Bangalore: Legendary mathematics wizard Shakuntala Devi, dubbed as the world's fastest 'human computer' and who made complex mental calculations as a child prodigy, died at a hospital here on Sunday following respiratory problems. She was 83.
"She passed away at Bangalore Hospital," Shakuntala Devi Educational Foundation Public Trust Trustee D C Shivadev said. Devi was hospitalised a few weeks ago with critical respiratory problems. "She developed heart and kidney problems later," he added.
A household name, Devi cast a spell adding a 16-digit number with another one and multiplying the result with an equal array of numbers almost instantaneously, finding the cube root of the resultant in just about the time taken for a wink. Devi, who had no formal education and who simply picked up reading and writing, had the ability to tell the day of the week of any given date in the last century in a jiffy.
"God's gift. A divine quality," is how Devi had once described her unique distinction.
Rated as one in 58 million for her stupendous mathematical feats by one of the fastest super-computers ever invented — the Univac-1108 — Devi believed in using grey cells to silicon chips.
Born on November 4, 1929, Devi figured in the Guinness Book of World Record and wrote numerous books like Fun with Numbers, Astrology for You and Puzzles to Puzzle You. She was also an astrologer and gave remedies based on date and time of birth.
Hailing from an orthodox Kannada Brahmin family, Devi's father was a circus performer. He had rebelled against becoming a priest. It was while Devi was playing cards with him at the age of three that he discovered his daughter's abilities. She had beat him by memorising the cards.
On June 18, 1980, she multiplied 7,686,369,774,870 x 2,465,099,745,779, picked randomly by the Computer Department of Imperial College, London, in 28 seconds. This is mentioned in the 1995 Guinness Book of Records.
At the age of six, she demonstrated her skills at the University of Mysore and two years later, she proved herself successful as a child prodigy at Annamalai University.
Devi, who had no formal education and who simply picked up reading and writing, had the ability to tell the day of the week of any given date in the last century in a jiffy.