It came to be known as the human computer. But the truth is it was faster than one. She was also a writer and astrologer. His talent with numbers earned him a place in the Guinness Record. He demonstrated math skills in universities, theaters, radio and television studios. It’s about Shakuntala Devi, the human computer.
The life of this Indian woman, who died in 2013 at the age of 83, was portrayed in a film. Vidya Balan, the Bollywood actress, played math. ‘He had no formal education. But he was able to do the most complex calculations in his head at astonishing speed, “says Balan.
A video from the Canadian television station is famous ATN where your abilities are seen. A panel member asked him to multiply two eight-digit numbers. She answered immediately. He asked the panel whether the answer should start from left to right or right to left.
Devi said she had been doing math on her head “since she was 3 years old”. His father was a circus performer. “It’s a gift from God, a gift from God,” he used to say. At the age of 6, he showed his skills at a public event in the city of Mysore, Karnataka, the Indian state where he was born. Devi also taught herself to read and write.
In 1950 he took part in a BBC television program. And he gave an answer to a problem that was not the same as his host’s. This was due to a mistake in the question, Devi noted. The experts checked the numbers again and … they agreed with him. In 1977 Devi performed another achievement in Dallas, USA. He defeated Univac, one of the fastest supercomputers ever built.
In addition to being a math genius, Devi developed an alternative career as an astrologer. He wrote books on astrology, cooking, math, and crime. Also one in which he campaigned for the decriminalization of homosexuality. This was a major problem not only in India in 1970 but in most of the world.
She was so many things. He lived life on his own terms. He wasn’t afraid, he didn’t apologize. And to think that was 50 years ago! “Says Balan. “She played with numbers, you can see a kind of joy in her when she did mathematical calculations (…). He loved to act.
Arthur R. Jensen is a human intelligence researcher at the University of California, USA. He described her as “vigilant, sociable, personable and eloquent”.
Even so, he is “deeply unhappy,” says journalist and filmmaker Pritish Nandy. Some of it was for personal reasons. But the most important thing was that he had a skill and couldn’t monetize it. Shakuntala Devi, the human computer, recounted several times that as a child prodigy she was pressured to make money for her family. Her misfortune was later linked to her marriage to a gay man who couldn’t get out of the closet.
Balan hopes the film will be some form of entertainment at a time when the vast majority are hit by the coronavirus pandemic. But he also hopes it will “change the way we teach math. Make it more interesting. And that removes people’s fear of the subject and inspires more people to study it.