INFINITE JEST: Upper Darby Commuter Memorizes Pi

On Friday, the Upper Darby resident was certified as the North American record-holder for memorizing digits of the mathematical constant. He spewed out 12,887 digits, to be exact — a featpi273.jpg that took him 3 hours and 40 minutes.

For those whose math skills are a little fuzzy, that’s the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.

It begins with 3.14159265 and never stops, never repeating the same pattern — a string of digits that has captivated both numbers buffs and those looking for a deeper mystical meaning.

“I was really proud of him that he did it,” said his wife, Maryann. “I can’t remember a phone number.”

Umile, 40, wrote the numbers out by hand, a thousand at a time, then recorded them in his voice on a portable tape player. Then, he listened — and listened. During his commute. During his lunch break. While walking down the street. After 2 1/2 years, 2 worn-out tape players and more than 100 batteries, it sank in.

He professes not to be a math whiz. A filing clerk for a company that handles Medicare bills, he never studied trigonometry and did not attend college. Yet it is clear he has a passion for numbers and puzzles, not to mention a relentless determination and the ability to ignore those who thought he was a little strange. But why pi? Because it’s there. Because he wanted to explore the limits of the mind. And because he wanted to hit one for the home team.

INQUIRER: He Did It For You And He Did It For Me

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