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RIP Shakuntala Devi: Math genius who once had to drop out of school because her parents couldn't afford fee of Rs 2

Sunday, 21 April 2013 - 7:28pm IST | Place: Bangalore

World-renowned mathematical wizard and astrologer, aptly known as the Human Computer born in Namma Bengaluru, Shakuntala Devi passed away in a private hospital in the city on Sunday.

She was admitted to the hospital two weeks ago due to respiratory and heart related problems. She died of cardiac arrest at about 8.15am, leaving behind a legion of admirers. She is survived by a daughter and son-in-law.

The maths prodigy who was born on November 4, 1939 in a poor family could not get good formal education, but Shakuntala's genius defied all the conventional norms of attaining knowledge. She was admitted to St Theresa's Convent in Chamarajpet for class I, but had to drop out as her parents could not afford the monthly fee of Rs 2.

She grew up in the slum-like environs of Gavipuram Guttahalli. Shakuntala Devi's father was a circus artist. It was once while she was playing cards with her father at the age of three that it was discovered that she is a calculating genius. When Shakuntala Devi was just 6 years old she demonstrated her calculation skills at the University of Mysore.

In 1977, she received a standing ovation from an audience of learned mathematicians when she extracted the 23rd root of a 201-digit number in just 50 seconds. A high-powered and sophisticated computer then took 62 seconds.

On 18 June in 1980, she solved the multiplication of two 13-digit numbers 7,686,369,774,870 x 2,465,099,745,779 that were randomly picked by the computer department of Imperial College in London. And this, she did in 28 seconds flat. Her correct answer to this multiplication sum was 18,947,668,177,995,426,462,773,730 setting up a Guinness Record.

Shakuntala's unfinished mission

The maths wizard had a vision to make learning of mathematics easy for children and set up a mathematics university in her name. She wanted to encourage research in vedic mathematics, but the genius has passed away before realising her wish. Shakuntala Devi Education Foundation Public Trust has been formed to provide quality education for children of deprived sections of the society.

The Trust is running a college in HSR layout and a new Mathematics Research Block has been constructed at a cost of Rs 5crore," said vice chairman of the Trust CM Subbaiah. As for her desire to set up a mathematics university, Subbaiah said that the Trust would try to make it a reality in the coming days.

Shakuntala, the writer

Shakuntala Devi has written several books on mathematics, astrology and cooking. They include: Puzzles to Puzzle You, Awaken the Genius in Your Child, Book of Numbers, In the Wonderland of Numbers, Perfect Murder and Astrology for You.

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