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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
Professor Simson, Mathematician, Counting his Steps


Dr. ROBERT Simson, Professor of Mathematics in Glasgow University (1711-68), had a strange habit of counting his steps as he walked; indeed, as a rule, he could tell the exact number of paces traversed in his going to or from any place.

One Saturday, while proceeding towards Anderston, counting his steps as was his wont, the professor was accosted by a person who seems to have been ignorant of this singular peculiarity. At the moment he was spoken to, the worthy geometrician knew that he was just five hundred and seventy -three paces from the college, on his way to the snug parlour which was anon to prove the rallying-point of the hen-broth amateurs; and when arrested in his progress, kept repeating the mystic number at stated intervals, as the only species of mnemonics then known.

"I beg your pardon, one word with you, if you please," were the words of a second appeal for the professor’s attention; to which the instant answer was

"Most happy—573."

"Nay, merely one question," rejoined the gentleman.

"WelI,—573 I" added the professor.

"You are really too polite, but from your known acquaintance with the late Dr. B—---—, and for the purpose of deciding a bet, I have taken the liberty of inquiring whether I am right in saying that the doctor left five hundred pounds to each of his nieces?" inquired the stranger.

Precisely!—573!" replied the professor.

"And there were only four nieces, were there not?" rejoined the querist.

"Exactly—573!" said the mathematician.


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