Friday, 13 July 2018

SHAKUNTALA DEVI : The Human Calculator

              Popularly known as ‘Human Computer’, Shakuntala Devi was an Indian writer and a mental calculator. She was an epitome of child prodigy. Her unique talent helped her win a place in 1982 edition of The Guinness Book of World Record. Born in Bengaluru, she wrote a number of books which include novels as well as texts about mathematics, astrology and puzzles.

              As Shakuntala Devi had arithmetic talent, she travelled the world demonstrating her talent. She toured Europe in 1950 and New York in 1976. She even travelled to the US where Arthur Jensen, a professor of psychology at University of California, studied her abilities. He tested her performance particularly on large numbers. These included calculating the cube root of 61,629,875 and the seventh root of 170,859,375. He reported that Devi provided solution of these problems even before Jensen could copy them.

            Devi gave the 23rd square root of a 201-digit number in 50 seconds at Southern Methodist University in 1977. On 18 June, 1980, she showed the multiplication of two 13-digit numbers - 7,686,369,774,870 × 2,465,099,745,779- which were picked at random by the Computer Department of Imperial College, London. She correctly answered this multiplication in 28 seconds. This event was recorded in The Guinness Book of World Record in 1982. Devi expounded many of the methods she used to do mental calculations in her book 'Figuring: The Joy of Numbers'.

              Some of her notable books are Astrology For You, Book of Numbers, In the Wonderland of Numbers, Mathability : Awaken the Math Genius in Your Child, Puzzles to Puzzle You and so on. She passed away on 21st April 2013, at the age of 83 years.

-         By Aarzoo Kareer

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