'Human Computer' Dies; Shakuntala Devi, Indian Math Genius, Passes at 83

The "human computer" died, and many are remembering the Indian genius' ability to calculate mathematical formulas and do complicated arithmetic fast than many computers. Shakuntala Devi died at 83 in her hometown of Bangalore, India Sunday.

Devi, the "human computer" who garnered world records for her prodigy, and was well known across India for her mathematical talent, had become sick several weeks ago. Although her sharp mind was functioning well into her old age, illness surfaced in her body, and doctors declared her dead at 8:15 a.m. April 21.

"She developed heart and kidney problems later," a representative from the Shakuntala Devi Educational Foundation Public Trust told PTI. "She passed away at Bangalore Hospital."

Devi, who was born Nov. 4, 1929 in Bangalore, India, began showing her genius at an early age. Her father, who abandoned the idea of priesthood to become a circus performer, first discovered her mastery of numbers when she was only three and playing him in cards. She easily beat him by memorizing the card numbers, and although she had no formal education, she was able to provide for her family with her gift.

"I had become the sole breadwinner of my family, and the responsibility was a huge one for a young child," she was quoted by the Times of India previously. "At the age of 6, I gave my first major show at the University of Mysore [India], and this was the beginning of my marathon of public performances."

Devi performed feats with math, such as naming the day of the week for any date in the last century, finding the 23rd root of a 201-digit number in her head, or multiplying two 13-digit numbers with ease. Her family was still not well off, however.

"At 10, I was admitted to Class 1 of St. Theresa's Convent in Chamarajpet," she told the Times of India previously. "But my parents could not afford the month fee of Rs 2 [two rupees], so in three months, I was thrown out."

But Devi continued to perform, competing against a computer in a math contest and winning in 1977. In 1980 she was tested by the Computer Department of Imperial College in London, England, where some large multiplication got her mentioned in the 1995 Guinness Book of Records.

In 1988, she was also tested by educational psychology Arthur Jensen of the University of California, and he found that she "solved most of the problems faster than I was able to copy them in my notebook," he said.