In Loving Memory Of Shakuntala Devi, The Indian Human Computer

Harin - Apr 16, 2019

In Loving Memory Of Shakuntala Devi, The Indian Human Computer

Shakuntala Devi is an Indian mathematical wizard known as “the Human Computer” for her ability to make incredibly swift calculations.

Shakuntala Devi once said that numbers aren't simply symbols on paper, they have life.

She was called the “Human Computer,” Devi was born on Nov 4, 1929, and passed away on Apr 21, 2013, in Bengaluru.


Shakuntala grew up in a poor household. Her father worked as a circus artist who could not even pay for her tuition fee of Rs 2. Regardless of the hardships and hurdles she faced, Shakuntala Devi was a national pride by showing her mental skills in doing complex mathematical calculating problems in seconds.

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Here are 10 interesting facts about the “Human Computer:”

1. Shakuntala Devi was only three years old when her father discovered that his child could memorize the card sequence and even calculate the next move. By the time she turned 5, she had mastered the art of solving math problems.

2. She would stay by her father side on the streets where he performed while she solved complicated Math problems in seconds. She did so with no formal education.

3. At 6, she demonstrated her unique ability at Osmania University, Annamalai University, the University of Mysore, and other universities in Visakhapatnam and Hyderabad. She once said:


4. In 1944, Shakuntala and her father moved to London. Until the English media helped her become famous, she had displayed her special skills at many different institutes.

5. On October 5, 1950, Shakuntala was given a complicated math problem by the BBC host Leslie Mitchell, and she finished it within seconds. But her answer did not match the original one.

After rechecking the problem, Mitchell revealed that Shakuntala's answer was correct while the original one was wrong. After that, the news spread globally, and Shakuntala received her title as the “Human Computer.”

6. In 1976, when Shakuntala performed in NYC, The New York Times wrote about her abilities:


7. In 1977, while at the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, she succeeded in counting the 23rd root of a number with 201 digits in just 50 seconds. To check Shakuntala’s answer, the US Bureau of Standards wrote a special program into a UNIVAC 1101 computer, which needed 62 seconds to generate the answer.

Problems solved by Shakuntala in 1976 in New York

8. In 1980, at the Imperial College London, she multiplied 2,465,099,745,779 by 7,686,368, 774,870 with the correct answer of 18,947, 668,177,995,426,462,773,730. Her calculation was put in the 1982’s Guinness Book of Records.

9. In 1990, a human intelligence researcher from the University of California, Berkeley, Arthur R. Jensen, described Shakuntala as being different from the character of an autistic savant who was actually a mathematical prodigy in the movie called "Rain Man" played by Dustin Hoffman.

He wrote that for Shakuntala:


10. Shakuntala was also a writer. The World of Homosexuals published in 1977 was India’s first inclusive study of homosexuality. According to Shakuntala, it was her marriage with a homosexual man that had encouraged her to research more on homosexuality.

She wrote about puzzles, the science of numbers and astrology as well. Some of her well-known work includes Super Memory: It Can Be Yours, Mathability: Awaken The Math Genius In Your Child, In The Wonderland Of Numbers, and Astrology For You.


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