With a brain that’s so quick at calculation that it’s often compared to a human computer, Shakuntala Devi is definitely one of India’s most admired personalities.
Shakuntala Devi – The Young Prodigy
Shakuntala Devi was born in Bangalore on November 4, 1929. She came from a rather unusual background. Her parents were extremely orthodox Brahmins. Her father rebelled against becoming a temple priest and instead joined a circus.
Shakuntala Devi was only around three years old and she was roped in to help her father with card tricks. She proved to be so good with numbers, that soon she was holding shows of her own. Her father left the circus and took her on road shows that displayed her amazing ability at number crunching.
In her interviews, Shakuntala Devi has indicated that in spite of the fame that came her way at a very young age, her childhood was not a happy one. She had become the sole bread winner of her family and the responsibility was a huge one for a young child.
Her Journey to Fame
Shakuntala Devi’s first major show was at the age of six at the University of Mysore. This was followed up by other shows during which she displayed her skills at solving arithmetical problems including addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and calculation of square roots and cube roots of numbers with digits varying from 13 to 200.
She shot to world-wide fame when she visited London at the age of 15.
Her show there created a sensation and soon Shakuntala Devi was jetting in and out of various countries, testing her skills against all kinds of computers – and in the battle of wits with computers, she invariably won hands down.
Some of her notable achievements included mentally calculating the 23rd root of a 201 digit number. In 1980, she multiplied two 13 digit numbers and provided the answer to her audience in 28 seconds. This feat is even more remarkable when you consider that this includes the time taken to recite the 26 digit solution to the problem.
Shakuntala Devi as an Author
Shakuntala Devi has also authored several books on mathematical calculations, astrology and even cooking. These include Puzzles to Puzzle You, Awaken the Genius in Your Child, Book of Numbers, In the Wonderland of Numbers, Perfect Murder and Astrology for You – not a bad collection for a person who has never attended school!
Shakuntala Devi died on April 21, 2013 in Bangalore at the age of 83.