Shakuntala Devi was known as the “Human computer”, a woman who could calculate anything even faster than the computer.
She was born in Bangalore to an orthodox Brahmin Indian family. Her father worked in the circus: sometimes he was the rope walker, other times he was the magician. He taught Shakuntala all his tricks. One fine day he was teaching Shakuntala a trick of cards and he was astonished to see that his daughter had a great memory. She could remember the numbers quite accurately. Her father was so sure of this amazing talent that he left the circus and started his own road show business, where he would display Shakuntala’s calculation talent.
She was only six years old when she performed at the University of Mysore and stunned the onlookers.
By the end of 1944 she had moved to London with her father, and together they traveled the world to showcase her talent. She became so famous that in 1988 she was called over to New York by Arthur Jensen, the professor of psychology of California University, Berkley. Studying her abilities was the main target of the professor.
Seeing that Shakuntala could solve mathematical problems within seconds, everyone was stunned. She calculated the cube root of 61,629,875 and the seventh root of 170,859,375 within a fraction of seconds. In fact, Jensen said that she had calculated the exact number even before he could write it down on his notebook.
In the year 1980, on June 18, she performed the calculation of thirteen digit numbers 7,686,369,774,870 × 2,465,099,745,779 which were picked at random by the folks at the Computer Department of Imperial College, London. She gave the correct answer – 18,947,668,177,995,426,462,773,730 in just 28 seconds! This particular event is mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records.
But besides being a genius calculator, Shakuntala Devi was also a writer. She wrote her first book on homosexuality, which is called “The World of Homosexuals”. She described how homosexuals are discriminated and how the world treats them in this book. But this book went ignored back then.
Unfortunately on the 21st of April in 2013, she died of a heart attack at the age of 83 in her own home in Bangalore. She may have gone now, but her legacy still remains, and cherished to this day.