Shakuntla Devi Contribution to Mathematics, her biography and achievements

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About Shakuntala Devi

Shakuntala Devi was called as human computer computer due to her superb skills in doing maths with speed accuracy

Shakuntala Devi- The Human-Computer of the world as she was called made a great contribution to maths. She was born on 4th Nov 1929 in a Brahmin family in Bangalore city of India. She had an extraordinary mathematical skill which has inspired millions of students across the world. At an early age she became world-famous through her superb arithmetic skills. She belonged to a lower-middle-class family and her father used to work in a circus. He had discovered extraordinary mathematical skills at an early age. Then he made her participate in the mathematical talent shows. She had to drop out of school since her family was not able to afford her fees. But she is a born-genius and was able to solve difficult maths calculations even without the need for formal education in school. Even at the age of six, she used to visit Universities to give public performances like the University of Mysore, Annamalai University, Osmania University to name a few, and brilliantly she used to answer all the questions. She was becoming famous over the period of time and started to earn bigger money even being a child.

Seeing a bigger opportunity overseas she started touring across the world starting with London in the 1950s where she got popular in media with BBC giving her the title of Human-Computer. In her mathematical skills of Speed and Accuracy, she could beat the computers.

Her Achievements

Shakuntala Devi teaching maths

Feats of Shakuntala Devi and her contribution to maths

Some of the Feats of Shakuntala Devi include:-

  • In Dallas at Sothern Methodist College, she calculated the 23rd cube root of 201 digit number in 50 seconds giving the answer 546,372,891 in comparison to a UNIVAC 1101 computer which took more time to around 12 more seconds to do the same calculation.
  • At Imperial College London, 1980 she multiplied 7686369774870 and 2465099745779 calculating the 26 digit answer in 28 seconds. She holds Guinness Book of World Record for this fastest human computation.
  • At Stanford University US, 1988,
    • She calculated cube root of 95443993 as 457 in 2 seconds
    • She calculated cube root of 2373927704 as 1334 in 10 seconds
    • She calculated the 8th root of 20047612231936 as 46 in 10 seconds

As per New York Times “She could give you the cube root of 188,132,517 — or almost any other number — in the time it took to ask the question. If you gave her any date in the last century, she would tell you what day of the week it fell on”

Secret Revealed : How did Shakuntala Devi Learn Mathematical Skills?

Shakuntal Devi was a born genius. She was totally a self learner. She was daughter of circus performer and she used travel with her parents when she just three  years old. It has been learnt that card tricks helped her develop the skills of calculation. As soon as she learnt to calculate cube roots mentally , she had started visiting many school and colleges to demonstrate her calculative ability. She had began travelling the world when she was in her teen age.

How much maths has Shakuntala Devi studied?

She has been a self learner throughout her life. There is not much information available on her maths education. However she has written several books on calculations and math puzzles.

Writings/ Selected Works of Shakuntala Devi

  • Mathability: Awaken the Math Genius in Your Child
  • More Puzzles to Puzzle
  • Astrology for You
  • Book of Numbers 
  • Figuring: The Joy of Numbers
  • In the Wonderland of Numbers
  • Perfect Murder
  • Puzzles to Puzzle You
  • Super Memory: It Can Be Yours

Interesting facts about Shakuntala Devi

  • She never liked the title – Human-Computer.

    This title was given to her when she appeared in an interview with BBC Channel. This show was hosted by Leslie Mitchell on October 5, 1950. The channel had asked a very difficult question to her to which she replied correctly. But the channel was not having the same answer and hence they described the answer incorrect. However, when they checked it later, the answer was absolutely correct as given by Shakuntala Devi. Thereby she got the title as Human-Computer and became a household name.
  • She did not receive any formal schooling

    . She belonged to a poor family and her parents could not pay the school fee because of which she could not complete the school studies.
  • She was honored in 2013  with a Google Doodle.

           This was done on 84 birth anniversary. Check the Google Doodle link.

  • Writing of Books

         She had written a book” Figuring – A joy of numbers” still under print.

  • Study of her Abilities

         Arthur Jenson, who was a professor of educational psychology studied Shakuntala Devi’s abilities in 1988.

  • Lok Sabha Elections 

         She fought Lok Sabha elections in 1980 against Indra Gandhi. According to an article in New York Times, she as an independent candidate had fought from Mumbai and Medak but she lost the elections and came to 9th position.

  • Marriage :

         She was married to Paritosh Bannerjee, an IAS officer in 1960.

Was Shakuntla Devi an astrologer?

Shakuntala Devi, a great mathematician also started astrology. By studying stars, planets of an individual as per the date of birth, she used to make predictions about personal lives, describe their personalities, and offered advice. She has also written a book on astrology- Astrology for you. The book gives information on planets, zodiacs etc.

Death of Shakuntala Devi

Shakuntla Devi died at the age of 83 on 21 April 2013 in Bangalore. She had respiratory problems. With her extraordinary skills and geniuses she inspired math learners across the world. A biopic movie has also been made where the role of Shakuntala Devi has been played by Vidya Balan.


Shakuntala Devi was extremely talented in calculations and her achievements /books show her contribution to maths. Her ability to calculate accurately with enormous speed has never been seen before. She used to beat the speed of computers in calculations.

If you intend to know more about her life, her books in maths, do let us know about it. We would love to share more information about Shakuntla Devi and her writings.

Internationally acclaimed Indian Mathematician- Shakuntala Devi Interview

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