Credited with solving some frightfully complicated arithmetic problems with apparent ease and astonishing speed, Devis calculating skills stunned the world throughout the 1970s and 80s.
Bangalore: Shakuntala Devi, known for her mathematical prowess and the ability to compute complex equations mentally, died at Bangalore Hospital at 8:15am on Sunday, age 73. She was admitted to the hospital with respiratory difficulty, following which she acquired heart problems and endured a heart attack on Saturday evening. She was then on ventilator support but suffered another cardiac arrest early on Sunday, which proved fatal.
Credited with solving some frightfully complicated arithmetic problems with apparent ease and astonishing speed, Devi's calculating skills stunned the world throughout the 1970s and 80s. Her sharpness often made sophisticated digital devices seem inadequate.
The computing prodigy was born on November 4, 1939, in Bangalore, to an orthodox priestly Brahmin family. She may have had rebellious genes, for, her father, refusing to conform and become a priest, chose to play a circus performer, excellent in trapeze, tightrope and cannonball shows. When she was only three, Devi began showing great affinity with numbers. By the time she was five, she became an expert in solving complex mental arithmetic.
Fame became hers when she beat one of the world's fastest computers by 10 seconds in a complicated mathematics calculation. Multiplying two 13-digit numbers in 28 seconds earned her a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
Devi had no access to proper schooling and food in her early years. In an interview with TOI, Bangalore, some years ago, she said, "I have not gone to a school. At 10, I was admitted to Class 1 of St Theresa's Convent in Chamarajpet. But my parents could not afford the monthly fee of Rs 2, so in three months, I was thrown out. I grew up in a semi-slum area in Gavipuram, Guttahalli.
"It's my dream to open a mathematics university and R&D centre, which will educate a cross-section of people, using modern techniques, short-cuts and smart methods. I cannot transfer my abilities to anyone, but I can think of quicker ways with which to help people develop numerical aptitude. There are a large number of people whose logic is unexplored."
It 2010, she had filed a police complaint accusing her domestic help of cheating. She was threatened by a gang for lodging the complaint and had confessed to being scared of stepping out of her house.
"She was a vibrant lady who was sharp-minded and energetic. A witty person, she was fiercely independent as well," said DC Shivdev Deshmudre, trustee, Shakuntala Devi Educational Foundation Public Trust.
"Devi used very distinctive but offbeat techniques, which were not always based on theorem, but her methods were correct and gave results. Her capability to perform sophisticated computation, which could beat computers, gave her a stature of a computational wizard. Her death is a great loss to us all," said Professor Y Narahari, chairman, computer science, Indian Institute of Science
"Shakuntala Devi used a high degree of mnemonic devices in their brain and had tremendous retention power, unlike most normal human beings. She was able to hold on to large number of digits (both input and output) in her memory. She, however, can't be termed as a mathematical genius but a computational genius," said Prof CE Veni Madhavan, computer science and automation department, IISc.
Devi is survived by a daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters.
o Not for commercial use. Solely to be fairly used for the educational purposes of research and open discussion. The contents of this post may not have been authored by, and do not necessarily represent the opinion of the poster. The contents are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.
o If you send private e-mail to me, it will likely not be read, considered or answered if it does not contain your full legal name, current e-mail and postal addresses, and live-voice telephone number.
o Posted for information and discussion. Views expressed by others are not necessarily those of the poster who may or may not have read the article. FAIR USE NOTICE: This article may contain copyrighted material the use of which may or may not have been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. This material is being made available in efforts to advance the understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democratic, scientific, social, and cultural, etc., issues. It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research, comment, discussion and educational purposes by subscribing to USENET newsgroups or visiting web sites. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml
If you wish to use copyrighted material from this article for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
Since newsgroup posts are being removed by forgery by one or more net terrorists, this post may be reposted several times.