Shakuntala Devi, ‘Human Computer’ Who Bested the Machines, Dies at 83
By HARESH PANDYA
Published: April 23, 2013
Shakuntala Devi, an Indian mathematical wizard known as “the human computer” for her ability to make incredibly swift calculations, died on Sunday in Bangalore, India. She was 83.
The cause was respiratory and cardiac problems, said D. C. Shivadev, a trustee of the Shakuntala Devi Educational Foundation Public Trust.
Ms. Devi demonstrated her mathematical gifts around the world, at colleges, in theaters and on radio and television. In 1977, at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, she extracted the 23rd root of a 201-digit number in 50 seconds, beating a Univac computer, which took 62 seconds.
In 1980, she correctly multiplied two 13-digit numbers in only 28 seconds at the Imperial College in London. The feat, which earned her a place in the 1982 edition of the Guinness Book of World Records, was even more remarkable because it included the time to recite the 26-digit solution.
(The numbers, selected at random by a computer, were 7,686,369,774,870 and 2,465,099,745,779. The answer was 18,947,668,177,995,426,462,773,730.)
Obit of the Day: Canada’s First Stewardess
When Julie Garner (later Julie Garner Grant) was hired by Trans-Canada Airlines in 1938 as their first stewardess her role was distinctly different from today’s flight attendants. Besides making sure that her passengers had a drink and a pillow she was responsible for radio communications, monitoring weather patterns, and creating the menu for cross-country flights.
Paid $125 a month, Mrs. Grant also designed the airline’s first stewardess uniform (which she is wearing, above). She was told she could not make it navy blue because pilots wore navy and they did not want to cause confusion. Two years later, she re-designed the uniforms - they became navy blue.
Mrs. Grant, who would occasionally have to wear an oxygen mask in the unpressurized aircraft, died on March 4, 2013 at the age of 103.
(Image of Lucile Garner Grant standing with the first president of Trans Canada Airlines, circa 1938, is courtesy of Air Canada)
Other Canadian “firsts”:
Daurene Lewis - Canada’s first Black mayor
Maj. Walter Peters - Canada’s first Black jet pilot
and another former flight attendant, Australian Elaine Swain