The Letter ‘e’

05 Jun

I’m reading a book about the number ‘e‘ and the invention of logarithms. John Napier was a famous Scottish mathematician from the 16th-17th centuries and the book is partly about him, at least the first chapter (since he was one of the people who invented the concept of logarithms).

What do logarithms have to do with whisk(e)y? Not much, but whisky may play a part in a possibly apocryphal anecdote about a disagreement that Mr. Napier was having with his neighbor:

Many problems were solved by Napier at his home, Merchiston Castle. One such problem was his neighbor’s pigeons coming over and eating his seed and grain in the fields. After warning the neighbor, Napier sent a message to the neighbor saying he was going to catch the birds and keep them if they flew into his fields again. The neighbor laughed and replied that if Napier could catch the pigeons he could keep them. The next morning, Napier was out in his yard picking up pigeons and putting them in a sack. Napier had some unorthodox approaches to solving problems such as this one. Napier had soaked peas in brandy and sprinkled them in the yard for the pigeons to eat. Napier was able to pick up the pigeons because they were drunk!

Even though the linked website states that the spirit used was brandy, the man was a Scot. He lived in Edinburgh. I’d honestly be surprised if he didn’t use the local spirit, either it was due to his preference or simply because he didn’t want to waste his good brandy on pigeons. I guess we’ll never know, but I’d like to think it was Scotch whisky that was used to catch those pigeons. Lucky birds.

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Posted by on 5-June-2011 in Whisky2.0


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