What is a child prodigy? According to Forbes, it’s been widely debated because, “…it’s sometimes difficult for even experts to recognize ‘genius’ in a 5-year-old. At the moment, the most widely accepted definition is a child, typically under the age of 10, who has mastered a challenging skill at the level of an adult professional.”
We all know about historical prodigies like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Pablo Picasso, Blaise Pascal, Jean Piaget and Christopher Marlowe, but there are many younger child prodigies of this generation who are bound to be just as famous and significant as the ones listed above, if not more so.
Here are ten of the most shocking child prodigies. While is this by no means a complete list, these kids have accomplished a whole lot to stand out in their given fields. From science and math, to visual arts, performing arts and even business (yes, business), these kids were accomplishing things most adults aren’t capable of, starting at around the time their peers were learning to crawl. But, there’s also a dark side to being a child prodigy. It’s not just all achievement and awards. One name on this list definitely didn’t have a life that went as planned. And we don’t know the future for the rest of the kids on this list. Having a high intelligence doesn’t necessary equate to having high emotional capabilities. However, most of these kids are handling it pretty well and are bound to change the world, most likely before they even get their drivers licenses.
10. Tanishq Mathew Abraham
Tanishq Mathew Abraham was born in 2003. By four months, when most kids were learning to hold their heads up, he could read and showed some pretty sharp comprehension skills. At five years old, he completed Stanford’s University’s Education Program for Gifted Youth in less than six months. By 2012, he was presenting research findings at the NASA Lunar Science Conference. He’s also spoken at a TED conference. Abraham is also currently competing on a reality show on Lifetime called (no surprise here) Child Genius, competing against 19 other prodigies for the title of Child Genius 2014 and some cash for college. Not like he’ll need it….
9. Sufiah Yusof
Sufiah Yusof is the most tragic prodigy on this list. The Malaysian born British math prodigy was admitted to St. Hilda’s College in Oxford, England, at only the age of 13. She ultimately ran away from college and was found to be working as a waitress in Bournemouth, England. She told the media that her family was both physically and emotionally abusive to her and she didn’t want to stay with them, choosing to live with a foster family instead. She was briefly married and then found in 2008 to be working as a prostitute. She has reportedly since left that life, as has a blog called the Inquiring Feminist.
8. Bobby Fischer
Bobby Fischer is considered by some people to be the greatest chess player of all time. He started playing chess in 1949, when he was six years old against his sister Joan, with a set bought at a candy store. She eventually lost interest and Fischer started playing against himself. At 16, Fischer dropped out of school to pursue chess. Fisher won every tournament and match he participated in from December 1962 through the World Championship match 1972, with the exception of Capablanca Memorial, in 1965 and Piatigorsky Cup 1966. In September 2015, Tobey Maguire will play Fischer in a biopic called Pawn Sacrifice.
7. Aelita Andre
According to The New York Times, Aelita Andre is either “the next Jackson Pollack or tomorrow’s Damien Hirst.” The 8-year-old Australian artist started painting when she was only 9 months old. Even at such a young age, “she was overwhelmingly interested in color, texture, shape and line,” according to her parents. Aelita had her first solo exhibition at the age of 2, when most kids are trying to achieve their first solo bowl movement. As you can imagine, Aelita’s work doesn’t come cheap. She currently has paintings on sale from $3,500-$47,000.
6. Akrit Jaswal
Akrit Jaswal is India’s Dougie Howser, but instead of a sitcom character, he is a real person. Jaswal became India’s youngest surgeon at the tender age of 7, when most kids can’t choose between a Mickey Mouse Band-Aid and a Hello Kitty one. How did he achieve his incredible success? Akrit said, “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.” Wow. Currently, Jaswal is trying to find the cure for cancer.
5. Quvenzhané Wallis
Quvenzhané Wallis is a prodigy in the arts. She is the youngest actress to ever receive a nomination for an Academy Award For Best Actress for her role as Hushpuppy, in the critically acclaimed film Beasts of The Southern Wild. At the Academy Awards, she was noted for her style when she carried a Poochie & Co Puppy Purse, which has since become part of her signature look. The actress followed up Beasts of The Southern Wild with a remake of the musical Annie, co-staring Cameron Diaz and Jamie Foxx, proving she was a triple threat who could sing, dance and act.
4. Jacob Barnett
Despite being diagnosed with severe autism as a child, Jacob Barnett is one of the world’s most promising physicists. His mother Kristine, who home-schooled Jacob, wrote an international bestseller about raising her child, called The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius. When Jacob was 8 years old, he was auditing college courses in his home state of Indiana. In 2013, when Barnett was only 15, he became the youngest student admitted to the prestigious Perimeter Institute for Advanced Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario. He received his masters degree in 2014 and is currently getting his PHD at the same institution, researching Loop Quantum Gravity and Quantum Foundations.
3. Avery Molek
In 2013 at only six years old, a YouTube video of Alex Molek, playing perfect drums to Van Halen’s Hot For Teacher, went viral. Molek, who hails from a small town just outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, started drumming at the tender age of two, when he received his first drum set. In just two years, Molek played fifteen shows in four states. When Molek performed on ABC’s Good Morning America, fellow guest country superstar Brad Paisley was so impressed with the little prodigy, he encouraged producers to bring them both back the following week for a duet. Molek proves that you can be a rock star and a child prodigy, all at the same time.
2. Moziah Bridges
Moziah Bridges is a child business prodigy. He started his business, Mo’s Bows when he was only nine years old. Little Moziah sells the hottest handmade bow ties. He even appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank. While none of the sharks invested in his business (he didn’t really need their help because he was doing so well on his own), fashion entrepreneur Daymond John offered to mentor the adorable and business savvy little boy. Bridges has been featured in Forbes, Vogue, Elle, GQ and even Oprah’s magazine. As for the future, Mo told Vogue, “I plan to go to Parsons School of Design in New York City and have my own clothing line by the time I’m 20. I know that can happen because I’m doing great already in the 6th grade. I want to be a big famous fashion designer one day with my own label.”
1. Alexis Martin
At only 3 years old, Alexis Martin of Arizona became the youngest member of MENSA, which is a special society for people of all ages with an IQ in the 98th percentile. Alexis’ father realized his little girl was special when “[at] probably 12 to 18 months or so we’d be driving around in the car and she would recite her bedtime stories from the night before. I mean we’re talking 20 to 25 page books, she would recite them from the night before but not just recite them, recite them exactly.” She also taught herself how to speak Spanish using her parents’ iPad.
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