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'Human computer' Shakuntala Devi dead

April 21, 2013 18:45 IST

Mathematical genius Shakuntala Devi, nicknamed as 'human computer' for her ability to make complex mental calculations, died at a hospital here today following respiratory problems. 

She was 80. 

"She passed away at Benagluru Hospital," Shakuntala Devi Educational Foundation Public Trust Trustee D C Shivadev told PTI. Doctors declared her dead at 8.15 AM, he said. 

Devi was hospitalised a couple of weeks ago for critical respiratory problems, Shivadev said. "She developed heart and kidney problems later," he added. 

She found a slot in the Guiness Book of World Record for her outstanding ability and wrote numerous books like 'Fun with Numbers', 'Astrology for You', 'Puzzles to Puzzle You', and 'Mathablit'. She had the ability to tell the day of the week of any given date in the last century in a jiffy. 

Coming from a humble family, Shakuntala Devi's father was a circus performer who did trapeze, tightrope and cannonball shows. 

It was while she 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, Devi did not lose her calculating ability when she turned adult like other prodigies such as Truman Henry Safford. 

In 1977, Devi extracted the 23rd root of a 201-digit number mentally. 

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.

With Agency Inputs

Vicky Nanjappa