A child prodigy is a person who has, since childhood, exhibited enormous talent and expertise in any particular field. The Historyplex article has enlists 20 of the most famous child prodigies in history.
The Child Doctor
Akrit Jaiswal, a 23-year-old Indian citizen, apparently performed his first surgery when he was just seven. At age 12, he was the youngest student ever to enter an Indian medical school.
The achingly young geniuses, or child prodigies as they are famously referred to, are those brilliant unique minds who think beyond what is capable by the ordinary human mind. These people exhibit incredible skill and ability, enough to make you undergo conflicting emotions―they will make you rejoice with pride, gape with awe and admiration, and weep with envy. Scientists are still unsure about the exact cause behind the development of these ingenious minds; study, experiments, and research is still being carried out to determine the same.
Setting aside the critical reasoning part, it is fascinating to watch the astuteness and foresight these scholars exhibited at a very young age. While many of us take ages to gain mastery and achieve excellence in a particular field, these talented minds have already accomplished the same in their childhood. Here, Historyplex has compiled a list of precociously talented individuals throughout history.
1. Blaise Pascal
Born in the year 1623, in the Auvergne region of France, Blaise Pascal was a math genius since childhood. He wrote a theorem when he was only 16, and his first proof when he was 11. He formulated the Pascal theorem and has many other contributions in the field of physics, math, and philosophy to his credit. He is also considered a pioneer of calculating machines, having built over 20 of them in the early years of his career. He died when he was 39, in 1662.
2. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Mozart is undoubtedly one of the most famous child prodigies. He was born in Germany, in 1756, and was an outstanding piano player and music composer, having written his first composition at the age of 6! He started playing the harpsichord at age 3, wrote his first symphony at 8, and first opera at 12. When he was 5, he gave a piano performance at the University of Salzburg. Despite having died young (at just 35), he has more than 600 musical compositions to his credit.
3. Carl Friedrich Gauss
One of the greatest mathematicians of the 19th century, Carl Friedrich Gauss was born in 1777 in Brunswick, Germany. He could add 100 numbers at age 3, and not surprisingly made significant contributions in the fields of Algebra, magnetic theory, astronomy, and physics; his name is now a magnetic unit. He died in 1855, having left behind a plethora of knowledge in the fields of physics, math, differential geometry, statistics, etc.
4. Jean-François Champollion
Born in 1790, in France, Jean-François Champollion was a talented and renowned linguist at the time. He exhibited talent at a very young age, and was able to speak Greek, Latin, Sanskrit, Persian, Chinese, French, Arabic, Hebrew, Sanskrit, Amharic, Pahlavi, Syriac, Chaldean, Ethiopic, and more. He worked on phonetics of the Coptic language and also the Egyptian hieroglyphs. He was even offered a professorship in Egyptology, but he could not take it up due to health reasons. He died young, at 41, in 1832.
5. Rabindranath Tagore
One of the famous Indian child prodigies, Tagore and rose to fame during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Renowned for refusing a Knighthood, he was also a poet, novelist, music composer, painter, and short story writer. Born in 1861, in Kolkata, West Bengal, India, he was the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. A famous child genius, he wrote his first poem when he was 8, and had a myriad short stories to his credit until he was 16. He died in 1941, leaving behind a treasure trove of precious literature.
6. Pablo Picasso
One of the most renowned painters of the world, Pablo Picasso was an artistic genius. He was born in 1881, in Spain, and exhibited extraordinary artistic skill very early in life. Undoubtedly, he went on to become one of the most sought-after and influential painters in the world. His famous painting, ‘Le Picador’, was painted when he was 9. He began receiving acclaim when he was 14―initially he painted his family members, and earned the appreciation of the famous critic Juan Eduardo Cirlot.
7. Srinivasa Ramanujan
A natural math prodigy, Srinivasa Ramanujan was an Indian mathematician born in 1887, in Tamil Nadu, India. Despite not having received any formal education in mathematics, he completed college-level math by the age of 11. He formulated number theory theorems, worked on Bernoulli numbers, infinite series, and Euler’s identity. He discovered innumerable formulas that were used extensively in research. He died young, in 1920, at the age 32, succumbing to an attack of tuberculosis.
8. John Von Neumann
Born in 1903, in Hungary, John Von Neumann was a polymath, physicist, and applied mathematician. He had an exceptional memory, and at age 6, he could divide eight numbers mentally. At the age of 8, he had mastered the calculus theory. He has made immense contributions to quantum theory, game theory, functional analysis, economics, geometry, computers, hydrodynamics, statistics, and many other fields. He authored more than 150 published papers, and died in 1957, at the age of 53.
9. Oscar Shumsky
An expert violinist, Oscar Shumsky was born in 1917, in Pennsylvania, USA. He learned to play the violin when he was 3. He debuted at the Philadelphia Orchestra when he was 7, and earned the tag of being an ‘astounding genius’ from Leopold Stokowski. He recorded the 4th and 5th concertos of Mozart, single and double concertos of Bach, and the famous works of renowned singers and violinists at a very young age. One of the greatest musicians of the 20th century, he died in 2000, in New York, USA.
10. Shirley Temple
Shirley Temple was a famous singing and acting prodigy. Born in 1928, in California, she began her film career at the tender age of three. She exhibited exceptional talent in tap dancing and acting when she was five. She received a special Academy Award at the age of seven. She continued her stint further in her life, and reigned as a box-office queen for four consecutive years. Ultimately though, she quit movies and joined politics, and died in 2014.
11. Bobby Fischer
This genius needs no introduction. He was born in 1943 in the U.S., and at age 15, became the youngest Chess Grandmaster (at that time) in history. At 14, he first competed at the United States Chess Championships, and won eight titles by one-point margins in his career. In 1972, he became the eleventh World Chess Champion. Though some of his records have been surpassed, he is still considered as one of the greatest chess players in the world. He died in Chicago, in 2008.
12. Kim Ung-Yong
According to the Guinness Book of World Records, he is reported to have the highest IQ. Born in 1963, he is a Korean citizen and a linguistic genius. He exhibited fluency in Korean, Japanese, Chinese, English, German, Spanish, and Vietnamese at age 4. He effortlessly solved complicated calculus problems at age 5. His IQ is estimated to be around 210. He secured a Ph.D. in Physics from the Colorado State University prior to his 15th birthday. He currently works at the Chungbuk National University, South Korea.
13. Sujatha Mohan
This talented singer definitely deserves a place in the musical child prodigies list. Born in Thiruvananthapuram, India, in 1963, Sujatha Mohan is a South Indian playback singer, and has sung almost 10,000 songs in her career. Popularly called Baby Sujatha, she started singing at a very young age, and continued doing so throughout adulthood. She has participated in more than 3500 stage shows globally, and ranks fourth in the list of popular Malayalam singers. She has sung songs in Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada, and Hindi as well, and has won more than 25 prestigious awards.
14. Tiger Woods
A golfing child prodigy, he was born in 1975, in California. He was coached in golf by his athlete father right from the age of two. At age 8, he won the Junior World Golf Championship. He went on to win the Junior World Championships six more times, with four consecutive wins. He has been inducted in the California Hall of Fame, and has also been named ‘Athlete of the Decade’ by the Associated Press.
15. Terence Tao
Called the “Mozart of Math”, Terence Tao is a prolific math genius. Born in 1975, in Adelaide, Australia, he was an expert in arithmetic right from the age of 2, and he completed university-level math by age 9. He passed the math section of SAT when he was 8, and scored an unbelievable 760. He is the youngest winner of gold, silver, and bronze medals in the IMO. He completed his Master’s degree at 16, and has a Ph.D in Math from Princeton, which he completed at age 20. Currently, he works at the University of California, Los Angeles.
16. Taylor Ramon Wilson
This brilliant genius was born in 1994 in Arkansas, USA. A nuclear physicist, he designed an outstanding nuclear reactor that would need to be refueled only after 3 decades, and that would generate 50 megawatts of power. He is the youngest person in the world to build a working fusor. He has won several awards for his project in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair conducted in San Jose, California, in 2010. At the TED conference of 2013, he shared his ideas regarding underground nuclear fission reactors.
17. Jacob Barnett
Born in 1998, in Indiana, USA, Barnett was diagnosed with autism when he was two. Medical experts declared that he would never be able to walk or talk normally. He underwent homeschooling and proved his doctors wrong, and incredibly, became the youngest student to be accepted into the Perimeter Institute, Ontario, for a one-year master’s degree program. He is currently pursuing his Ph.D in Quantum Physics.
18. Cleopatra Stratan
She is the youngest commercially successful singer. She was born in 2002, in Moldovan, Romania. Her album, La vârsta de trei ani was released when she was just 3. She is also the youngest singer to have given a live stage performance for two hours in front of a very large audience. She holds the record to of being the highest paid young artist. She is also the youngest artist to win an MTV award, and currently, she resides in Bucharest, Romania, with her parents.
19. Tanishq Matthew Abraham
Born in 2003, in California, this young man is one of the youngest members of MENSA, and has scored a 99.9 percentile in the same. He undertook college courses at the age of 6, and his GPA has always been consistent―4.0―throughout college. He has also published essays on NASA’s Lunar Science and is one of the youngest inductees to the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. He has an exceptional interest in biomedical engineering, quantum mechanics, and immunology.
20. Aelita Andre
She can be considered one of the leading child prodigies in the art world. An Australian citizen, she was born in 2007, and was just two years old when she began painting. Her paintings had a touch of surrealism, and she stunned everyone with her abstract works. Her painting collection was included in an exhibition by Mark Jamieson, the Director of Brunswick Street Gallery in Melbourne. Her first solo exhibition was called, ‘The Prodigy of Color’, which ran for more than 20 days, with every painting being sold for a price between AUD 4000 to AUD 10,000.
Though there are many, many more geniuses around the world whose talent and prowess are equally impressive but not famous, this does not, in any way, mean that people who don’t achieve excellence at a young age have average intelligence. The sum and substance is that every person possesses a unique talent; it is important to identify the same, hone it, and gain mastery.