Shakuntala Devi (4.11.1929—21.4.2013)
SHAKUNTALA DEVI was once asked, “Why are children afraid of maths?” “Because of the wrong approach. Because it is looked at as a subject”, pat came her reply. Infact she used to say, “Mathematics is life, you have maths in everything right from the time of your date of birth to the food you eat and the air you breathe.” Hailing from an orthodox priestly Kannada family Shakuntala Devi was born on November 4, 1929, in Bengaluru, Karnataka. Devi had no formal education. She simply picked up reading and writing. But she had the ability to tell the day of the week of any given date in the last century in a jiffy.
Legendary mathematics wizard Shakuntala Devi popularly known as the world’s fastest ‘Human Computer’ showed her unique talent at the age of 3. While playing cards with her father she defeated him by memorising the cards. At the age of 6 she demonstrated her skills at the University of Mysore and two years later, she proved herself successful as a child prodigy at the Annamalai University, Tamil Nadu. A household name Shakuntala Devi cast a spell adding a 16 digit number with another one and multiplying the result with an equal array of numbers almost instantaneously, finding the cube root of the resultant in just about the time taken for a wink. In 1977, Devi extracted the 23rd root of a 201-digit number mentally. In the same year in Dallas, she competed with a computer to see who gives the cube root of 188138517 faster and she won.
Shakuntala Devi figured in the Guiness Book of world Record on June 18, 1980, she multiplied 7,686,369, 774, 870 X 2,465, 099, 745,779 picked up randomly by the Computer Department of the Imperial College, London, in 28 seconds. Rated as one in 58 million for her stupendous mathematical feats by one of the fastest super computer ever invented—the Univac-1108—Devi believed in using grey cells to silicon chips.
Fun with Numbers, Astrology for You, Puzzles to Puzzle You and Mathablit are some of the well known books which she has written. She was also an astrologer and gave remedies based on date and time of birth. She was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award in Mumbai last month.