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Young World

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WORLD OF SCIENCE

Young genius

DR. T. V. PADMA

From a very young age Shakuntala Devi proved that she had an astounding mind for maths.


Now we'll take a look at some female mathematicians. Let's begin with some homegrown talent: the story of Shakuntala Devi.

Shakuntala Devi, a woman who has sometimes been called a human computer, was born on November 4, 1939 in Bangalore. Shakuntala's parents were not wealthy. Her father had an unusual profession: he worked in a circus. He began as a skilled trapeze artist and tightrope walker, and then worked as a lion tamer and even as a human cannonball.

Amazing ability

At the age of three, Shakuntala amazed her family when they played cards. She appeared to be able to memorise cards. Realising that the family could benefit financially from Shakuntala's skills, her father began to exploit his daughter's talent. He arranged for her to perform at schools, universities and for the public, and took what she earned. At the age of five, her earnings were the mainstay of her family. He arranged for her to demonstrate her extraordinary talents at the University of Mysore, and then at Annamalai University, where skeptical professors were soon convinced that she was a child prodigy.

Although Shakuntala was proud that she was able to support her family, she didn't enjoy doing the shows. Her father forced her to continue. Her shows took up all her time, and her father did not think it was necessary to send her to school.

Her father's threatening disposition, his tendency toward corporal punishment, and the constant pressure of performing would have been enough to turn her into a bitter person but somehow Shakuntala never lost her drive or her devotion and faith in God, whom she credited with having given her a mathematical gift.

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Young World

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