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Home > iSGTW 30 May 2007 > iSGTW Image of the Week - Wim Klein

Image of the Week - Wim Klein 

Wim Klein, known as one of the fastest “human computers” in the world, gives a demonstration of his mathematical prowess.
Image courtesy of CERN

Put down your high powered computers for just a second to pay homage to Willem (Wim) Klein, a man whose incredible calculation abilities earned him the nickname of “human calculator.”

A quirky part of early computing history, Wim was recruited to CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in 1957. He was tasked with the challenge of double-checking the results of CERN’s early computer programs.

Wim not only checked the computer’s results, he regularly beat them to the answer. His mathematical prowess was such that hundreds of physicists and mathematicians would gather from around the world to watch him at work.

During one such demonstration, in September 1973, Wim calculated the 19th root of a 133-digit number in one minute and 43 seconds. Unsatisfied with this tremendous feat, he went on to improve his time, continuing to break his own world records even after retiring from CERN at 64 years of age, 18 years after first walking through its gates.



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