Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall, Who's the Smartest One of All?

    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.

Well Known Super-Prodigies
  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.



The Eight Super-Prodigies:
Michael and Maeghan Kearney
 

Mike Receiving His First M. S. (at 14, in chemistry, from MTSU)          Maeghan (10) the Day Mike Started Graduate School


     Greg Smith, like Mike and Meg Kearney, began to talk exceedingly early--in Greg's case, before he was three months old. He began to walk at 7 months. By the age of 1, he could recite the alphabet. By age 2, he had learned to read. He became a vegetarian that year after studying dinosaurs and realizing that humans, like herbivores, had flat teeth. By 5, Greg could do basic algebra, He read "The Last of the Mohicans" and "Journey to the Center of the Earth". Then he entered kindergarten. By Christmas, he was promoted to the first  grade. That kept him challenged for two weeks. The next fall, in the second grade, he was reading fifth grade material in the hall. The following summer, when Greg was 7, his parents moved to Jacksonville, Florida, where Greg again started in the second grade. Wthin weeks, he was in fourth grade. He began to take a mixture of sixth grade and high school courses. The next fall, he started high school at the age of 8, where, at 9, he was in the running for valedictorian. Greg took himself out of the race so that someone else could be valedictorian. He graduated from high school at 10, and enrolled at Randolph Macon College, near Charlottesville, Virginia, and has just completed his first year there with flying colors. Greg doesn't have a photographic mind and has to work at memorizing material that he must learn.
     What differentiates Greg from other super-prodigies is his devotion to his philanthropic agenda of promoting non-violence and world peace. Like Michael Kearney, Greg is gregarious, and socially advanced for his years. He's using the media attention he's receiving as a pulpit to advance this cause. When interviewed on Oprah last fall, Greg explained that he hopes to garner three Ph. D.'s by the time he is 27: one in biomedical research, to conquer our diseases, one in aerospace engineering, to develop techniques for mining the asteroids, and one in political science so that he can become President of the United States and bring peace to the world.
    We may chuckle and remember what we were going to accomplish when we were ten years old, but certainly, Greg's heart is in the right place. We can hope that time is kind to him. In the meantime, Greg is very actively promoting his philanthropic agenda, appearing on stage with Nobel Peace Prize winners.
    Bob and Janet met in college at the University of Maryland, where Bob was an all-conference safety and Janet was a cheerleader. Bob has a Master;s Degree in microbiology. Janet, with a degree in communications, owned a dance studio until she quit to devote full-time to Greg. Bob and Janet say that there is no history of prodigies in their families. Like Kevin and Cassidy Kearney, the Smiths have devoted themselves to caring for their extraordinary offspring, moving around the country and accepting professional compromises in their devotion to providing for their children.
 
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 rsmith@rmc.edu.

William Sidis
W
X
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 von Neumann.