Sunday, April 21, 2013


SHAKUNTALA DEVI (1929 - 2013)

              Legendary Mathematics wizard Shakuntala Devi, dubbed as the world’s fastest ‘human computer’ and who made complex mental calculations as a child prodigy, died at a hospital here today following respiratory problems. Ms. Devi, who has enthralled fans with her prowess for decades, was 83.Rated as one in 58 million for her stupendous mathematical feats by one of the fastest super-computers ever invented —the Univac — 1108 —, Ms. Devi believed in using grey cells to silicon chips.
Born on November four, 1939, Devi figured in the Guiness Book of World Record for her outstanding ability and wrote numerous books like Fun with NumbersAstrology for YouPuzzles to Puzzle You, and Mathablit. Hailing from a simple orthodox Kannada Brahmin family, Ms. Devi’s father was a circus performer who did trapeze, tightrope and cannonball shows. He had rebelled against becoming a temple priest. Devi was also an astrologer and gave remedies purportedly based on date and time of birth.
It was while Ms. Devi was playing cards with her father at the tender age of three that he found his daughter’s calculation abilities. It turned out that she beat him not by sleight of hand, but by memorising the cards. At the age of six, she demonstrated her calculation skills in her first major public performance at the University of Mysore and two years later, she again proved herself successful as a child prodigy at Annamalai University. However, despite apprehensions in some quarters, Ms. Devi did not lose her calculating ability when she turned adult like other prodigies such as Truman Henry Safford.
In 1977, Ms. 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.
On June 18, 1980 she demonstrated the multiplication of two 13-digit numbers 7,686,369,774,870 x 2,465,099,745,779 picked at random by the Computer Department of Imperial College, London. She answered the question in 28 seconds flat. This event is mentioned in the 1995 Guinness Book of Records.
“Why do children dread mathematics?”, she was once asked. “Because of the wrong approach. Because it is looked at as a subject,” pat came her reply. “Mathematics is life, you have math in everything, right from time to your date of birth to the food you eat and the air you breathe,” she states. The right age to train children in mathematics is six, says Ms. Devi, who sparkled at three.

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