25 January 1812|
Corsenside, Northumberland, England
1882 (aged 70)|
Houghton-le-Spring, County Durham, England
|Fields||Amateur calculator, school owner|
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. This error was highlighted in 1944 by D. F. Ferguson (using a mechanical desk calculator).
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 electronic digital computer about one century later.
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.
- 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