So who's the smartest person on earth? Since finding out would require testing everyone on earth, and since we don't have tests that are sufficiently cross-cultural, and since we don't begin to have tests that would range high enough, we'll probably never know. It's interesting, though, to consider the characteristics of some of the brightest known individuals.
The eight prodigies/ex-prodigies cited below share similar histories. They typically began to talk at 4 months, spoke their first sentences at 6 months, and began reading by or around 12 months. I am withholding the identities of W, X, Y, and Z because I don't have their permission at this time to highlight them, and they certainly deserve their privacy. Michael Kearney and his equally intelligent sister, Maeghan, would be the norm among this group of phenomenal human beings. Mike's and Maeghan's story has been told in print in the enjoyable and fascinating "Accidental Genius", written by their parents, Kevin and Cassidy Kearney. Like all other kids, prodigies sometimes appear very grown-up and at other times, seem very child-like. (e. g., when it's time for the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus). These children are black holes for knowledge, exhibiting, to use a phrase coined by Kevin Keraney, a "rage to learn". Unlike such prodigies as William Sidis, John Stuart Mill, and Norbert Wiener, they aren't being force-fed by their parents. On the contrary, as Ellen winner observes in her book, "Gifted Children: Myths and Realities" (pg. 9): "Myth 6: The Driving Parent". Dr. Winner points out that it's true that parents of these gifted children may be highly involved in the nurturing of their gifts. "But such an unusual degree of investment and involvement is not a destructive force. It is a necessary one if a child's gift is to be developed." Generally, these parents have been whisked along like rag dolls, trying to slake their prodigious children's unquenchable appetite for knowledge.
Kevin, Mike, and I have co-authored an article here on the website, with some very interesting and valuable insights from Mike. Mike kept a typewritten diary at 4+ that exhibits an adult knowledge of what was going on, seasoned with a 4-year-old's perceptions of Daddy and Mom. (His diary sounds like Sir Francis Galton's diary excerpt, written a week before Sir Francis was 5.) What are "Mikey" and Maeghan like in person? Well, Mike is very voluble and articulate, and certainly an interesting conversationalist. I have the impression that his mind is running 90 to the minute. Maeghan is quieter, but then, ours was a lively conversation. You wouldn't consider either Mike or Maeghan to be at all weird or "nerds". You wouldn't be able to distinguish them from other bright teenagers, except that I know you'd be astute enough to pick up on the fact that these were two very smart people. Mike, at 16, is about to get his driver's license, and Meg, who just turned 15, just got her learner's permit.
Mike Receiving His First M. S. (at 14, in chemistry, from MTSU) Maeghan (10) the Day Mike Started Graduate School
| Left: Guess
who? And when?
Above: Greg enjoys a funny moment with the rest of his class.
Right: Bob, Greg, and Janet Smith in a high school graduation photo.
Greg's website is at http://www.gregoryrsmith.com/, and his email address, given on his website is email@example.com.
Y (to be written)
Z (to be written)
Two friends have pointed out
the fact that Gauss and Galois
were also super-prodigies, as well as, most probably, Norbert Wiener and John