Though human brain is in many ways far excellent than computers, computers excel in speed of
Sakunthala Devi, well known as the ‘human computer’, died on April 21st 2013 in a Bangalore hospital at the age of 83. She had respiratory problems along with weak Kidney function. Sakunthala leaves behind her daughter Anupama Banerjee.
Sakunthala Devi was born in Bangalore on November 4, 1939 in a poor Kannada Brahmin family. Her father, though Brahmin, disliked the work of a priest in temples and found livelihood curiously in a Circus Company where he worked in various roles like Trapeze performer, tight rope performer and later as lion tamer, all very dangerous activities. He also roped in Sakunthala Devi to the Circus Tent and her assignment was to show card tricks, she was only three years old then.
But Sakunthala was not to spend life in the Circus company. She had an extra-ordinary talent to solve complex mathematical problems with ease and precision at computer level speed. Even when she was showing card tricks at the Circus company at the age of three she was able to solve college level math problems in seconds. At the same time she was a normal kid in all other respects. The talent helped her come out of Circus to a wider world.
At the age of six she got honorary Masters Degree and Doctorate before she was ten. She did not get a formal education. The fact that without going to school Sakunthala Devi could achieve so much in the world of Max is really amazing and her brain would remain an enigma and wonder among mathematicians and physiologists.
To cite an example, at the Harvard University she was asked the 23rd root of a 201 digit number which she answered in five seconds whereas a computer took 15 seconds. The persons assembled there gave a standing ovation for her. Her brain power made her world famous and she visited countries all over the world and wherever she went she astounded the audience.
Shakuntala Devi married a civil service officer ,Paritosh Banerjee and they had a daughter. The couple separated in 1979 and Shakunthala returned to Bangalore where she lived until the end.
It was nature’s cruel joke that such a prodigy like Shakunthala Devi could not get a formal education at any time. The school-college education moulds a person in the proper way and it would have greatly helped her amazing intellect to explore more into the world of pure mathematics and who knows, she would have even become one of the great mathematicians the world produced. Unfortunately the Mother Nature did not intend it that way. It was Shakunthala Devi's big regret that she could not attend to formal education and she always mentioned it on stages.
Shakunthala Devi was an expert cook also and had written a book on it.
Personalities like Shakunthala Devi are few and far between and her departure is literally a loss for the world and makes us deprived of and sad.
Images from Google