product by .'3,1415, and that product by C40.r' And cMd you perform the entire operation iri your mind so soon? 'Yes, sir.' Then I took him into the mensural ion ofsoüds. Said I, What is the enlire surface of a regular pyramid whose slant height is 17 feet, and the base a pentagon, of which each side is 30,5 toet? In about two minute?, after amplifying round the room. aa his custom is, he replied, S354.5558.' How did you do it? said I. He answered, 'JMuhiply S3,5by .', and that product by 8,5, and add thus product lo the product ob'.ained by equanng 33.5, and multiplying the square by the tabular arca taken from the tnble corresponding to a pentogon.' On looking at this process, it is etrictly scif.-ntific. Add lo this the fact that I was examining him on different branches of mathematica, requiring the appücation of different rule?, and that hc went from one sum. to anotlier with rapidity, performing the work n his mine1, wlmn asked to, and the wonder is stil! greatcr. Then I desired him to find the surface of a ephere. Henee, said I required the area of the surface of the enrlh, its diameter being 7921 miles? He replied asquick as thought, '197,111,024 square miles.' To do it, hc had to square 7021 and multiply the prcdoct by :3,141G. , Tlien I wishcd bini lo give me the solidity of n sphcrc, tlierefore saiil I, what is dity of the carth, the mean diameter being j 9910,7 miles? he whirled about, ilew rapidly t about the room, flashed his eye?, and in about n minute said, 'L59,992,792,083" Todothis, he multiplied the cubo of 79 18,7 by 5236. I , believe hc used a few figures in doing this Bum; but it was not necessary, as he i formed a much larger one in his mind, as I , shall soon ehow. The next sum I gave him was this: ilow many ruüs will it require to fence a circular field, so that there fihall be as many acres in the field as there are rails round t the fenco being five rails high and the rails ten feet long, or lying ten feei on circutn lerence? 'O!' 6aid he I guess I can"t do it. - O! yes I can,' hecontiniifcd, leuning on totlie floorand hurrying about two minutes after he put his mind iipon t, he soid, 'it will tnke 13G,84fi,90G raiis.'. The mode of doing this was ingeniouK, and shows his power ofcomprehending not only the nature of a sum, but also the mode of performing it. On asldng hlm io explain how he wrooght it, he replied, 'iffive rails fence Jen feet of the circumference, one rail will fence two foet; tlien I shall have fencgd a piece of ground two feet at the circumferenceand 0 at the centre. But by this in the centre and revers-ng theonds, it tvill bc one foot wide. Now how tnr mnsv :his strip of lond extend to make au acre? Mulliply 100 by 272 1-4 and it will givc the square feet in the ncre,which is 43,560. TnfB is the radius of tlie circle. Twice this is the diameter, and the diameter multiplied by 3,Mlti gives the feet in the circiimference,ond tbat product, divided by 2, gives the mimber of rails and the mimber of acres. Or, whieh isthe eame thing, as 2 is both a multiplier and a divisor, neglect both steps, and the radius, rauljipheil by 3,1 HG, give the anNow let it. be remembered that this boy is ouly Ion yeara old ; tJiat he did this hm for the firfit titne, in about two minute?, almosl wholly in bis hend - and who can account for it? Thcn I aked him about h:s rule respecting vhe intersection ofcircles and the cutting nwny oí the area,as ropörted by Prof. Donson. [Ie snd t was wrong-, and e.xplained to me satisfactorily how tho error occuired. The f.ict ia the boy is somelimes opparontly lost in thought, or absent mindcd, an! unless he is óften told to keep his mind on liis work, he mny, the first yon know, be reading or 6tudy ing out somelhing lliat scems suddenly to come to his mind. It is possftle thal this had something to do with the error alluc'cd to. This mistake has been fully explainet1 by his father in the New York Observer. - To test him on this point, I inquired, suppose two cqual circles cut each otlier 6 1-2 of their diameter, how much of the area wil! be cut away?Suid he, instantly, '391 one thuuoandtli.' How do you kuow? eaid I. Heseized his pencil and slate, drew a diagram, and demoiisualed lliis property that the aren intercep!ed bctwoc the circlcs is equol to twiectho area of a segment of a circle, the area of which cicléis equal to one; and the lnMLt of Ihe fccgmeiit is equal lo the diameter of Ihecirclc tmiltipliod by the mimber of digits intercoprd bet ween tlie circumference of the two circles, and dividcd by 24, or X 12.' 1 thèll asked liim to give me the cube root of 3,753,875. lic replied, qnicker than Icould writc it, nnd menlally, '133, is it nol? Yes.' Then said 1, Wlmt is tr.e cube rooi or.M77,7]7?Siiid he, '17:3.' Of 7,880.590: Eïé iiislnntly said,' 19.' These roots lie gavo, calculnied w holly in his miud, as quick as ypti could count one. I thenaskcd his parents ïf I might givc hun a hard sum to porform mentally. Tliey said tliey did not tviah to tax his mind loo much, nor too often to its full capacity, but uere quite evilling to let me try him once. Then, said I,mii1tip!y in yotir hcad 305,365 365,361,305,365 by 3G5,3G5,3C5,S6j,SG5.3C5! lie fle'w round the room like n top, pulled his his ponluloons over tlic tops ofhisboota, bit his hand, rolled his eycs in tlieir eockct6 somctimes Biniling nnd talking, and then secming to be in agony, uutil in not more than one minuto, eaid ho, '133.491,850,208,566,925.016,058,299, 911,533,225! Tlic boy'e fat her, Rev. O. N. Smith and myself had each a pencil and slatc to tnkc down the nnswer, and he gave it to us in periods of three figures each, as fast as U was possible for us to writc tliem. And what was still more wonderfu!, he bogan lo multiply at tbc lefi, hand, and lo bringout the answer from left to right, giving first 133.491', Sic. Here confounded abovc moasure, I gave tip the examination. The boy looked pale and said he j was tired. lic ïaid it was the largest sum he ever did! In conclusión, 1 am aware that this narrative is almost incredible. Bit let it be remembered Ihat T went a skeplic, took a good witness with me, examined that boy carcfully, nnd hero pledge my sacied honor that all I have stoted is true. Rev Mr. Smith, vf Randolph Vt., is a witness lo the corróemeos of this report. Further, ifanyare disposed tudisbeüeve my statement, I beg tliem to make a tour to Royalton, Vt., where lliey wil! fiind the boy and bave nu oppor'unity to examine hun f'or themselves. I wos informeel thatbhe had been oflered one tliousand dollars o year to cast interest for n bu-nk not for from his falhcr's. Mr. SnfFord lins received many urgent proposals to permit hi s wondcrful so to be carried round the world for cxhibitions bul he will not consent. Gentlemen of weallli have oflbred pecuniary uid to furnish the boy with boóks, etc: espccially one of Cincinnati -the patrón of the distinuished Powers.