Arilla Spence DeVault, 79, a former teacher who translated the work of Peruvian writer Ricardo Palma and wrote extensively on Peru, died of cancer Friday at Sibley Memorial Hospital.

Mrs. DeVault taught high school in Indiana and in Baltimore. She also taught junion high school at the Methodist Mission School in Lima, Peru. She and her husband, Dr. V. T. DeVault, lived in Lima for 15 years before coming to Washington in 1950, when Dr. DeVault became the medical director of the Foreign Service and Department of State.

In 1947, Mrs. DeVault translated the collected writings of Palma, who died in 1919. The six-volume work, "Tradiciones Peruanes," consisted primarily of sketches of the colonial days of Peru.

Mrs. DeVault also contributed articles to the bulletin of the International College of Surgeons. She was a past president of the U.S. chapter of the college and, in about 1974, founded the organization's international women's auxiliary and served as its first president.

She was born in Norris City, Ill. She earned bachelor's degrees from the University of Illinois and Indiana State Teachers College and did graduate work at Columbia Teachers College in New York City. She earned a master's degree in the humanities from the San Marcos University in Lima, Peru, in 1950.

Mrs. DeVault was a member of the National League of American Pen Women, the Society of Women Geographers, the Association of American Foreign Service Women and the National Education Association.

She is survived by her husband, of the home in Washington.