Who is Shakuntala Devi- Life story and history of the human computer

Shakuntala Devi, the one who didn’t just shock people with her talent but also changed the world with her perspective

The Movie “Sakuntala Devi” made by Anu Menon has raised a lot of queries on who is Shakuntala Devi in real. Shakuntala Devi is originally an Indian writer and a calculator who is also famously known as the “Human-Computer”. Shakuntala is widely known for her talent for calculating large and complex numbers in just a fraction of seconds. For this cause, she also holds “The Guinness Book of World Records” in 1982. Her certificate was however delivered to her on 30th July 2020, after her death. 

Who is Shakuntala devi
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Shakuntala calculated large numbers without any formal education. Later in her life, she wrote several books about puzzles, mathematics, astrology, and homosexuality which is one of her famous among the written books. Shakuntala is also the first woman in India who supported homosexuality and wrote a book about it. She always supported homosexuality and had a positive attitude towards it.

Talented since childhood

Shakuntala Devi was born on November 4, 1929, in Bangalore, Karnataka. She was born to a Brahmin family where her father worked in a circus as a lion tamer, trapeze artist, and a magician. Shakuntala’s talent was discovered when she was just 3 years old when her father was playing a card trick with her and she surprisingly memorized all the cards. 

After seeing her talent at a young age, her father left the circus to do roadshows with the help of her daughter’s ability. 

Shakuntala was already getting recognition. She was special because she performed complex calculations without any formal education. When Shakuntala was at the age of 6, she proved her arithmetic talent at the University of Mysore. And in 1944, Shakuntala moved from India to London with her father.

Exploration of her incredible mind

During Shakuntala’s travel, she demonstrated her skills in arithmetic in places like Europe and New York City. After her worldwide recognition, a professor of psychology Arthur Jensen requested to look after ber abilities. He performed some tests on Shakuntala which included calculation of complex numbers. Some examples are the answer to the cube root of 61,629,875 and seventh root of 170,859,375 etc. Jensen further explained that Shakuntala answered the correct solutions to the mentioned problems in just seconds before he could jot down the problems in his notebook. After his research, Jensen published the abilities of Shakuntala in his Intelligence journal. 

Shakuntala Devi vs computer

Shakuntala was in the process of gaining more popularity, went to calculation shows, and shocked people with her talent. Shakuntala was able to answer the calculations even faster than the then generation fastest calculator machines. If there were a competition like Shakuntala Devi vs computer then definitely Shakuntala would’ve won. 

Shakuntala devi vs computer
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Image from: https://mobygeek.com/features/in-loving-memory-of-shakuntala-devi-the-indian-human-computer-4128

Shakuntala Devi in Guiness Book of records

In June 1980, Shakuntala was given the hardest calculation so far. The problem was multiplication of two large 13 digit numbers which was 7,686,369,774,870 × 2,465,099,745,779. Shockingly, in just 28 seconds, she correctly answered 18,947,668,177,995,426,462,773,730. 28 seconds was the time she took to speak the answer. 

Shakuntala devi calculating
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Image Source: thelogicalindian.com

This shocking event was recorded in the Guinness Book of Records in 1982. After this incident, she was praised worldwide and was in the headlines of newspapers and magazines. 

Shakuntala Devi stated that the secret of her calculating talent was in the book she wrote: “Figuring: The joy of Numbers”.

Shakuntala Devi personal life

Shakuntala Devi’s personal life is nothing out of the ordinary. In 1960, Shakuntala returned to India and married an officer in Indian Administration Service Mr.Paritosh Banerji. The couple had a lovely daughter. After almost 20years of marriage, the couple divorced due to some personal reasons. After the divorce, she joined politics and participated in elections. Shakuntala stood against Indira Gandhi in the elections. 

Apart from politics, she was also an astrologer, mental calculator, and most importantly an author who wrote several books about astrology, cooking, and homosexuality.

Shakuntala Devi’s view and book on homosexuality

Shakuntala is popularly known for the first woman who supported homosexuality in India. She authored “The World of Homosexuals” in 1977. She supported homosexuals and always thought positively of them. But she was criticized for her opinion on homosexual people. Her husband being a homosexual, understood homosexuals even more, and wrote a book about it. The book ends with a happy society where all diversity of people lived together. 

Is Shakuntala Devi dead?

Yes, Shakuntala Devi had her last breadth on 21 April 2013 at the age of 83. She already had respiratory problems and over the weeks she developed heart and kidney complications. 

A movie based in Sakuntala Devi biography was announced in May 2019 and was released in July 2020. 

Shakuntala Devi Books

Book name  Released date
Astrology for You  2005
Book of Numbers  2006
Figuring: The Joy of Numbers
In the Wonderland of Numbers 2006
Mathability: Awaken the Math Genius in Your Child  2005
More Puzzles to Puzzle You 2006
Perfect Murder 1976
Puzzles to Puzzle You 2005
Super Memory: It Can Be Yours 2011
The World of Homosexuals 1977

In the memory of Shakuntala Devi

Shakuntala Devi was not just a human calculator but a legend. Her existence proved that the human mind will always be greater than machines. Not only she calculated complex calculations in a short amount of time but she also changed the perspective of society, the face of politics, and gave people a positive view about life through her books. Shakuntala is truly a person whom we can aim to become, a legend, a legacy. 







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