At the age most of us were playing with food and discovering our toes, child prodigies around the globe are learning complex languages and studying fields we’ve never heard of.Many of these children went on to do great things. Others were crippled by emotional instability. Some have great potential and are just getting started.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart—The six-year-old composer
At the age of three, Wolfgang Mozart played the harpsichord and by six, he had written his first musical composition. This was followed by the first symphony at the age of eight and opera at 12.
The legendary composer’s musical talents were quickly discovered shortly after his birth in Salzburg, Austria in 1756.
As a five-year-old, Mozart performed at the University of Salzburg with the piano and at the imperial court in Vienna the next year. At the age of 14, he set out to Italy to become an opera composer.
He died at the age of 35 and left behind more than 600 composed pieces.
William Rowan Hamilton—Multilingual by the age of five
Born in Dublin, Ireland in 1805, William Rowan Hamilton showed his intellectual abilities at an early age, mastering Latin, Greek and Hebrew by the age of five.
By the time he was 13, the future mathematician knew 13 different languages, including Sanscrit, Persian, Italian, Arabic, Syriac and Indian dialects.
At the age of 15, Hamilton found errors while studying the works of French mathematician Pierre-Simon, marquis de Laplace.
He was appointed Professor of Astronomy, Director of the Dunsink Observatory and the Royal Astronomer of Ireland while he was still studying as a university student.
His greatest contributions includes a theory of dynamics and quaternions, a method used for three-dimensional space in mathematics.
Ireland’s greatest mathematician was knighted in 1835 and died in 1865.
Pablo Picasso—The greatest artist of the 20th century
Born in Spain in 1881, Pablo Picasso developed his skills early, producing complex pieces with the support of his artist father and by the age of 15, his first large oil painting The First Communion was displayed in Barcelona.
The following year, his painting Science and Charity won a gold medal in Malaga and received honorable mention at a national exhibit for the fine arts in Madrid.
His interest in modern art eventually caused a rift between him and his parents.
In the early 20th century, Picasso co-founded the Cubist movement. His technique and style would change often throughout his life.
The artist died in France in 1973.
William James Sidis—The smartest man who ever lived
At eight years old, William James Sidis proved his mathematics giftedness by developing a new logarithm table based on the number 12 and gave a lecture at Harvard University a year later. The child genius set the world record as the youngest person to enroll at the prestigious university at the age of 11 and graduated cum laude five years later.
Sidis is considered to be the smartest man who ever lived, by some, with an estimated IQ of 250-300.
Before his own experience with the terrible twos, Sidis had taught himself to read and shortly thereafter, became fluent in eight languages and wrote four original works of his own by the age of seven.
After an incredible childhood – or lack of it – adulthood was a struggle for Sidis and newspapers at the time reported that his “genius had burned out” due to the numerous obscure blue collared jobs he obtained throughout his life.
Shakuntala Devi—The “Hindu Mathematical Wizardess”
Born in 1939 in Bangalore, India to a lion tamer father, Shakuntala Devi started her relationship with numbers through card tricks she played with her father at the age of three.
Nicknamed the “Human Computer,” and “Hindu Mathematical Wizardess” Devi demonstrated her mathematics abilities at the University of Mysore and Annamalai University as a child.
Her talent has been mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records several times, such as when she extracted the 23rd root of a 201-digit number mentally and when she found the cube root of 332,812,557 in seconds.
In 2006, she published “In the Wonderland of Numbers,” a story about a girl fascinated with digits.
Robert James Fischer—The greatest chess player
At 14-years-old, Robert “Bobby” Fischer won the World Chess Championship becoming the youngest winner of the title. In that year, he captured the attention of the chess world with what has since been dubbed as “The Game of the Century.”
He broke another record the following year when he became the youngest international grandmaster of all times at the age of 15.
In 1972, he became the highest rated player in history with an FIDE rating of 2785.
In 1992, he played a match against an old rival in Yugoslavia and violated a United Nations sanction. Fischer dodged authorities for the next 12 years until his capture in Japan in 2004. He was eventually released in 2005 and granted Icelandic citizenship.
Throughout his chess career, he set many records, including beating two components at a quarter-final and semi-final for the world championship with identical scores.
Fischer died in Iceland in 2008.
Theodore Kaczynski—The Harvard graduate turned unabomber
Theodore Kaczynski, known by most as the “Unabomber,” started out as a child prodigy, receiving his acceptance to Harvard University at the age of 16.
He later went on to earn a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Michigan where his thesis paper was so complex, his professors at the time admitted not really being able to understand it.
At 25, Kaczynski became the youngest professor at the University of California, Berkeley but resigned two years later, moved in with his parents and eventually to a secluded cabin in the woods.
His mail bombing spree lasted twenty years, killed three people and injured 23. He is currently serving a life sentence.
But before the Unabomber, there was a young boy who measured an IQ of 167 in the fifth grade.
Kim Ung-Yong—A guest physics student at age three
At the age of three, Kim Ung-Yong began taking courses as a guest physics student at Hanyang University in South Korea. By the age of eight, he was invited by NASA to study in the United States.
Born in 1962, Kim Ung-Yong is listed as having the highest IQ at 210 in the Guinness Book of World Records.
The young prodigy began speaking at four months old and merely two years later, he was able to read in Japanese, Korean, German and English.
As a 16-year-old, Kim left NASA and decided to attend college in Korea to earn a doctorate in civil engineering.
Kim has been an adjunct professor at Chungbuk University since 2007 and has published approximately 90 papers on hydraulics in scientific journals.
Sufiah Yusof—The troubled prodigy
In 1997, Sufiah Yusof received her acceptance to St. Hilda’s College, Oxford to study mathematics at the age of 13. A few years later, the Malaysian intellect disappeared form her flat after a final examination.
She was eventually found working as a waitress in an Internet café and claimed her parent’s intense pressure on her to succeed led to the runaway.
Upon her return, Yusof lived with a foster family and gave her undergraduate degree another attempt in 2003. The following year, she married a lawyer from Oxford and never completed her program. The marriage lasted 13 months.
In 2007, it was discovered that the once child prodigy has since been working as a prostitute. The news was revealed days after her father was charged with sexually assaulting two 15-year-olds.
Yusof is now reported to be working as a social worker.
Kathleen Holtz—The youngest lawyer
Kathleen Holtz started California State University, Los Angeles at the age of ten and graduated magna cum laude with a degree in philosophy. As a 15-year-old, she started law school and became the youngest lawyer in California and, most likely, the nation at the age of 18 in 2007. The average age for individuals taking the bar exam in California is 30.
After passing the bar, Holtz worked for the law firm TroyGould.
In 2009, NBC was reportedly planning a television series based on Holtz’ story starring Hilary Duff.
Michael Kearney—The world’s youngest university graduate
At age ten, Michael Kearney received a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Alabama and at 17, he received his second graduate degree from Vanderbilt University.
Hawaiian-born, Kearney is listed as the world’s youngest university graduate in the Guinness Book of World Records.
At 21, Kearney had collected four undergraduate degrees and a year later, he received his doctorate in chemistry.
In 2006, Kearney won $1 million in AOL’s Gold Rush and $25,000 on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire in 2008.
He has had early aspirations to be a game show host. At a young age, Kearney was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Gregory Smith—The four-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee
In 1999, at ten years old Gregory Smith received a four-year scholarship to Randolph-Macon College worth approximately $70,000. The young boy eventually graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics and minors in History and Biology.
Two years later, Smith added meeting with Bill Clinton and Mikhail Gorbachev, speaking in front of the United Nations, and being nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize to his list of life achievements.
Smith has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times since then for his humanitarian work in East Timor, Sao Paolo, Rwanda and Kenya.
As a 16-year-old, Smith entered the University of Virginia to study for doctorates in mathematics, aerospace engineering, international relations and biomedical research.
Colin Carlson—The environmentalist boy genius
Colin Carlson taught himself how to read as a toddler and graduated from Stanford University Online High School by the age of 11.
At nine-years-old, he began taking college credit courses at the University of Connecticut and enrolled in the university full-time as a sophomore by the age of 12.
Carlson currently holds a 3.9 grade point average as a dual-degree honors student in ecology & evolutionary biology and environmental studies.
He recently filed an age discrimination complaint against the university when they denied his request to participate in field work that would require him to travel to South Africa.
The boy genius has interned with the Sierra Club, founded an environmental organization and testified before the state legislature.
Jacob Barnett—The next Nobel Peace Prize winner
At the age of eight, Jacob Barnett began attending Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).
With an IQ of 170 – higher than Albert Einstein’s – Barnett could be in line for a future Nobel Peace Prize, according to one of the world’s leading scientists and the 13-year-old’s professor at college.
His mother told the Indianapolis Star that her son tested out of algebra 1 and 2, geometry, trigonometry and calculus after two-weeks of studying on the front porch.
Barnett has not let Aspergers Syndrome, a mild form of autism, slow him down.
Since enrollment, Barnett has been taking advanced astrophysics classes and is working on expanding Einstein’s theory of relativity. He is also working on challenging the Big Bang theory.
Akrit Jaswal—The seven-year-old surgeon
At seven years old, Akrit Jaswal added “surgeon” to his resume.
Born in 1993, the child surgeon became India’s youngest physician and university student.
The only downfall is that the young intellect knows just how gifted he is, reportedly saying, “People saw my potential and wanted to help me excel in life…I think they’re of above average intelligence, but not as clever as me.”
Jaswal has an estimated IQ of 146.
Saffron Pledger – possibly one of the youngest members of a high IQ society
She hasn’t even experienced proper schooling yet, but three-year-old Saffron Pledger already has an IQ score of 140 and might possibly become one of the youngest member of Mensa, an intellectual high IQ society with members in more than 100 countries.
In order to be a part of the scholarly society, members must score among the top two percent of the world’s IQ scores.
With her current score, Pledger is already 40 points above the national average and three points ahead of former President Bill Clinton.
The English-born Pledger is reported to be able to write, read, count up to 50 and solve simple mathematics.
She is the daughter of eight-time game show champion Danny Pledger, a 23-year-old web designer.