HOLLAND, Mich. (WWJ) – A Michigan dog known around the world for his skills at doing calculus has died.
Elvis the Welsh Corgi’s skill came to the attention of his owner, a math professor at Davenport University, about 10 years ago.
Tim Pennings noticed that when Elvis fetched a stick out of the water, he was using a complex math calculation to get there by the quickest path.
“Instead of swimming straight there, which would be along a diagonal path through the water,” said Pennings, “he would instead instinctively realize that he would get there faster if he’d run along the beach a ways and then go in and swim a shorter distance…since, of course, he runs faster than he swims.”
Pennings said it wasn’t that Elvis was doing anything special, more that his owner was a math professor who could use the example to explain the application of calculus in everyday life.
“Not only all dogs and animals, but even plants and all sorts of things in nature find these optimal solutions,” said Pennings.
Pennings said Elvis has been used in textbooks around the world. The pair gave 20 math talks this year alone.
“He was known internationally,” said Pennings. “The Queen of England has article about him in her library. I’ve got a letter from her Lady in Waiting.”
Elvis died this week of cancer at 13. Pennings said that as a faithful companion who never left his side up until the end, Elvis even taught him a thing or two. Just not about math.
He taught me all sorts of lessons about life,” Pennings said, “about how to get along with people and about how to enjoy life and live in the moment. These are probably things that most dogs teach their owners.”