On this Day:

On June 18,1980 Indian “human computer” Shakuntala Devi set a world record by mentally multiplying two random 13-digit numbers in 28 seconds; She correctly answered that 7,686,369,774,870 × 2,465,099,745,779 = 18,947,668,177,995,426,462,773,730 !

Shakuntala Devi was a mathematician who cherished to simplify the magic of arithmetic calculations through her exceptional talent. Her wisdom and gifted personality have inspired millions of students all around the globe.

Early Life

Shakuntala Devi was born on 4th November 1929 in Bangalore, Karnataka. She had unparalleled talent in calculating complex mathematical numbers. She proved her exceptional talent in arithmetic maths through her math shows worldwide at a very tender age.

Devi’s parents lived in Bangalore and belonged to a Kannada Brahmins community. At the tender age of 3, Devi’s father, Mr. Sudhararaja Rao, discovered her mathematical talent during a card trick. Later, he took Devi for roadshows to demonstrate her mathematical skills in schools and colleges. As a young girl, she was participating in maths shows, supporting her family by answering “tough-as-nuts” questions.

At the age of 6, Devi performed her arithmetic skills at the University of Mysore. She achieved this without any formal education as her parents couldn’t afford to send her to school.

People who attended her shows would randomly ask her numbers to calculate or find the day with the date provided. Her answers were always perfect and faster than they would expect. Many people at the top universities wondered, “How Shakuntala Devi Calculates?”.

In 1960, she married Paritosh Banerjee and was blessed with a daughter, whom she raised herself after she discovered that her husband was gay.

Why is Shakuntala Devi Famous?

Most of the time, people were astonished by Devi’s mathematical excellence. People were always thinking about how Shakuntala Devi calculated such huge numbers randomly assigned to her in an instant. She was an extraordinary human with impeccable calculating skills that brought her the title “Human-Computer.”

On 18th June, 1980 at Imperial College London she demonstrated multiplication of two complex 13-digit numbers such as 7,686,369,774,870 * 2,465,099,745,779.

Those numbers were given randomly, and Devi answered it as 18,947,668,177,995,426,462,773,730 in just 28 seconds, it has brought her worldly fame. She never used any paper or pen to calculate the numbers; she used her mental ability to determine the right answer in her calculations.

The independent will to achieve the success and enjoyment in the subject of maths earned her universal recognition. She believed that our determination to grasp and follow the greater good in our interests makes us a successful person. She felt that embarking on a smart path through difficult situations and assessments can make each of us an excellent student.

Devi had an immense passion for numbers, and that extended to her interest in astrology too. Her strength of numbers was applied to the pursuit of astrological knowledge. She even impressed many with her astrology predictions about them. Devi also expressed her passion  through writing books of diverse genres.

Devi’s greatest passion for calculating complex numbers has taken her to many unique places around the globe. She demonstrated her arithmetic abilities before many students and motivated young minds to discover mathematics’s beauty and simplicity.

Shkuntala Devi was a motivational speaker who enlightened the lives of many individuals towards mathematics.

Awards and Achievements 

Shakuntala Devi’s talents gained her many awards and achievements. One of the well-known titles that capped her talent is “Human-Computer.” She outperformed the most sophisticated computers at the time and mesmerized people with her mathematical capabilities.

In 1980, Devi’s successful attempt to multiply two random 13-digits in 28 seconds was recorded for the year 1982 of The Guinness Book of World Records.

One of her talents include her writings such as:

Figuring: The Joy of the Numbers
More puzzles to Puzzle You
In The Wonderland of Numbers
The Book of Numbers
Awaken Genius in Your Child
Super Memory – It Can be Yours
Perfect Murder
Astrology For You
System of Education
Rural Credits and Agriculture Development
Caste System in India
Women’s Status and Social Change

Devi has written books on mathematical calculations, memory power, social issues, puzzles, and mysteries. A few books written by Devi have the tricks and tips to improve mathematical ability and enhance memory.

She has also written books related to social issues that are inspiring and educational. Devi has added fun into maths and explained it as the most easy-going concepts to learn. It has inspired many students to take forward their mathematical abilities.

Interesting Facts About the Mathematical Prodigy

Devi did not like the title of Human-Computer given to her. She stated that the human brain’s ability is far greater than a computer and should never compare both.

In the year 1980, she contested in the election for the parliament seat in two different localities against Indira Gandhi and lost.

A movie titled “Shakuntala Devi” has been created based on her life. Released in the year 2020, and it showcased the life of Shakuntala Devi and captured her indomitable spirit.

Shakuntala Devi was a mathematical genius, a fierce feminist living in a sexist environment who, with her strong mindset and unhindered ambition, managed to achieve great fame, recognition and respect.

On April 21, 2013 Devi passed away due to cardiac and respiratory failure.



First, a Joke:

Why was the student confused when he went from English class to math class?

Because he was taught that a double negative in English is bad, but in math, it’s a positive.

Second, a Song:

Shakuntala Devi, India’s foremost female mathematician, was renowned for her super fast mental calculations. Also called “The Human Computer”, her achievements are often used as an example to highlight women in the STEM fields. In 1977, she famously found the 23rd root for a 201-digit number in 50 seconds. A few years later, in 1980, Shakuntala Devi was named in the Guinness Book of Records for the “Fastest Human Computation”. But mathematics was not her only love. She had diverse interests that defined a colourful and intriguing life.

Thought for the Day:

“Education is not just about going to school and getting a degree. It’s about widening your knowledge and absorbing the truth about life.” – Shakuntala Devi

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Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2022 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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