THERE'S A STORY about a little fellow who lived in a tiny, isolated village in Czarist Russia. He was fascinated by numbers. He wasn't educated; he just seemed to have a head for numbers. One day he stumbled on a brilliant idea. He grew so excited that he ran about the village trying to tell people what he had discovered, but no one really understood what he was talking about. Then he heard that a famous mathematician was going to visit Russia and lecture at the university. The little man announced that he was going to see the distinguished visitor. He had discovered something so great he could not keep it to himself.
At the university he spied the distinguished mathematician standing in a corridor surrounded by members of the faculty. "Please, please, let me speak to the professor!" he cried. "I have something to tell him that will change the world!" At this point people became alarmed and they started to carry the little man off. The distinguished mathematician told them to wait. He would hear the fellow out. So the little man hurriedly began to explain his theory and the mathematician listened attentively, as did the other Russian professors. The little man finally finished, his face beaming with pride and joy, and waited to be congratulated.
"But isn't that merely calculus he's talking about?" one of the professors remarked with some disdain.
"What is calculus?" the villager asked.
"This great discovery of yours," the professor said haughtily, "was developed many years ago."