Monday, November 04, 2013

Latest Google Doodle pays homage to Shakuntala Devi, the 'human computer'

On Monday, Google's latest Doodle paid homage to Shakuntala Devi, who was called the "human computer" due to her uncanny ability to perform complex calculations all "in her head." Nov. 4, 2013 would have been her 84th birthday.

Born on Nov. 4, 1929 in Bangalore, India, Devi died in that same city on April 21, earlier this year, of respiratory and cardiac problems.

Her fantastic computing ability was discovered when she was three, when he father determined that she was beating him by memorizing the cards. While some feared that Devi would lose her calculating ability when she grew up, like Truman Henry Safford, who saw his computing skills wane as he aged, that did not happen.

In fact, in 1977, Devi extracted the 23rd root of a 201-digit number in 50 seconds. Her answer -- 546,372,891 -- had to be confirmed with a special program written specifically for such a large calculation for the Univac 1101 computer.

That same year, Devi competed with a computer to see who could calculate the cube root of 188,132,517 faster -- and won.

On June 18, 1980 Devi successfully multiplied two 13-digit numbers -- 7,686,369,774,870 and 2,465,099,745,779. Those numbers were selected at random by the Computer Department of Imperial College, London. She answered the question in 28 seconds. For that, she was named to the 1982 Guinness Book of World Records.

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