Shakuntala Devi, an Indian mathematics prodigy and novelist known as “the human computer” for her capacity to make remarkably fast calculations, died on Sunday (April 21) in Bangalore, India at the age of 83.
The New York Times reports Devi passed from respiratory and cardiac problems, according to D.C. Shivadev, a trustee of the Shakuntala Devi Educational Foundation Public Trust.
In 1977, at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Devi found the 23rd root of a 201-digit number in just 50 seconds, besting a Univac computer, which took 62 seconds. She earned herself a mention in the 1982 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records when, in 1980, she correctly multiplied two 13-digit numbers in just 28 seconds, a feat made all the more astounding by the fact that it included the time to recite the 26-digit answer.
She won fame by demonstrating her ability at the circus, and later in road shows. “I had become the sole breadwinner of my family, and the responsibility was a huge one for a young child,” she once said. “At the age of 6, I gave my first major show at the University of Mysore, and this was the beginning of my marathon of public performances.”
Beyond her incredibly ability, Devi was also a successful astrologer and cookbook author.