Human Computer – Shakuntala Devi
Shakuntala Devi was a mathematical genius who was nicknamed as “The Human Computer“. She was known for her ability to solve complex mathematical calculations without the help of any mechanical gadgets. Shakuntala Devi was one among the popular prodigies in the recent times of modern India. She found a slot in the Guinness Book of World Records for her ability.
Her first fame was hit when she mentally calculated one of the toughest mathematical multiplications 10 seconds faster than the computer. It was all after her performance of solving complex mathematical calculations at a number of institutions, she came into the prominence. This famous prodigy is said to have met Albert Einstein and even he was surprised by her renowned skills. She was able to solve all his trickily and challenging mathematics problems. This prompted him to call her “a mathematical wizard”.
Apart from being a mathematics wizard, she was an astrologer, activist, and a writer. Figuring: the joy of numbers, Astrology for you, Perfect Murder, and The world of Homosexuals are some of her best and well-known collections.
Let’s know her history:
Shakuntala Devi was born on November 4, 1929, in Bengaluru to an orthodox, brahmin family. Her father was a tight-rope walker and became a circus artist to entertain people. At the age of 3, Shakuntala used to accompany her father to the circus and was very much inspired by her father‘s performance. It was all because of her father that he eventually introduced her to the world of mathematics. He taught her some of the interesting card tricks which initiated her love towards numbers. He found that she has an excellent memory power that she remembered all the card numbers and their sequences.
When Shakuntala Devi turned to the age of 6, she had her first major show at the University of Mysore. She displayed her mathematical prowess in the university by solving arithmetical problems, tricky math questions, and finding out complex square roots and cube roots within a few seconds. After a few more similar performances in other institutes, she found success at Annamalai University at the age of 8. Then she was finally acknowledged as a ‘child prodigy’.
In her early 20s, she toured around the world to demonstrate and prove her skills in various institutions. On September 27, 1973, she appeared on the BBC show, Nationwide with the popular Bob Wellings. He was amazed by the way she was able to give correct answers for all the mathematics questions. Her mathematical skills did not diminish in her teenage or adult years. In 1977, she received a standing ovation from the audience of erudite mathematicians for her ability to solve the 23rd root of a 201 digit number within 50 seconds. Whereas the computer itself took 62 seconds to answer this question.
Back from the world tour, she was recognized as a young girl who captivated the audience with her mathematical skills. She became extremely famous in India. After which she was invited to the Imperial College, London, on June 18, 1980. There, she answered a challenging problem in just a few seconds leaving the audience perplexed. The fame of this 16-year-old genius grew manifold when she beat one of the world’s fastest computers by 10 seconds while multiplying two 13-digit numbers in just 28 seconds.
She received a few privileged awards like Distinguished women of the year, Ramanujan Mathematical genius award, and Lifetime Achievement award for all her mathematical skills. And she was listed in the “Guinness Book of World Records” in the 1995 edition.
She was not only a mathematics magician and a genius. She stood as a role model for many students and made mathematics an interesting subject for many students. This was proved because of her fast, practical and efficient approach towards solving a problem.
She started the “Shakuntala Devi Education Foundation Public Trust” in Bengaluru. The main aim of starting this trust was to provide quality education to the children from underprivileged background. She wrote a number of books for students of all the age groups.
Shakuntala Devi got married to Paritosh Banerji, an IAS officer from Kolkata. And in 1979, she got divorced with her husband. She returned to Bengaluru with her daughter during the 1980s. In April 2013, she was admitted to various hospitals of Bengaluru as she was suffering from respiratory and heart problems. And her kidneys failed to work. She took her last breath on April 21, 2013. She was survived by her daughter and son-in-law who had two children.
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