William Shanks and His 707 Digits of π

"Pencil, Paper, and Pi," in the September-October 2014 issue of American Scientist, tells the story of a legendary Victorian-era computing project. William Shanks, an ambitious amateur, equipped with nothing but pencil and paper, churned out 707 decimal places of π. Unfortunately, the digits beyond decimal place 527 were wrong. For a few weeks I've been trying to understand how Shanks did his calculation, and where it all went awry. Collected here are links to the article and to supporting materials.

The American Scientist article: Pencil, Paper, and Pi

Further background and an update at bit-player.org: The Pi Man

References and other resources: Annotated bibliography

Code for exploring the Shanks computation:

If you have Python and IPython installed, download and run the iPython Notebook.

If you have no Python, you can read (but not run) the notebook as a web document.

Back to bit-player.org.