Added by Gary Dunn on April 22, 2013
Shakuntala Devi, an Indian prodigy mental calculator, died on Sunday in Bangalore, India – she was 83. Known for her prodigious mental calculation ability, during the 1970s, Devi calculated the 23rd root of a 201-digit number 10 seconds faster than a computer, earning her the title the human computer.
Devi stunned the world during the 1970s and 1980s with her mental calculation capabilities, despite not having a formal education. In an interview Devi said her parents could not afford the school’s monthly fee of Rs 2 (approximately US$0.04 based on current exchange rate).
The 1995 Guiness World Book of Records lists her record of multiplying two 13-digit numbers in 28 seconds.
Although her skills are in math, she is considered to be a computational genius primarily because she did not make any contributions to the study of mathematics. Devi said in an interview that she could not transfer her “abilities to anyone” and had dreamed of creating a mathematics university and research and development centre.
Devi worked as an astrologer, deriving horoscopes from numbers, and date and time of birth, and place of birth.
Those close to Devi said she used unusual techniques, mnemonic devices, and vast memorization techniques to perform the sophisticated calculations. Her father is said to have discovered her unusual computational ability when Devi was three years old, and Devi is said to have become proficient in math by age five.
Her father, a circus performer at one time, took Devi on road shows to demonstrate her calculation capabilities, purportedly to generate income for the family.
DC Shivdev Deshmudre, trustee, Shakuntala Devi Educational Foundation Public Trust said, “She was a vibrant lady who was sharp-minded and energetic. A witty person, she was fiercely independent as well.”
Devi died as a result of complications of several pre-existing conditions, for which she was hospitalized on April 3, combined with a heart attack she suffered on Saturday. Hundreds of people attended the giving of last rites on Monday.