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November 04, 2013

Google Doodle Celebrates 'Human Calculator'

by Matthew Hilburn

If you’re wondering why the Google homepage has a calculator-like image today, it’s to honor Shakuntala Devi, the so-called human calculator.

From the age of three, Devi showed amazing math skills. She was able to memorize large numbers and perform incredibly complex calculations in her head, all without any formal education.

In 1977, Devi was able to solve the cube root of 188,132,517 faster than a computer.

In 1980 she multiplied two 13-digit numbers within 28 seconds, a feat that landed her in the Guinness Book of Records.

Devi was born in 1929 in Bangalore, India, and traveled the world wowing people with her mathematical ability. She died in April in her hometown.

“Today we're celebrating ‘Human Computer’ Shakuntala Devi who once said, ‘The purpose of my life is to make everybody, especially children, enjoy maths as an affable and joyful experience,’" said Ryan Germick, the Google doodle team lead. “We hope people are as inspired by Ms. Devi's brilliant mathematical mind and life-long dedication to promote math education as we are.”

According to Google, doodles are “the fun, surprising, and sometimes spontaneous changes that are made to the Google logo to celebrate holidays, anniversaries, and the lives of famous artists, pioneers and scientists.”