Monday, April 15, 2013


17 Camels and 3 Sons
An Apocryphal Story of a Miracle of Mathematics

I read this apocryphal story of a miracle of mathematical wisdom long back:

A man owned seventeen camels. 

This was his total property. 

Yes, his total property was 17 Camels.

When the man died he left behind three sons.

In his will he bequeathed that his property should be divided as follows:

Half (1/2) his property to his eldest son

One-third (1/3) his property to his second son

One-ninth (1/9) his property to his youngest son.

The sons were in a quandary wondering how to divide 17 camels into respective shares of half (1/2), one-third (1/3) and one-ninth (1/9) parts. 

Strictly calculating in accordance with the specified ratio ( 1/2 : 1/3 : 1/9 ) the shares worked out to be:

8.5 camels for the eldest son

5.67 camels for the second son

1.89 camels to the youngest son

Now how was it possible to divide camels in this manner?

So they took their 17 camels and went to the Wise Man for advice. 

The wise man was sitting beside his camel near the oasis.

The wise man heard their predicament and said:

“No problem. It can be done.  Add my camel to your 17 camels and now you tell me how many camels do you have?”

“17 + 1 = 18. We now have 18 camels,” they sons said.

“Good,” the Wise Man remarked.

The wise man looked at the eldest son and said:

“Your share is half of the total camels – half of 18 works out to be 9 – so take your nine camels and go away.”

Out of the 18 camels standing there, the eldest son took 9 camels and went away.

18 – 9 = 9

Now only 9 camels remained. 

Then the wise man looked at the second son and said:

“Your share is one third of the total camels – one third of 18 works out to be 6 – so take your six camels and leave.”

Out of the 9 camels standing there, the second son took 6 camels and walked away.

9 – 6 = 3

Now only 3 camels remained. 

The wise man looked at the youngest son and said:

“Your share is one ninth of the total camels – one ninth of 18 works out to be 2 – so take your two camels and leave.”

Of the 3 camels standing there, the youngest son took 2 camels and went away.

Now only one camel remained.

This was the Wise Man’s camel. 

The Wise Man took his camel and walked home, having successfully divided the 17 camels amongst the 3 sons as decreed in their father’s will.

Dear Reader: Is this not a miracle of mathematics?

Think about it and have a Happy Monday.

Copyright © Vikram Karve 2013
Vikram Karve has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work. 
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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

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