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Math Genius and Guinness Record Holder Shakuntala Devi Passes Away at Age 83

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By IBTimes Staff Reporter | April 22, 2013 7:17 PM EST

Shakuntala Devi, a renowned mathematics genius aka 'human computer', passed away on Sunday following respiratory problems. She was 83.

Confirming the report of her demise, Shakuntala Devi Educational Foundation Public Trust Trustee DC Shivadev said, "She passed away at Bangalore Hospital."

Shakuntala Devi was cremated at the Banshankari Crematorium on Sunday evening.

The mathematics genius, who made it to the list of Guinness Book of World Records due to her expertise in Mathematics, was admitted to a hospital in Bangalore two weeks ago due to respiratory and heart related problems. She also suffered from kidney problems. On Sunday, she went into cardiac arrest and breathed her last at around 8.15 am.

Shakuntala Devi, who was an astrologer by profession, had written several books including "Puzzles to Puzzle You", "Awaken the Genius in Your Child", "Book of Numbers", "In the Wonderland of Numbers", "Perfect Murder" and "Astrology for You".

The maths prodigy was born to a poor orthodox priestly Kannada family in Bangalore on 4 November, 1939.  

Speaking about her childhood, she had told The Times of India, "I have not gone to a school. At 10, I was admitted to Class 1 of St Theresa's Convent in Chamarajpet. But my parents could not afford the monthly fee of ₹2, so in three months, I was thrown out. I grew up in a semi-slum area in Gavipuram, Guttahalli."

Shakuntala Devi's father, who refused to become a temple priest and circus performer, was the first to discover her mathematical skills during a game with cards. She was only 3 years old at that time.

She had displayed her calculation skills at the University of Mysore when she turned six. She received a standing ovation from an audience comprising learned mathematicians for extracting the 23rd root of a 201-digit number in just 50 seconds, beating a high-powered computer by approximately 10 seconds.

Shakuntala Devi astounded the world when she gave the correct answer to the multiplication of two 13-digit numbers - 7,686,369,774,870 and 2,465,099,745,779 - that were randomly picked by the computer department of Imperial College in London on 18 June, 1980. She solved the calculation in just 28 seconds, leading her to become a Guinness record holder.

The genius had set up Shakuntala Devi Education Foundation Public Trust with the aim of providing quality education to children of deprived sections of the society. The trust also runs a college in HSR layout in Bangalore. In addition, a new Mathematics Research Block has been constructed at a cost of ₹ 5 crore by the trust.

Talking about her dream of opening a  Mathematics University she had said, "It's my dream to open a mathematics university and R&D centre, which will educate a cross-section of people, using modern techniques, short-cuts and smart methods. I cannot transfer my abilities to anyone, but I can think of quicker ways with which to help people develop numerical aptitude. There are a large number of people whose logic is unexplored."

Shakuntala Devi is survived by a daughter, son-in-law and two granddaughters.

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