Amazing Facts about Shakuntala Devi AKA Human Calculator Who Calculated Complex Cube Roots At The Age Of 5
Shakuntala Devi was born on November 4th, 1929. She was a mathematician, writer, novelist, astrologer, and a former politician too. Her mental ability to solve any mathematical problem was extraordinary. The numbers were her friends. From the age of three, she performed in various schools and programs. A uniquely entertaining show, where people gave her math problems, and she would solve them in a blink of an eye. She never went to any school. Her relationship with her parents was not very sweet. She had a physically challenged elder sister who died when she was very young. Her parents could not afford the medical treatment required for her. The particular incident devastated her. She blamed her parents for the death of her elder sister.
The brilliant mathematician she became:
She moved to London in 1944. She travelled a lot, doing shows all over the world and leaving her audiences astonished. She performed in Europe and us. Arthur Jensen, a professor of educational psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, tested her abilities. He tested her capability through several tasks such as calculation of the cube root of large numbers. But Jensen reported that Devi gave her answers even before he could copy down his answers in the notebook.
She proved her ability in different reputed colleges such as Southern Methodist University, and Imperial College London. Every performance was tougher than the previous one. Even big mathematicians were not sure about how she answered every question so fast and easy.
In an interview with BBC London back in 1950, they asked her to solve a complex math problem. But she pointed out that the computer-generated question was incorrect itself. Despite telling them again and again nobody believed her until the next day when the channel flooded with the emails from the audience that Shakuntala Devi was correct and the question was incorrect. They realized their mistake and titled her as ‘The Human-Computer’.
However, she never liked this title. She said, human minds have incomparably much capability than the computer and it is not appropriate to compare the human minds with computers.
The Guinness Book of Records:
During her demonstration at Imperial College of London, she solved a multiplication problem, comprising two 13 digit numbers, chose randomly by the department. The question was – 7,686,369,774,870 × 2,465,099,745,779. The answer to this question was 18,947,668,177,995,426,462,773,730, which she gave within just 28 seconds. This event made history, and in 1982 it was in the Guinness Book of Records.
The author of many books:
Shakuntala Devi was particularly an author of mathematics, puzzles, and astrology books. She tried to make mathematics less complicate and more popular among the common people.
In her book Puzzles to Puzzle, she solved many puzzles in such an easy and delightful way which will tease your brain and make them work through solving some more exciting problems.
The Book of Numbers takes its readers to a new world of numbers. They learn the things that they never knew. It teaches the shortcuts of maths, with a lot of tips and tricks mentioned there. One can quickly learn and use in their daily life. The book of numbers mainly focused on eradicating the fear of maths from the minds of people. This is for those who hate maths and fear it.
Another book by Shakuntala Devi, Figuring The Joy Of Numbers is a collection of numerical and mathematical tricks compiled in a single book. Record-Breaking Mathematical Magic from the World’s Fastest Human-computer and a Guinness Book of Record holder. Some more books of Shakuntala Devi on puzzles and numbers are– More Puzzles To Puzzle You, Mathematical merry-go-round, Awaken The Genius In Your Child.
She also wrote a crime thriller novel called The Perfect Murder. It is a story of a greedy lawyer who killed his wife to escape his marriage.
The mathematician with astrological knowledge:
Shakuntala Devi became an astrologer later in her life. Probably because she was fascinated with numbers, she tried her hand at astrology, which is a very popular belief in Indian culture. “Personal Astrologer of Presidents, Prime Ministers, Royalty, Movie Stars and Top Business Tycoons of the world is now available for Astrological Consultations” a newspaper ad claimed at the time. According to a Times article, she similarly travelled the world, seeing approximately 60 clients a day. They would provide her their date of birth, time of birth, and birthplace, and she would answer three questions about their lives. She also wrote a book called Astrology for You.
The unique book she authored:
In 1960, Shakuntala Devi married Paritosh Banerji. But they divorced years later, and in a 2001 documentary For Straights Only claimed that the marriage fell apart because Banerji was gay. She also said in the documentary that she wanted to understand more about the challenges faced by L.G.B.T.Q. community to promote wider acceptance. In 1977, she wrote The World of Homosexuals, which brought her plenty of criticism. The book featured her research findings, including interviews with same-sex couples in India and abroad. The book sadly went unnoticed at that time.
The political path she once chose:
Shakuntala Devi also ran for Parliament, the Lok Sabha, as an independent candidate. She fought from two different localities Mumbai and Medak (now Telangana). Her opponent was the former prime minister, Indira Gandhi, in Medak, whom she had openly criticized. Her fame, however, didn’t resonate into votes, and she finished in the ninth position, while Indira Gandhi won and became the prime minister once again.
This year on May 8th, her life story inspired the Hindi-language film Shakuntala Devi released, and it’s streaming on Amazon Prime Video. Starring the Bollywood actress Vidya Balan as Shakuntala Devi, directed by Anu Menon that tells the story of Devi’s life from the perspective of her daughter, Anupama Banerji. Played by Sanya Malhotra, Banerji was also involved in the film’s making.