A Compassionate "Human Computer", RIP
April 23, 2013 10:49 AM Subscribe
Shakuntala Devi, the Indian "human computer," passed away on Sunday. The NY Times first did a profile on her when she visited the US in 1976, during which she computed the cube root of a 9 digit integer in her head, but could not remember that she had been to the US once before -- over 20 years prior. Bob Bemer (inventor of the Escape key previously) remembers meeting her in 1953 on the TV show You Asked For It (which had previously featured a race between an abacus and a calculator). Psychologist Arthur Jensen (who did controversial research on race and IQ) wrote a paper on Shakuntala's exceptional ability in 1990. Shakuntala made her living as an astrologer and authored numerous books mostly on mathematical puzzles and tricks, but also The World of Homosexuals (1977), one of the earliest ethnographic studies of gay people in India. Specifically about gays in her hometown of Bangalore, Shakuntala called for "not only the decriminalisation of homosexuality in India, but also its 'full and complete acceptance' by the heterosexual population so that the Indian homosexual may lead a dignified and secure life."
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