Friday, May 3, 2013

The Human Computer

This post is dedicated to Shakunthala Devi who died yesterday at a Hospital in Bangalore. My humble tribute to the great mathematical Genius. May her Soul Rest in Peace.

Shakunthala Devi was born in Bangalore in India. Her father used to work as a trapeze and a lion tamer in a circus. Shakunthala's father who discovered the mathematical wizard in her at the age of 3 while she was doing cards tricks with him. She had to discontinue her studies when her parents could not afford to pay her monthly school fee of two rupees.

Shakunthala Devi demonstrated her calculation skills at the University of Mysore when she was just 6 years old.


  •  In 1977, she extracted the 23rd root of a 201 digit number in 50 seconds at an American university. Her answer was verified by a high powered sophisticated computer (UNIVAC 1108). The computer took 62 seconds to confirm that she was right.
  • In 1980 she multiplied two 13-Digit numbers which was supplied to her by the Computer Department of the Imperial College in London. She took 28 seconds to come to the correct answer and this gained her a Guinness Record.

Ambitions and Vision

Shakunthala Devi had the great vision to make mathematics education easy for children. She also wanted to setup a mathematics university in her name. But both of these missions were unaccomplished till her death. She wanted students to research on Vedic mathematics.


Shakunthala Devi authored several books in Mathematics for Children. Here are a few of them.


  1. Hattz off to the Genius. Unfortunately, I feel that we Indians did not recognize her full talent. She definetly deserved more from her own country.

  2. This blog is really a wonderful tribute to the Genius...I remember going through Shakuntala Devi's book, "Puzzles to puzzle you".... it used to be a lot of fun cracking those math puzzles. Please keep posting such interesting stories about famous mathematicians...!

    1. Thanks.

      She was a prodigy indeed. What I heard was once in Rome, a calculating machine found one of her answers to be wrong. However, after re-checking the answer, the solution given by the computer was proven wrong and hers was found to be correct. It is good to know that she was honored with the 'Lifetime Achievement Award' in Mumbai earlier this year.