Science: Shcmks's Slip

In 1853, W. Shanks, an Englishman of infinite patience and notable staying power, made his first bid for fame: he published the value of TT* carried from its normal 3.1416 to 530 decimal places. Several years later he pushed the frontier to 607, and in 1873 retired undefeated at 707. His record, and his figures, were accepted with unquestioning awe.

But early this year a doubter, one

D. F. Ferguson of the Royal Naval College, Eaton, Chester, started poking around in the old numbers. He made a shocking discovery, promptly wrote a letter to Nature, the London Times of British science. On the...

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