The Human Computer: Shakuntala Devi

in india •  9 months ago

Hello Steemians !!! How are you all doing? Today in my post I am going to tell you about a child prodigy who was able to do very complex calculations in her mind itself which is impossible for a normal person. She is a proof that talent is a gift that every individual has been bestowed by the Almighty in their unique fields. And in that field only he or she is the master. Let us know about her in detail.

How intelligent are you? How smart is your brain? It is a proud moment to outperform your fellow classmates in mathematics in the high school, right? And we feel ourselves smart.

But what if I ask you to find the cube root of 61,629,875 in less than a second. Obviously, all of us fall pale at this question. It is obvious that no human being could ever calculate the answer in less than a minute.


Today I'm gonna tell you about a supergenius born on earth for whom such calculations were as easy as breathing. The child prodigy who was synonymous with Human Computer, the late Shakuntala Devi. Let us know briefly about her whereabouts and move on to her extraordinary abilities.

Her Brief Intro

Shakuntala Devi was born on 4 November 1929 in Bangalore, India. Her father worked in a circus as a magician, animal tamer, trapeze artist and various other roles. At her age three, while teaching her some card tricks her father discovered her extraordinary ability of mental calculation. After that, her father took her for some road performances to earn some penny to live. Without any formal education, she demonstrated her abilities at the Unversity of Mysore at the age of six.

Shakuntala Devi[Source]

Mental Calculation

Her fame spread all over the world and she was invited to Europe, USA, and many other countries to show her mental abilities. In 1988 she was invited by Arthur Jensen, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley. One of the problems she was asked to solve was the aforementioned problem i.e. the cube root of 61,629,875. Another such problem was finding the seventh root of the number 170,859,375. She answered the problems i.e. 395 and 15 before Arthur could write down the problems in the paper. You can read about Arthur's findings from his book titled Intelligence published in 1990.

News Published In The New York Times[Source]

It was a historic moment at the Southern Methodist University when she gave the 23rd root of a 201-digit number which is 546,372,891 in 50 seconds. The US Bureau of Standards had to write a special programme into UNIVAC 1101 computer to confirm the answer.

In a program in the channel BBC, she was given a complex problem which she answered in few seconds, but the answer didn't match. On rechecking, the host found that it was Shakuntala Devi who was correct. This news spread across the world and she earned the nickname, "Human Computer".

Here's an Interview of Shakuntala Devi in the TV channel RT:

Devi answered the multiplication of two 13-digit numbers 7,686,369,774,870 × 2,465,099,745,779 chosen at random by the computer department of the Imperial College, London on 18th June 1980. Her answer 18,947,66o8,177,995,426,462,773,730 which she found in 28 seconds was recorded in the 1982 Guinness Book of Records.

Devi's love for numbers made her a public figure and her intelligence was welcomed by the students, presidents, prime ministers, scientists all over the world. Her passion and interest in learning human abilities to do impossibles led her to develop the concept of mind dynamics.

Other Contributions

Apart from being a person of numbers, she was also a good motivational speaker. In her tours around the world, while demonstrating her abilities, she used to motivate students and her audience to learn the unique abilities that every individual possesses. She has penned down her ways of mental calculation in her world famous book, Figuring: The Joy of Numbers. Some of her other books on mental calculations are Book of Numbers, In the Wonderland of Numbers, Mathability: Awaken the Math Genius in Your Child etc. She had also learned astrology. Her book Astrology for You is her most popular book on astrology. She had some other books on cooking and novels in her name.

On Homosexuality

Devi was a keen supporter of Homosexuality. In the documentary For Straights Only, she said that her interest in the topic came out of her marriage to a homosexual man and her desire to look at homosexuality more closely to understand it. In 1977 she published her first book on homosexuality The World of Homosexuals. It was the first study of homosexuality in India and was a pioneering work on the subject in the country.

The book features the interview between a homosexual male couple residing in Canada and seeking for a legal marriage, the views of a temple priest on the subject and a thorough revision of the existing works on the subject. The book concludes with the suggestion of decriminalization of homosexuality.

Here you can watch the interview of Devi in the video uploaded by the youtube channel, MaxMediaAsia:

Personal Life and Death

Shakuntala Devi was married to an officer in the Indian Administrative Service from Kolkata and divorced in 1979. In 1980s she contested in the Lok Sabha(Lower House of the Indian Parliament) elections against Indira Gandhi the popular Indian Prime Minister but was defeated. On 21st April 2013 at the age of 83 Devi died of kidney and cardiac failure. She was survived by her daughter, Anupama Banerjee.


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I didn't have so many information about the super genius lady Sakuntala Devi. Thank you for sharing this post.

Yeah she was superhuman, her mental calculations were beyond anything possible by the average Joe.


Yup...a superhuman