Anecdotage of Glasgow
Professor Simson, Mathematician,
Counting his Steps
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
"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
"Nay, merely one question," rejoined the
"WelI,—573 I" added the
"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.