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A Tribute to Mathematical Genius Shakuntala Devi

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Ace mathematician Shakuntala Devi, who was known as the world’s fastest ‘human computer’, is no more. She passed away at a hospital in Bangalore on Sunday due to respiratory problems. She was 83.

Shakuntala Devi was known for her mathematical prowess and had ability to solve the complicated arithmetic problems with apparent ease and astonishing speed. She had stunned the world with her mathematical skills for decades.

She was hospitalised on April 3 for respiratory problems. Later, she developed heart and kidney problems. She had a heart attack on Saturday evening. She was then put on ventilator support but suffered another cardiac arrest early on Sunday.

The mathematician was born on November 4, 1929, to an orthodox priestly Kannada Brahmin family. She grew up in a semi-slum area in Gavipuram, Guttahalli. He father was a rebel in his family, who had first broken the custom of becoming a temple priest. He had joined a circus, where he worked as a trapeze, tightrope performer, lion tamer and human cannonball. Shakuntala Devi helped her father in card tricks when she was just three-year- old. Later, her father left the profession and took her on road shows where she displayed her amazing mathematical skills at number crunching.

The legend had received no formal education in mathematics. It was a god gift. At the age of 10, she was admitted to Class 1 at St Theresa’s Convent in Chamarajpet. But her parents could not afford the monthly fee of Rs 2. She was thrown out of the school after three months.

Her skills in calculation came to light when she was just 3. Her calculation abilities were first praised at the University of Mysore when she was only 6. Since then, there was no looking back. She looked more confident to solve the complicated mathematical problems. At the age of 8, she had stunned everyone at Annamalai University by doing the calculation. She was able to hold on to large number of digits in her memory.

She had the ability to tell the day of the week of any given date in the last century. She can be termed as a computational genius. She had figured in the Guinness Book of World Record for her outstanding ability and wrote numerous books like ‘Fun with Numbers’, ‘Astrology for You’, ‘Puzzles to Puzzle You’, and ‘Mathablit’.

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