1. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The Austrian-born wunderkind first took up the harpsichord when he was just 3 years old. He composed his first piece of published music at age 5, and by his teen years, he had already written several concertos, sonatas, operas and symphonies. Mozart and his sister Maria Anna—herself a musical prodigy—traveled widely through Europe exhibiting their talents in royal courts and public concerts. From Bavaria to Paris, audiences marveled at the boy wonder’s ability to improvise and play the piano blindfolded or with one hand crossed over the other. During a 1764 stopover in London, he was even tested and examined by a British lawyer and naturalist named Daines Barrington, who was awestruck by the 8-year-old’s ability to sight-read unfamiliar music “in a most masterly manner.” Mozart would eventually grow into one of Europe’s most celebrated and prolific composers. Before his untimely death at age 35, he wrote more than 600 pieces of music.
2. Enrico Fermi
Before his work on radioactivity won him the Nobel Prize and helped usher in the nuclear age, Enrico Fermi was considered a mathematics and physics prodigy. The Italy native showed signs of having a photographic memory as a boy, and by age 10 he was spending his free time mulling over geometric proofs and building electric motors. After his brother died unexpectedly in 1915, 13-year-old Enrico dealt with his grief by burying himself in books on trigonometry, physics and theoretical mechanics. He then applied to the University of Pisa in 1918, wowing the admissions panel with a doctoral-level essay that solved the partial differential equation of a vibrating rod. Fermi achieved his post-secondary degree from the school several years early at the age of just 21. He later conducted groundbreaking experiments in neutron bombardment and nuclear chain reactions before becoming one of the lead physicists on the Manhattan Project—the secret research program that developed the atomic bomb.
3. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
Born in Mexico in 1651, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz learned to read as a toddler and quickly blazed through all the books in her grandfather’s library. Despite being denied a formal education because of her gender, she began writing religious poetry at age 8 and later taught herself Latin, supposedly mastering it in just 20 lessons. By her adolescence, she had also studied Greek logic and learned an Aztec language called Nahuatl. Juana’s reputation for genius later won her a place as a lady-in-waiting at the viceroy’s court in Mexico City. When she was 17, she was famously tested by a panel of 40 university professors, all of whom were shocked by her deep knowledge of philosophy, mathematics and history. The former child prodigy entered a convent at age 20 and spent the rest of her life as a cloistered nun. She continued her studies, however, and eventually established herself as one of the 17th century’s most popular authors of drama, poetry and prose. Her image now appears on the 200-peso bill in Mexico.
4. Pablo Picasso
As the son of a painter, Pablo Picasso had a brush in his hand from an early age. The future art legend could reportedly draw before he could talk, and his mother claimed that when he finally spoke, his first words were to ask for a pencil. Picasso made his first oil painting when he was 9 years old. His skills soon surpassed those of his father, and at age 14, he was admitted to a prestigious Barcelona art school. Just a year later, he completed “First Communion,” an astonishingly mature work that was displayed in a public exhibition. The painting was among the first of the more than 22,000 artworks that Picasso would produce in his eight-decade career. “When I was a child, my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk you’ll end up as the pope,’” he later said. “Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.”
5. Blaise Pascal
Born in 1623 in France, Blaise Pascal spent his youth being privately tutored at home by his father. The elder Pascal banished mathematics texts from the house to ensure the boy first focused on languages, but by age 12, young Blaise had secretly invented his own terminology and independently discovered nearly all the geometric proofs of Euclid. His mathematical genius only grew from there. At 16, he produced an essay on conic sections so advanced that the famed philosopher Rene Descartes was convinced his father must have ghostwritten it; by 19, he had designed and built a mechanical calculator known as the “Pascaline.” Pascal went on to publish papers and conduct experiments on everything from fluid mechanics and perpetual motion to atmospheric pressure and the philosophy of religion. Before his death at the age of 39, he developed his famous “Pascal’s Wager,” which uses probability theory to argue for belief in God.
6. Arthur Rimbaud
Vagabond poet Arthur Rimbaud is often held up as one of history’s few examples of a literary prodigy. An award-winning student, the Frenchman published his first work in 1870 at the age of 15 before running away to Paris and making his name as a writer and rabble-rouser. Rimbaud produced his early masterpiece “The Drunken Boat” when he was just 16. He followed it up three years later with “A Season in Hell,” a hallucinatory prose poem that helped set the stage for the surrealist movement. Along the way, he engaged in a drug and alcohol-fueled love affair with fellow poet Paul Verlaine and won plaudits from the likes of Victor Hugo, who supposedly dubbed him “an infant Shakespeare.” While Rimbaud’s work would later influence Jack Kerouac, Bob Dylan and many others, the teen phenom stopped writing altogether at age 20. He later roamed through the Middle East and Africa and worked as a trader and gunrunner before dying from cancer at age 37.
7. Clara Schumann
German-born musician Clara Schumann didn’t speak until age 4, but by the time she was 7 she was already spending up to three hours a day mastering the piano. She began composing her own pieces at 10, and made her concert debut in 1830 at the age of 11. In 1831, Schumann embarked on the first of several tours of Europe, where she won acclaim from the likes of Chopin and Liszt and astonished audiences with her ability to play from memory. The young virtuoso later married fellow composer Robert Schumann in 1840, but defied convention by continuing to write and perform even while raising her children. By the time she died in 1896, Schumann had spent six decades as a professional musician and played more than 1,300 public concerts.
8. Jean-Francois Champollion
The secrets of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics might never have been revealed if not for the former child prodigy Jean-Francois Champollion. Born in France in 1790, he displayed a natural talent for languages from an early age and went on to master Latin, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, Syriac, Sanskrit and Coptic by his mid-teens. Champollion presented his first academic paper at 16, and by 19 he was already teaching history at a school in Grenoble. In the early 1820s, the young polyglot turned his attention toward deciphering the mysteries of the Rosetta Stone. He soon became the first philologist to recognize that the symbols of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics were both pictographic and alphabetical—a breakthrough that proved to be the key to cracking the code of a long-lost language.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was the child prodigy par excellence, playing songs on the harpsichord at four years old and composing simple music at five. When he was seven years old, the Mozart family went on the first of several tours to demonstrate the prodigious musical abilities of the young marvel and his elder sister Maria Anna (“Nannerel”), who was also remarkably gifted. So there is no shortage of anecdotes about the young Mozart’s astonishing musical dexterity, memory, and creativity in composition.
One episode stands out, from a visit to the Vatican in 1770, when Mozart was 14 years old. The story concerns a famous piece of late Renaissance choral music, the Miserere, composed by Gregorio Allegri (1582–1652). Allegri had been a priest and member of the choir of the Sistine Chapel, and his composition, a setting of the 50th Psalm, was so well loved by the occupants of the Vatican that at some point it became forbidden to transcribe it for performance elsewhere. Only three authorized copies were ever made. In 1770 Mozart and his father heard a performance of the Miserere during Holy Week. That night Mozart was unable to fall asleep, so he got up and amused himself by transcribing the whole thing from memory. He went back to hear the piece a second time a few days later, using the performance to correct a few errors in his copy, which he had concealed in his hat.
Musicologists have since pointed out that Mozart’s feat of memory was extraordinary but maybe not as miraculous as it sounds at first. The Miserere is a somewhat repetitive piece, and Mozart’s transcription probably didn’t include improvised ornamental passages that would have been part of the original performance. Even so, a modern performance takes 12 to 15 minutes, and remembering it all would require following music written for two choirs, one with five parts and one with four, brought together at the end in nine-part counterpoint.
8 Taylor Wilson
Taylor Ramon Wilson is the youngest person in the world to build a working fusor: a device designed to create nuclear fusion. He built a bomb at age 10 and the fusor at age 14. In May 2011, he won the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for his radiation detector.
In February 2013, he spoke at the TED 2013 conference about his ideas on self-contained underground nuclear fission reactors. He designed a compact nuclear reactor that he said would generate 50 megawatts of power and would need to be refueled only once every 30 years.
What Genius and Autism Have in Common
Child prodigies evoke awe, wonder and sometimes jealousy: how can such young children display the kinds of musical or mathematical talents that most adults will never master, even with years of dedicated practice? Lucky for these despairing types, the prevailing wisdom suggests that such comparisons are unfair — prodigies are born, not made (mostly). Practice alone isn’t going to turn out the next 6-year-old Mozart.
So finds a recent study of eight young prodigies, which sought to shed some light on the roots of their talent. The prodigies included in the study [PDF] are all famous (but remain unidentified in the paper), having achieved acclaim and professional status in their fields by the ripe age of 10. Most are musical prodigies one is an artist and another a math whiz, who developed a new discipline in mathematics and, by age 13, had had a paper accepted for publication in a mathematics journal. Two of the youngsters showed extraordinary skill in two separate fields: one child in music and art (his work now hangs in prestigious galleries the world over), and the other in music and molecular gastronomy (the science behind food preparation — why mayonnaise becomes firm or why a soufflé swells, for example). He became interested in food at age 10 and, by 11, had carried out his first catering event.
All of the prodigies had stories of remarkable early abilities: one infant began speaking at 3 months old and was reading by age 1 two others were reading at age 2. The gastronomist was programming computers at 3. Several children could reproduce complex pieces of music after hearing them just once, at the age most kids are finishing preschool. Many had toured internationally or played Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall well before age 10.
Six of the prodigies were still children at the time of the study, which is slated for publication in the journal Intelligence. The other two participants were grown, aged 19 and 32.
The study found a few key characteristics these youngsters had in common. For one, they all had exceptional working memories — the system that holds information active in the mind, keeping it available for further processing. The capacity of working memory is limited: for numbers, for example, most people can hold seven digits at a time on average hence, the seven-digit phone number. But prodigies can hold much more, and not only can they remember extraordinarily large numbers, they can also manipulate them and carry out calculations that you or I might have trouble managing with pencil and paper.
Working memory isn’t just the ability to remember long strings of numbers. It is the ability to hold and process quantities of information, both verbal and non-verbal — such as, say, memorizing a musical score and rewriting it in your head. All the children in the study scored off the charts when tested on measures of working memory: they placed in at least the 99th percentile, with most in the 99.9th percentile.
Surprisingly, however, the study found that not all of the prodigies had high IQs. Indeed, while they had higher-than-average intelligence, some didn’t have IQs that were as elevated as their performance and early achievements would suggest. One child had an IQ of just 108, at the high end of normal.
There was something else striking too. The authors found that prodigies scored high in autistic traits, most notably in their ferocious attention to detail. They scored even higher on this trait than did people diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism that typically includes obsession with details.
Three of the eight prodigies had a diagnosed autism spectrum disorder themselves. The child who had spoken his first words at 3 months, stopped speaking altogether at 18 months, then started again when he was just over two-and-a-half years old he was diagnosed with autism at 3. What’s more, four of the eight families included in the study reported autism diagnoses in first- or second-degree relatives, and three of these families reported a total of 11 close relatives with autism. In the general population, by contrast, about 1 in 88 people have either autism or Asperger’s.
Other unusual parallels between prodigies and those with autism: they’re both more likely to be male (though that finding may be due in part to the failure to recognize either girls on the autism spectrum or, perhaps, girls’ hidden talents) and both are associated with difficult pregnancies, suggesting that uterine environment may play a role in their development. In the math whiz’s case, for example, his mother “started labor nine times between the 29th and 37th weeks of her pregnancy and required medication to stop the labor. During the 35th week of her pregnancy, her water broke and she had a 105-degree fever from an infection in her uterus. The child prodigy did not have a soft spot at delivery,” the authors write.
When Asperger’s was first described in 1944 by Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger, he referred to children with the syndrome as “little professors” because of their prodigious vocabularies and precocious expertise, and because they tended to lecture others endlessly without being aware of their own tediousness. Poor social skills and obsessive interests characterize the condition.
Yet, despite the obvious similarities, very little research has been done on the connection between autism and extreme talent. One previous study, published in 2007, did find that close relatives of prodigies — like close relatives of people with autism — tended to score higher on autistic traits, particularly in problems with social skills, difficulty switching attention and intense attention to detail. Other than that, however, the issue hasn’t been studied systematically, beyond the observation that autism is often seen in savants, or people with exceptional abilities who have other simultaneous impairments.
Prodigies, in contrast, appear to benefit from certain autistic tendencies while avoiding the shortfalls of others. On a standard assessment of traits associated with autism, the prodigies in the current study scored higher than a control group on all measures, including attention to detail and problems with social skills or communication (though this result was not statistically significant, probably because the sample was so small). But they also scored significantly lower than a separate comparison group of people who had Asperger’s — except on the attention-to-detail measure, in which they outshone everyone.
“One possible explanation for the child prodigies’ lack of deficits is that, while the child prodigies may have a form of autism, a biological modifier suppresses many of the typical signs of autism, but leaves attention to detail — a quality that actually enhances their prodigiousness — undiminished or even enhanced,” the authors write.
In other words, these children may have some genetic trait or learned skill that allows them to maintain intense focus, without compromising their social skills or suffering from other disabilities that typically accompany autism spectrum disorders. Comparing these children with those who have full-blown autism or Asperger’s could therefore potentially help pinpoint what goes wrong in those who develop disabling forms of autism and what goes right in others with similar traits who simply benefit from enhanced abilities.
The current study doesn’t tread that ground, but its findings do fit in with the intense world theory of autism, which posits how the disorder may arise. The theory holds that certain patterns of brain circuitry cause autistic symptoms, including excessive connectivity in local brain regions, which can heighten attention and perception, and diminished wiring between distant regions, which can lead to a sort of system overload. In both animal and human studies, this type of brain wiring has been associated with enhanced memory and also with amplified fear and sensory overstimulation. The former is usually a good thing the latter may cause disability.
The intense world theory propounds that all autism carries the potential for exceptional talent and social deficits. The social problems, the theory suggests, may ensue from the autistic person’s dysfunctional attempts — social withdrawal and repetitive behaviors, for instance — to deal with his heightened senses and memory.
It’s possible, then, that the wiring in prodigies’ brains resembles that of an autistic person’s, with tight local connections, except without the reduction in long-distance links. Or, their brains may function just like those with autism, but their high intelligence allows them to develop socially acceptable ways of coping with the sensory overload.
Although some researchers — and much of the public, influenced by popular books like journalist Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers — argue that prodigious expertise can be acquired with sheer effort, 10,000 hours of practice to be exact, the current findings suggest that natural talents can blossom in far less time. “[Many prodigies] displayed their extreme talent before reaching 10 years of age, undercutting the nurture-based theories that credit contemporary training techniques and upwards of 10 years of deliberate practice as the root of all exceptional achievement,” the authors write.
That doesn’t mean all is lost for everyone else, notes Scott Barry Kaufman, a cognitive psychologist at New York University. “There is research showing the positive benefits of working memory training,” he wrote on his blog on Psychology Today‘s website, suggesting that practice could take us closer to perfect.
The current study is a small one, and much more research needs to be done to elucidate the connections between highly gifted children and those with autism spectrum conditions. But the findings strongly suggest that such connections exist. They also caution against characterizing the genetic roots of conditions like autism — or other potentially disabling problems like mood disorders, which have been linked with exceptional creativity — as wholly negative. If the same “risk” genes may lead to both debilitating autism and great intellectual gifts, we need to understand them far better before we label them as unwanted.
4-year-old Russian girl speaks 7 languages. How did she do this?
Earlier this month Bella instantly became famous thanks to "Amazing People," a show on the Russian television. The video with the girl answering questions, singing songs and talking about herself in different languages went viral.
"Compared with this child, I feel like an idiot," users wrote in the comments section.
Yulia Devyatkina, Bella's mother, said her daughter is not a child prodigy they just invested a lot of time and effort in her development. "Not every child needs to speak six languages, but any kid can master two or three," the mother said.
Bella's parents understand that their daughter will not be using all these languages in every day life.
"When school starts we will focus on English, French and Chinese," the mother said. "We also don't worry that Bella will not be interested in her classes. She has the same knowledge that any four-year-old child should have, but she is able to discuss these topics in different languages."
French baby talk
Bella's mom is a linguist and has been teaching English to children for seven years. Her father works at the Radio Research and Development Institute based in Moscow. The family has an average income, but the parents decided that their daughter's development is their main priority.
Initially, the parents wanted Bella to speak English like a native speaker, and the mother spoke with Bella in English and Russian from birth, alternating every other day. She made sure that the languages were not mixed, not allowing the girl to insert Russian words during a conversation in English.
When Bella was 10-month-old, her parents added French. She could not talk but could point her finger at things when adults referred to them. Bella mastered reading even before she began to talk, and her parents taught this using special cards from the age of five months. For example, when ten-month-old Bella was shown the word "hand" written in Russian or English, she showed her little hand. By the age of one, she and her parents mastered 60 such cards. Bella began to read easily at the age of two.
By the age of two Bella learned to speak in short sentences and read fluently in three languages. When she was just under three, her parents added Chinese to her program. According to the mother, Bella showed great interest in the new language, and she asked to watch cartoons in Chinese.
At the age of three years and two months, little Bella showed an interest in learning Spanish and German, as well as dancing, violin and vocals. Then Arabic was also added. Bella walks, plays hide and seek, and reads ordinary books for children &ndash she just does it in different languages. All her classes are held in the form of a game.
The parents organize small educational excursions with native speakers for Bella, she also attends an English theater club, studies drawing in French, dancing in Spanish, and attends figure skating lessons with a native German speaker. In addition, the parents regularly organize joint language classes for Bella and her friends who are also brought up in a multilingual environment.
Scientists confirm that the ability to speak in different languages, and switch from one to the other, depends on the interaction of different areas of the brain. They are activated depending on the language's phonetic characteristics, its grammatical system, imagery and even tonality.
"Every new experience is reflected in the brain by the emergence of new nerve connections," said psychologist Tatyana Dyachenko. "The hippocampus, responsible for memory, stimulates the growth of new neurons. The volume of certain parts of the brain literally grows.''
"Multilingualism has a positive effect on a child's overall development, though it may cause a lag in the development of speech at an early stage in comparison with children who grow up with only one language," said Kira Ivanova, an expert at the Institute of Linguistic Studies (ILS) in the Russian Academy of Sciences.
Early training, however, does not guarantee that the child will be fluent in the language in the future.
"I know one mom who spoke with her child only in English until he was three," said Maria Molina, a researcher at the ILS. "Now this boy struggles with the curriculum at an ordinary Russian school."
The Russian pianist began his studies at Gnessin School of Music for Gifted Children when he was six, and by the time he was ten he had made his performance debut with the Ulyanovsk Symphony Orchestra. He’d even recorded his first album of Chopin’s piano concertos by the time he was 12, in 1984.
5. Wolfgang Mozart // ComposerAustrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at the age of 11. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) is the child prodigy poster child. He began playing the harpsichord at age 3 and learned to play his first piece of music three days before his fifth birthday. He was composing his own music at 5 and, at 6, embarked on a three-and-a-half year European tour with his father and older sister, who was not too shabby of a musician herself.
John Nunn, 54, was, at 15, the youngest Oxford undergraduate since Cardinal Wolsey
John Nunn: 'I don't like this child prodigy/genius thing. Human abilities are multifaceted.' Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Guardian
In 1970, when John Nunn was 15, excited newspapers reported he'd become probably the youngest Oxford undergraduate since Cardinal Wolsey in the 15th century. Unlike many celebrated underage undergraduates who followed, John didn't go off the rails. He obtained his degree, taught at Oxford and became a professional chess player, rising to grandmaster and winning tournaments. He is now a successful chess author and publisher, living in Surrey with his wife, son and at least 1,200 books about chess with exotic, sinister titles: Mastering The Najdorf, Beating The Sicilian II.
John's father noticed he was unusual when, at three, he memorised the number of pages of every book in the bookcase. At four, he was taught to play chess by his father and, at seven, began beating him. He won his first championship aged nine and at 10 went to the comprehensive near his home in Roehampton, south-west London, a year early. He took maths O-level at 12, two maths A-levels at 14.
Taking classes with children four years older did not bother him: "I was too young to have social anxiety. I just got on with it." He remembers "a relatively normal childhood" kicking about Putney Heath. Unlike other extremely bright children, he never attracted derogatory nicknames and never became disruptive. "The chess helped. It was something else I could turn my mind to."
At Oxford, things got trickier: "Most of the boys were a few years older than me and into girls and drinking and things." In those days, there were no CRB checks or special help for a 15-year-old undergraduate: he shared a room with a "nice" 18-year-old geologist who proved useful when John needed help shooing nosy reporters off the premises. "I'm not sure he had his geologist's hammer with him when he went out," he laughs.
The labels that go with early achievement irritate him. "I don't like this child prodigy/genius thing. OK, you're a bit ahead of other people in one particular subject, but there is just this spectrum. Human abilities are multifaceted."
John detects a profound difference between modern childhood and his youth. As a child, he would play in the garden, read, do a bit of maths or chess. "With all the conflicting claims on children's time now, it's easy not to develop a particular talent which you might have done if you devoted more time to it."
Mozart began showing his talents when he was just three years old. Thanks to the annotations made by his father in his sister's keyboard lessons book, we learned when and how long it took Mozart to learn the same music his sister was playing. It became clear that Mozart rapidly advanced through his sister's lesson book. Mozart's father began touring Mozart and his sister not just locally, but also internationally.
During their trip to London, Mozart's abilities were tested "scientifically." In a famous report written by Daines Barrington, we learn about Mozart's extraordinary talents. Barrington brought a manuscript, never before seen by Mozart, which was composed of 5 parts with one part written in an Italian style Contralto clef, and set it in front of the young Mozart, just 8 years old, sitting at the keyboard. Barrington writes:
Impressed by Mozart's performance, Barrington requested to Mozart to improvise and perform a Love Song in an operatic style that Barrington's famous opera singer friend, Manzoli, would choose to perform. Barrington again writes:
Again, an impressed Barrington made a similar request to Mozart, only this time to perform a Song of Rage. Mozart, again, presented a similar performance, except he "beat his harpsichord like a person possessed, rising sometimes in his chair." Afterward, Barrington had Mozart complete a series of difficult keyboard lessons. Barrington once again writes of Mozart:
Barrington also noted that Mozart spent a great amount of time practicing the harpsichord with the keys covered by a handkerchief.
Christian Heinrich Heineken was an 18th-century child prodigy who read the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Hebrew Bible) by the time he was one. Yes, one. He later recited his own version of The History of Denmark to the King of Denmark when he was just three years old. Tragically, Heineken died at the age of four of celiac disease.
8 Reasons The IQ Is Meaningless
The average person has an intelligence quotient of 100. An unsourced claim gives O. J. Simpson&rsquos IQ as 89. Marilyn vos Savant has been cited in the Guinness Book of World Records for the highest measured IQ of 228, a number that can be sourced back to&hellipMarilyn vos Savant. But Savant&rsquos gifts to mankind&rsquos progress include a &ldquoDear Abby&rdquo style newspaper column, and a few books mostly compiled from this column. Here are eight reasons why your IQ really doesn&rsquot matter all that much.
The first standardized attempt to measure the human&rsquos mental capacity was courtesy of Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon, who formulated a test to measure verbal ability. Binet and Simon only wanted to use the test to find those children who suffered from mental retardation. This experiment was furthered by William Stern in 1912 to compare a child&rsquos mental age with his or her chronological age. Stern coined the term &ldquointelligence quotient.&rdquo The score is calculated by dividing the mental age by the chronological age, then multiplying the quotient by 100. If a child of 10 years old has a mental age of 5, his IQ is 50. Determining his mental age is the difficult part.
Once an average person reaches the age of 15 or so, the IQ test is no longer important, since the mental age has reached maturity. But an average child of 5 should have a mental age of 5. If that child has a mental age of 1, he has a below-average IQ. The two most popular tests used today are the Weschler and the Standford-Binet. On the latter, Albert Einstein (who will make quite a few appearances in this list) scored a now famous 186 as a child. On the former, the same score registers as a 160. The problem with either number is that the tests were not originally conceived for the purpose of scoring this high.
Extremely high scores are routinely inaccurate. 180 on the Standford-Binet is typically the top of the scale, and anything measured over it has few precedents for comparison and should be taken with a grain of salt. Suffice to say, the test-taker has a high degree of adaptability, versatility, and fast retention of information. But is a 186 &ldquosmarter&rdquo than a 176?
All the various tests can do is discover the very low scorers among children, and these scores are quite accurate. The difference between a 79 and a 69 is highly noticeable, and the test can determine which is which and the reasons why. Given our current understanding of intelligence, the only feasible method by which to score extremely high IQs accurately is to make the questions harder. Spatial reasoning diagrams have many more moving parts and last longer jumbled words are longer arithmetical sequences have more gaps. But if you can perform these mental feats on simple challenges, the only difference between them and the more difficult ones is the time you require to solve them. If so, then disregarding the time you need to finish the test, your score ought to be the same. You did the same kind of work. If you deserve a bonus for the extra difficulty, then your score has become arbitrary.
Quite a few IQ tests measure &ldquogeneral knowledge.&rdquo Here&rsquos an actual IQ question this lister came across when he was 5: &ldquoWhat color is an apple?&rdquo Well, the only apples this lister had seen in his first 5 years were green. Got that one wrong. There are quite a few colors of apples. Some are more than one color. Mensa&rsquos test includes questions like, &ldquo2D is to mobius strip as 3D is to ______.&rdquo Google says the answer is &ldquoKlein bottle.&rdquo Now that we know, are we smarter? Einstein once said that he did not like to clutter up his memory with facts and numbers that he could just look up in a dictionary.
As general knowledge goes, the intent is to ask questions to which everyone on Earth, at an age of 5, should know the answers. There are some questions that fit the bill, like &ldquoWhat is 2 + 2?&rdquo but does a correct answer to this question indicate a higher mental capacity in the child? IQ tests have historically tried to eliminate all unfairness, and the only way to do so is to eliminate &ldquogeneral knowledge&rdquo questions. One question ths lister encountered on the Internet is, &ldquoIf you unscramble the letters in CIFAIPC, you would have what?&rdquo The choices include the correct answer, &ldquoocean.&rdquo This question measures vocabulary, reading, and visual reasoning. But suppose the person taking the test understands English and yet has never heard of the Pacific Ocean.
IQ tests were invented for the purpose of scoring children. We all know that children require a lot of parental discipline to ensure they don&rsquot grow up to be criminals. It always starts innocuously enough with bullying, name-calling, and lording any advantage that can be found over a supposed inferior child. While the children with high IQs are usually deemed the nerds of a group and picked on by the larger, and usually dumber, bullies, the nerds frequently pick on each other as well. Size may not matter, but the group that knows everything about Star Trek will publicly ridicule the individual who wants to fit in but can&rsquot.
Children are mean. They require maturity to grow out of this, and though good parenting is essential, it really only stops with age. This is why parents are usually told that it is a better idea not to inform their children of their IQs. If it&rsquos even one point below the arbitrary average of 100, the child will feel inferior. If it&rsquos well above average, the child will likely lord it over his peers. If it is average, the child will probably still feel inferior.
But then, adults seem to take their IQs very seriously&mdashwhen it&rsquos in their favor. We have groups around the world like Mensa, the Triple Nine Society, the Prometheus Society, and the Mega Society. The last of these is said to be the most exclusive intellect club in the world. Applicants must score at least 171 on the Standford-Binet test to be accepted. Mensa requires &ldquoonly&rdquo a 132. But what good is it to be a member? The Mega Society does very little that can be described as helpful. They have meetings now and then around the world, and at these meetings, the members just schmooze and congratulate each other. More on this at #1.
The Internet, and so-called &ldquoexperts&rdquo before it, have long propagated some theoretical, famously high IQs across history. They are, of course, utter conjecture, since the IQ, as a notion of measured intellect, and its tests have only been around since the turn of the 20th Century. But if you google &ldquofamous high iqs,&rdquo you&rsquoll find well known webpage(s) claiming that on the scale that measures an average as 100, and Einstein&rsquos as 160, Leonardo da Vinci &ldquoscored&rdquo 220. That&rsquos an outright lie for a number of reasons: da Vinci didn&rsquot score anything on a test that had yet to be invented he might have had a 220, but not because the webpage says so&mdashnobody knows the numbers on these sites seem to be estimates based on the person&rsquos significance to history, as well as the diversity of their exploits.
Everyone knows da Vinci had his hand in everything. But is that why Einstein scores lower at 160? Einstein is less creative? If you think it&rsquos difficult to measure intellect in terms of the black-and-white mathematics and sciences, imagine measuring a person&rsquos skill in liberal arts. You pick the single genre of the arts. Let us say &ldquoliterature.&rdquo The tests usually measure skill in spatial reasoning, reading, vocabulary, arthmetic, memory and sometimes general knowledge. So in terms of vocabulary, would Shakespeare have a higher IQ than Ernest Hemingway, because Shakespeare uses bigger words in his work? Hemingway had this to say about it, &ldquoWilliam Faulkner is of the opinion that because I do not use the 10 dollar words, I don&rsquot know them. Well, we both have Nobel Prizes, so I assure you, I do. But there are older ones, simpler ones, better ones, and those are the ones I use.&rdquo
And how do we measure the IQ of Ludwig van Beethoven? He was good at music, but not good at mathematics. His mathematical education stopped at arithmetic. He couldn&rsquot even do intermediate algebra. If he were to take the test, he would probably score low, but the absence of math and science from his mind didn&rsquot hurt his career much. Charles Dickens is said to have had a 180 IQ. Why? Because Nicholas Nickleby is a good story? It is impossible to judge this literature as better than that (within reason), because all liberal arts are subjective endeavors. Justin Bieber has a lot of fans, and a lot of them probably think his music is better than Mozart&rsquos.
Is it fair to say that Stephen Hawking&rsquos estimated 160 deserves to be lower than Isaac Newton&rsquos 190? They both worked in the same fields. But Newton &ldquocreated&rdquo the calculus. Hawking simply works with it. Is that worth a 30 point drop? Andy Warhol was a rather good painter for someone with an 86, although to be fair, he may have answered the questions wrong on purpose, in protest. Who was smarter, Warhol or Jackson Pollock?
Einstein is typically remembered as a poor student when he was young, but that is grossly unfair. By the time he graduated from high school, Einstein had made his poorest showing how fast he answered questions. The German teachers were trained to drill the knowledge into the students by rote, and this was not how Einstein&rsquos brain worked. When asked a question, he thought for a while to remember the answer, then thought some more to be sure of it. This was all it took to come close to failing several times, but he never did. His teachers considered him retarded. One of them just shook his head while Einstein was thinking and said, &ldquoEinstein, you will never amount to anything!&rdquo
Most IQ tests are timed, which means your speed is part of the score. Even if you answer every question correctly, your slow speed will pull your IQ down a few points, sometimes many. But is speed important in life? If you&rsquore an astronaut working calculus to correct your decaying reentry trajectory before you burn to death, time is more than money, but how many of us will experience such a problem in life? And besides, why not get the math right before you reenter?
We know by now that the popular legend of Einstein the F-student is not true. He never flunked a course in his life, and in high school, he got very good grades. But for someone who redefined the entire 20th Century, whose last name has become a byword for &ldquogenius,&rdquo you would expect straight As, and Einstein did not get them. His report card for junior/senior year in high school is well know across the Internet, and it shows grades of 6, or A, in algebra, geometry, applied geometry, physics, and history. He scored 5 in chemistry, Italian, and German, a 3 in French, and 4 in geography and art. Most of them fair grades, but then, his strongest suits are obvious.
IQ tests typically measure the scientific and mathematical disciplines very well because you&rsquore either right or wrong. There is no gray area. In this regard, it makes sense why Einstein would score a 186. He had a lot of talent for math. But while in elementary and middle schools, he scored a solid 3 to 4, or about a C, in most linguistic subjects, even his own language. If the test he took was balanced, with focus given to the liberal arts, his scores in these subjects certainly pulled his overall score down, which means his mathematical brain probably scored a lot higher than 186. On top of all this, Einstein failed his entrance exam to get into the Swiss Federal Polytechnical School. He aced the math and science sections, but failed French, Italian, history, and geography. He had to spend a year in a run-of-the-mill vocational college until they let him retake the exam. So how can we trust the single number?
If Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali were to have taken the same IQ test, which one would have scored higher? Ali seems the more reasonable answer, but this is strange inasmuch as we know very little of the mens&rsquo intellectual capabilities. They didn&rsquot work in mathematics or mechanical engineering. They were boxers. They made millions by beating people up. Ali won two of their three encounters, but don&rsquot count Frazier as a footnote to Ali&rsquos glory. Frazier was the only man to beat Ali in his prime. He did it on points and he knocked Ali down.
What do you think Frazier would have scored on an IQ test? An average 100? But a high IQ doesn&rsquot enable a person like Einstein to box well. Einstein had no desire to box, or do very much that is physical. Perhaps it is fair to say that there is such a thing as a &ldquophysical IQ.&rdquo Boxing is a sport of motor skills. These are controlled by the brain, and some people are born with an incredible knack for refining them with ease. Franz Liszt had extreme motor skills in his hands and feet.
If two boxers train in the same way, and one of them very quickly learns how to duck, jab, dance, and counterpunch, while the other simply can&rsquot get it, we see the existence of &ldquotalent.&rdquo IQ tests are used to measure universal truths in mental acuity. Is it fair to say that the boxer with more aptitude for the sport is the more intelligent of the two? IQ tests do not root out such natural prodigies.
Of course intelligence is rather important to life as a human, and the higher one&rsquos is, the better, but only if it is put to good use. The film Good Will Hunting deals with this requirement to use one&rsquos &ldquogift&rdquo for the improvement of mankind and the world. Everyone knows Einstein was a genius. But is he famous because of his 186 IQ? Or did his papers on Relativity and the photoelectric effect have anything to do with it? He was also rather involved in the creation of the atomic bomb. Time Magazine calls him the Man of the 20th Century.
Ever heard of William James Sidis? He lived from 1898 to 1944 and is reputed to have had a &ldquoratio IQ&rdquo between 250 and 300. This IQ is a matter of very heated debate to this day, because the sources don&rsquot agree and all of them are hearsay. There is, however, no doubt that he had an extremely fast aptitude for learning anything. By his 20s, he was able to speak in over 40 languages, and claimed to be able to learn one in a day. He invented his own language, called Vendergood, which was a mishmash of Ancient Greek, Latin, and about 8 other European languages. J. R. R. Tolkien did the very same thing with Elvish, and spoke at least 30 languages. But we don&rsquot think of Tolkien as having an IQ above 250, and yet he wrote a lot more than Sidis, and Tolkien&rsquos literature is popular. Sidis invented a rotary calendar that would always be accurate even to the leap year. But why is that important? We already have working calendars. With a 300 IQ, it&rsquos a shame he didn&rsquot invent the time machine or a real lightsaber.
Rene Descartes, probably another high IQ holder, famously wrote, &ldquoCogito, ergo sum.&rdquo &ldquoI think, therefore, I am.&rdquo While this lister definitely agrees, he has always thought of this statement as incomplete. William Sidis proves it. He squandered his natural talents on the trivial. Einstein reached the heights of his greatness with &ldquoonly&rdquo a 186. What could Sir Isaac Newton have done with a 300? Perhaps the phrase should be, &ldquoCogito, ergo sum. Facio, ergo recordaremur.&rdquo &ldquoI think, therefore I am. I do, therefore I will be remembered.&rdquo