National » Karnataka

Updated: April 22, 2013 16:46 IST

Shakuntala Devi strove to simplify maths for students

Special Correspondent
Comment (23)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
Shankuntala Devi
The Hindu Photo Library
Shankuntala Devi

Among her distinctions was her ability to, given a date in the last century, mentally ascertain the day.

The ‘human computer’, ‘mental calculator’, math whiz Shakuntala Devi passed away here early on Sunday aged 80.

Ms. Devi, who was suffering from respiratory problems and later developed heart and kidney complications, had been in a Bangalore hospital for two weeks.

Ms. Devi held a Guinness World Record for her lightning-speed calculations. Among her distinctions was her ability to, given a date in the last century, mentally ascertain the day.

In 1977, she calculated the 23rd root of a 201-digit number in just 50 seconds. In 1980, she multiplied two 13-digit numbers given to her randomly by the Computer Department of Imperial College, London.

“It is sad that her techniques to simplify math were not used by educational institutions,” said D.C. Shivdev, a trustee of the Shakuntala Devi Educational Foundation Public Trust.

“She strove to simplify math for students and help them get over their math phobia. It is a pity that her techniques died with her.”

She authored several books including Fun with Numbers, Puzzles to Puzzle You, and Awaken the Genius in Your Child.

Child prodigy

An indisputable child prodigy, Ms. Devi began to give public demonstrations of her math skills at the age of just six. But it was even earlier, when she was three, that her father — a trapeze artist and lion tamer — first discovered her genius.

Her father, who had rebelled against his orthodox Brahmin family’s wish that he join a circus rather than become a temple priest, noticed his daughter’s uncanny ability to memorise while teaching her a card trick.

Impressed by her gift, he then travelled with Ms. Devi on road shows where she performed her mathematical feats. Ms. Devi, who had no formal education, had once described her ability as a ‘gift’.

More In: Karnataka | National

Hey Pablo, what's your problem man? This women was a genius and Hindu
paper is saying just that. This article is not about intel processor and
human brain comparison and neither is this article about other things you
have used this platform to highlight. My husband is from IIT and was
himself a little gifted and he appreciates this woman. Shakuntala devi
was a prodigy and we wish we all were as smart.

from:  jyoti
Posted on: Apr 23, 2013 at 22:33 IST

RIP Shakuntla devi

People with this ability are not geniuses. The calculating is
performed by their brain unconsciously. They don't themselves have a
clue how their mind does it. It's the same when you ask people with
the ability to name the day of a particular date well in the future or
past and they do it with 100% accuracy in seconds. And because of this
she could never explain how she does that and the reason for this is
that she don't know herself. It's just that she was fortunate enough
to be able to put it to the conscious state from the subconscious
state. Human brain is still tons of better then any available

And that's why she was astrologer not mathematician. Srinivasa
Ramanujan was a great or in fact would have been greatest
mathematician had he lived more.

from:  Ravish Kumar
Posted on: Apr 23, 2013 at 11:01 IST

She also wrote a book on the need to accept homosexuality in India, but of course none of her obits mention that.

from:  Felix
Posted on: Apr 23, 2013 at 00:11 IST

The talent that was really wasted. May be lack of opportunities but she could have used her talent for higher contribution in field of Maths. Instead it was left to learn calculation and from last advertisement I saw on TV she was using her talent for astrology.

Wished she and as a society we should have found a better use of her talent then we might have a noble laurate between us.

from:  Sandip
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 23:15 IST

May her soul rest in peace.

from:  Deepali
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 18:12 IST

April month has been witnessing demise of several artistes. Mr. P B
Srinivas, the legendary playback singer, Mr. K T Ramamoorthy, Music
Director and now Mrs Shakuntala Devi...A great loss indeed. An humble
lady, who with her self-motivation and pursuation, did developed her
skill and got herself to Guinness World of Records. But it is a pity
that the logic and solutions framed by her could not be implemented in
educational institutions as a curriculum. It is not too late that
education experts give a thought over this atleast now.

May her soul rest in peace.

Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 17:25 IST

May god bless your soul.

from:  Naveen
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 17:21 IST

what a sad loss.

She made india proud.

from:  prasanth jalasutram
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 17:19 IST

I had always admired her.Let her soul rest in peace.

from:  zaara
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 16:34 IST

RIP The great maths genius!!!
Mam your books have guided and will keep guiding many of students to come.

from:  Mayur
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 11:20 IST

With all due respect to her memory and mental faculty, mathematics isn't number crunching or about finding roots or exponents in seconds. It's about abstract thought process, coping with ideas and concepts you find maddeningly counter intuitive and yet logically concrete. You gotta appreciate the beauty of a tensor space or a Riemannian manifold and feel them with your brain. Anyone who has progressed beyond undergrad level mathematics will assert to these facts. So projecting a woman who is at best, a good substitute of an i-7 processor as some authority of mathematics is misleading for them who want to understand mathematics. Moreover, by profession, she was an astrologer, hardly a job worthy of much attention by academic/research/professional community.

from:  Pablo
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 11:09 IST

She is a legend we are proud of her RIP.

from:  Sabrina
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 11:01 IST

It is a strange coincidence that she passed away in the Golden Jubilee
Year of another great mathematics genius C.P.Ramanujam. Both have made
India proud. Their life sketches are really inspiring.

from:  RJ Sawant
Posted on: Apr 22, 2013 at 10:23 IST

What a great loss our country has suffered!!!
I've always adored her since my childhood as an idol

from:  Jatin
Posted on: Apr 21, 2013 at 20:16 IST

Sad to hear this... as many others did, i too read her books and was
inspired by her... RIP Maam

from:  Naveen
Posted on: Apr 21, 2013 at 20:00 IST

May her soul rest in peace.

from:  raghava K
Posted on: Apr 21, 2013 at 19:29 IST

rip mam. i was always in awe of her.

from:  abhi
Posted on: Apr 21, 2013 at 19:28 IST

She was a great lady . Her books have helped millions of youngsters to
develop their quantitative skills.

from:  Ankur Shrivastava
Posted on: Apr 21, 2013 at 19:25 IST

Great lost....i salute this lady. before this news i was completely unknown from late.Shakuntala Devi.

from:  Ashish
Posted on: Apr 21, 2013 at 19:18 IST

Can't forget her books which helped prepare campus interviews for me and millions of
students. Rest in peace.

from:  Appu
Posted on: Apr 21, 2013 at 19:16 IST

huge loss... :(

from:  vineeshvs
Posted on: Apr 21, 2013 at 19:15 IST


from:  kundan
Posted on: Apr 21, 2013 at 19:05 IST

she was a good scholar as well as a fine personality............
hats-off for her...........
Rest in Piece RIP Shakuntla mam

from:  Murtaza
Posted on: Apr 21, 2013 at 18:52 IST
Show all comments
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor





Recent Article in Karnataka

Union IT and Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. File Photo.

‘We are neither a suit-boot govt nor suitcase govt’

We are not here to satisfy those rejected and dejected by people: Ravi Shankar Prasad »