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William Shanks | |
---|---|

Born | Corsenside, Northumberland, England | 25 January 1812

Died | 1882 (aged 70) Houghton-le-Spring, County Durham, England |

Scientific career | |

Fields | Amateur calculator, school owner |

**William Shanks** (25 January 1812 – June 1882)^{[1]} was a British amateur mathematician.

Shanks is famous for his calculation of *π* to 707 places, accomplished in 1873, which, however, was only correct up to the first 527 places.^{[2]} This error was highlighted in 1944 by D. F. Ferguson (using a mechanical desk calculator).^{[3]}

Shanks earned his living by owning a boarding school at Houghton-le-Spring, which left him enough time to spend on his hobby of calculating mathematical constants. His routine was as follows: he would calculate new digits all morning; and then he would spend all afternoon checking his morning's work. To calculate *π*, Shanks used Machin's formula:

Shanks's approximation was the longest expansion of *π* until the advent of the digital electronic computer about one century later.

Shanks also calculated *e* and the Euler–Mascheroni constant γ to many decimal places. He published a table of primes up to 60 000 and found the natural logarithms of 2, 3, 5 and 10 to 137 places.

Shanks died in Houghton-le-Spring, County Durham, England in June 1882, aged 70, and was buried at the local Hillside Cemetery on 17 June 1882.^{[4]}

**^**GRO Register of Deaths: JUN 1882 10a 252 HOUGHTON – William Shanks, aged 70**^**Smyth, Chris (January 7, 2010). "Pi a mathematical story that would take 49000 years to tell".*The Times*. London.**^**"Shanks's Biography". School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St Andrews, Scotland. Retrieved 2012-10-30.**^**Houghton le Spring Hillside Cemetery