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Do you know or have you met a true genius?


Guest Virginia Dawn
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Guest Virginia Dawn

This is my burning question of the day.

 

Lately, I've been trying to read a lot of relatively easy-to-understand books on the history of physics to prepare for teaching physics to my rising senior next year. Well, one book I read mentioned that there is probably an average of one true genius born each year. Many of them gravitate toward fields in higher math and science, but not necessarily. We know some obvious ones like Archimedes, Gallileo, Newton, and Einstein. There are many more that are obscure yet relevant.

 

One a year is really not a lot of people. However, I figure that with so many on these boards interested in the academic/intellectual world, somebody must know a true genius.

 

Just for the sake of definition, let's say a genius is someone whose thinking is hyper focused on creative problem solving, and whose life's work has or could change the world of ideas in a significant way.

 

So, what about it? Have you ever met, or do you know, a true genius?

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No, I have never met a true genius or a prodigy. I think that is the problem with the gifted lable that is being thrown around so much these days. It used to refer to geniuses and prodigies, now it just means a really smart person. There are tons of really smart people. Mensa is full of them. There are entire schools dedicated to them. An entire greek group (male & female), Phi Beta Kappa of them. They are literally everywhere. Ones that are very bright and years above their age mates but there are very few actual geniuses or prodigies (Einsteins & Bachs). Really smart people are on the downslope of a bell curve while geniuses and prodigies are way off in flatland. While it is not quite no man's land it is very sparsely populated.

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I *think* so. Scary smart. Unfortunately, he had a terrible alcohol problem from his early teens right up through college, after which I lost track of him. I think what happened with him is that no one knew how to understand him and he had some major depression to go along with it, thus the the self-medication from such a young age. I also think that the need to have children conform to educational and social standards from a young age is why we don't *see* as many of these geniuses anymore as once we did.

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My husband went to Hopkins for medicine, and there was this one guy in his class that was above everyone. I don't just mean he was smart. He was brilliant in a different sort of way. He had been a music major in college, did science on the side, was then in med school and I have no idea what he did after that, I think research, but I don't know. He was interesting to talk to, his mind just seemed to work in a unique way. I've often wondered what he's doing now.

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This is an issue where it's almost impossible to really define terms, and if you can't define terms then people will be talking past one another. (But it's still fun to discuss!)

 

True geniuses aren't always appreciated during their lifetime. They may be too far ahead of their time.

 

Also, genius-ness can be used for evil rather than good. So a genius might "change the world," but the world won't be more wonderful because of it.

 

True genius-ness also may not manifest itself during childhood. Think of how many brilliant people were believed to be dimwitted when they were children. And even as when they are adult, geniuses may act so immature (think of Mozart) that no one respects them.

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I have met a lot of super intelligent people. Among all the super intelligent people I know, one stands out as probably being a genius. He was thinking on such a high level, he left everyone in the dust. He was a surgeon, and transformed the surgical area of one hospital. He began by getting a degree in zoology, then went on to medicine (this was after a military enlistment). He quickly rose to be one of the best surgeons in the area. He was a lovely person. One time we were walking along in a nature preserve and he noted the date on a footbridge. I learned more about the WPA and New Deal politics on that walk than from any schooling. There was not a subject he could not expound on. The man was like a walking encyclopedia, and totally unaware that what he was talking about was over the head of most listeners.

 

His life was full of discrimination because of his sexual orientation, but he never expressed malice toward another living being.

 

Unfortunately for the world, he passed away (from a rare form of cancer) about 5 years ago at much too young of an age (mid 50's).

Edited by MeanestMomInMidwest
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.

 

Just for the sake of definition, let's say a genius is someone whose thinking is hyper focused on creative problem solving, and whose life's work has or could change the world of ideas in a significant way.

 

So, what about it? Have you ever met, or do you know, a true genius?

With the above definition, no, I've not met anyone like this.

 

I'm not sure if I have, by your definition. I have met people whose stated IQ is above the cut-off range for genius level--from the Stanford-Binet IQ test, not from an internet IQ quiz.

With this definition, yes, lots of people.

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Yes. He will make a significant contribution to his field. His field isn't as noticable as some others. He has a plan, an actual laid out on paper plan, to become the world's foremost authority in a particular area that requires extensive research and assimilation of idea. I have no doubt that he will do it. He is brilliant AND determined.

 

Besides that, he introduce me to my dh, so of course he is brilliant! LOL

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Yes, he is my biggest homeschooling supporter - my brother. He works on and off for a lab in CA, mostly because they can't keep him challenged. So they let him go, only to ask him to come back as no one else can do the work he is capable of. He speaks internationally, and once invited me to go with him. I asked if I'd be able to hear him speak. He looked at me blankly and said, "Most of the people who are there to hear me speak don't even understand what I am talking about, so you'd be very bored."

Do I think he will ever be recognized? Well, like many others, I think he is not one to seek fame, and I think his work might be recognized at some point in time, but probably not in his lifetime, if ever. I think more realistically that projects he collaborates on will change many things, but for those he is a means to an end.

His own ideas are crazy and far-fetched, to most people. But then again, many other geniuses were also seen as being crazy.

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I *think* so. My dh and I talk about her alot. She is so *beyond our ability to comprehend* intelligent, and yet, she has very limited social skills, absolutely NO *common* sense, *appears* to be a total slob and yet she completely understands her *mess* and has a system to it... and yet, she is BRILLIANT.

 

Interesting to observe. LOL!

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If there's one a year, we're talking about maybe 80 or so people who are alive today (and that's counting the genius babies and toddlers who haven't had time to make major contributions in their fields ;)). By that definition, meeting a genius would be a really hard thing to do.

 

My FIL is probably the most conventionally genius-y person I know. He's a number theorist. He has a wikipedia entry and an Erdos number of 1 ;)

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If we were using the IQ definition of genius, I know several. My husband's field is such that he interacts almost exclusively with other genius level IQ people on a day to day basis. It's a weird sort of bubble to live in.

 

If we're taking the one born a year, world changing type of genius, I don't think I've met one. However, as a PP mentioned, many of these "true geniuses" aren't fully appreciated during their time. I doubt that many people who met Einstein while he was working in the patent office thought they were meeting one of the great minds of the last century.

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Well, I've known several people, including my own father, who changed the world of ideas *in their own fields* in significant ways and who are profoundly gifted, either confirmed by testing or obviously so. But all of these people are/were friends and colleagues of my father. Birds of a feather and all that. A well known member of this group of people was Linus Pauling.

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When I was at UCLA for my masters, we had two teens show up at our graduate dorm - both were 15 years old and already working on their doctorates. The slightly older girl from Baltimore was rather put out that there was a younger boy from India stealing her thunder. Do not know what happened to either of them.

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Guest Virginia Dawn

Great discussion! I can see that the definition of genius that I appropriated is not comprehensive enough and obviously there must be more than one person of genius born each year. A genius I am not. :-)

 

The person who wrote the book I read must have been referring to historically obvious genius. Even so, my personal opinion is that IQ off the charts does not necessarily make one a genius. In my reading, I was particularly impressed with the genius's ability to focus on a particular problem or creative work for years.

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Just for the sake of definition, let's say a genius is someone whose thinking is hyper focused on creative problem solving, and whose life's work has or could change the world of ideas in a significant way.

 

No, I guess I haven't then. I did know really well one person whose IQ was at that unbelievable OLYMPIQ society level of high (not on his word, I was with him at the testing facility). He didn't seem that different to me, except for being able to learn whatever he wanted. And I don't mean to downplay the difference between the gifted and those who aren't, or deny the existence of genius. But I wouldn't want to see that person, or any person of high intelligence, be expected to "change the world of ideas." They are people, with personal goals and family and friends to give attention to. They are not brains at the service of society.

Edited by dragons in the flower bed
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I've met a number of people who were amazingly brilliant, but there's one guy I know who very well may win a Nobel Prize someday. His parents belong to the same small group ministry as my mom and he occasionally babysat my siblings & me. He won some big national math contest in high school, studied physics undergrad at Stanford and then decided to get his PhD. in neuroscience. He's now a professor at UCSF who studies visual processing and is working on gene therapy to restore sight. Currently he's working with mice but someday it might lead to a treatment for humans.

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I do think that there are more than one born each year. In your OP you mentioned 4 science types, but there are so many other areas that do influence many that come after them. I can think of brilliance in the arts, fashion, theater, literature, architecture, economics, governmental, many different branches of science, philosophy, teaching, etc. Those individuals, who have separated themselves from others in their field with brilliance, dedication, and just plain ability that others do not possess.

 

The man I know might not become famous in a history book, unless it were a very particular textbook pertaining to his field, but his ability to assimilate and synthesize a huge body of material is beyond the ability of the VAST majority of people. (I really do not know another individual with his ability, so I do not know anyone else who could do the work he is doing.) He is not the only one in the world, who could do it, but out of the handful of people who could, he is probably the only one who will do it beyond what others before him have done. People who study his field after he is gone will likely be able to stand upon the work he has done in a different way than he anyone can today.

 

I guess my point is that if this man had used his "far beyond the norm ability and drive" to some other field, he would have become world famous and in the history books. Not all subjects recieve the same acknowledgement from the world, but the same genius still exists. It is still true genius.

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Just for the sake of definition, let's say a genius is someone whose thinking is hyper focused on creative problem solving, and whose life's work has or could change the world of ideas in a significant way.

 

So, what about it? Have you ever met, or do you know, a true genius?

 

Using this definition - Yes, I have.

 

I met a man who helped invent the catalytic converter in the 1960's & 1970's. Brilliant, brilliant man. So interesting to speak with. His views on life, history, politics were absorbing. I may not have agreed with him but his ability to argue and reason and articulate those arguments and reasons was astounding.

 

His life history, travels, friendships, and achievements were amazing.

Edited by The Dragon Academy
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My friend's dh has 5 masters degrees and a doctorate in obscure subjects like Ancient Semitic languages. He is a wonderful man but has for most of his life worked in oddball jobs installing toilets etc. Nothing wrong with that but he doesn't seem to be able to find a job actually working in his field. Possibly because he doesn't know how to market himself, possibly because there aren't a lot of jobs in his fields.

 

Now my friend is supporting the family while he writes for hours a day on obscure subjects. He does have one book that Oxford has expressed an interest in so here's hoping he gets some of the attention and pay that I think he deserves.

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I live in a city of rocket scientists. :)

 

I know a great many people of high IQ, many of whom are probably above the 'genius' level, but may not make obvious world-changing impact. Some prefer to work on a smaller scale. :)

 

I do not consider myself a genius, but depending on how you scale things, I've been told my scores might qualify. I personally doubt this. But I definitely think in a weird sort of way, and have many bright friends who are equally odd, and we all get along well together. And I am sure some of them are geniuses. At any rate, I don't think genius is quite the same thing as prodigy (and a few I know definitely fall in the prodigy range ... they are amazing to be around).

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He was scary smart as a young man, unfortunately he developed paranoid schizophrenia after he finished college. Nobody understands anything he is talking about, not only because he's so smart but because he has obsessions/fixations and takes them to an extreme extreme. It makes me sad that he was never able to have a even halfway normal life or to follow any logical research because his illness makes him focus on things that are not true. He spends countless hours researching and writing and trying to get government officials to take an intrest in his "theories":crying:

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Does Bill Gates count? Cause I met him. I used to work for him. And most of Microsoft's VPs would count. It's hard to be in the same room as them...

 

My dad would almost count. When he was in the Air Force, he was tested for various things. He aced everything. To the point that psychologists were calling everybody else to see my dad perform. His IQ was tested when he was in school. I don't know what tests they used, but he aced it completely. But what makes him a genius in my eyes is his intuitive understanding of anything physical. As a pilot, he was one of the best. After the Air Force, he became a commercial pilot. He kept suggesting different procedures that increased safety and lowered costs. When he retired, the company's VP told him that over the years, he had saved the company more $$ than his total salary. And my dad didn't even graduate from high school, so all this is completely self-taught and intuitive. Did he change the world? Maybe not, but he did help that company quite a bit. My dad was happy just to pilot. He didn't want to research and invent. He wanted to be in the cockpit.

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Actually we had a high school friend whose IQ/tests scores/etc were off the charts. He's done well... starting a number of software companies, so $ is not an issue for him. But, in the social dept., that's a whole other can of worms. He honestly has to be drunk in order to have a relaxed conversation with people outside his inner world.

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No, I have never met a true genius or a prodigy. I think that is the problem with the gifted lable that is being thrown around so much these days. It used to refer to geniuses and prodigies, now it just means a really smart person.

 

I don't think the actual definition of gifted has changed significantly. The level at which government schools admit children to 'talented and gifted' programs has changed, but that has little to do with the true gifted label.

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Well, we've counted all 70-80 already. ;)

 

I really think there is more than one genius born a year. I have never heard that before, and I read on this topic a lot. The common figure used is 0.1% of the population. I don't think IQ alone is an indicator, though. A genius is someone who, like previously stated, makes an innovation or a difference in a field of study. It's someone who doesn't just think better, they think differently. I also think you will generally find at this level of intellect that there will be other 'symptoms' - social issues, psychological issues, etc.

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I also know people who meet the criteria Michelle mentions. Having a "genius level" IQ, however, does not guarantee that one will be successful either monetarily or in doing something significant for the world. So I'm not sure if you're looking for both sorts of things, as we see in someone like Einstein or Stephen Hawking.

 

I know one young boy who is definitely gravitating toward a mathematics degree in college right now. Even though he's only "official" this year, at 14, he already has enough credits to be a junior. He's double or triple majoring and I don't recall right now his other areas. He's interested in Economics and Chemistry, among other things, too. But how will his life pan out? We'll all just have to wait and see. I expect great things from him, but who can tell so early? Other geniuses have fizzled out quickly, like Mozart.....

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I have met a true genius...He ws my upstairs neighbor when I was a kid. He was so smart but he had absolutely no real street smarts...not good growing up where I did in Brooklyn. He graduated from Brooklyn college when he was 15. He could not hold a conversation with us mere mortals.....BUT he was a genius. I know because all the adults told us so. LOL.

 

I wonder where he is now. I think I might google him and find out.

 

By the way..his siblings were very smart, but not geniuses and they were my playmates.

 

~~Faithe

 

P.S. I did meet another youngster when I began homeschooling who was a certified genius. I had a nice long talk with his Mommy about letting him be a little boy and letting him learn manners, etiquette, how to play with other kids etc. She was so impressed with his ability to read a college textbook at 7 and all that he learned from it. I told her to be impressed just as much when he displayed kindness and learned to pull his nose out of the book and socialize. That was very hard for her to understand...I hope she took a little of my advice.

Edited by Mommyfaithe
I was a little rude.
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I knew two kids in high school who were briilliant, one more so than the other. He's in cryptography now.

 

Almost everyone I know would test in the top 2% of the population on an IQ test, and I know quite a few people who would test in the top .25%, but these two really stood out as being something special.

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My dh is a rocket scientist.That's his current job. He just moved us to take this position and he is like the happiest man on the planet nowthat his brain has something new to wrestle with. He left his post teaching at Lehigh University and the scuba diving business he was running on the side. He is a genius in my opinion but in a way that's difficult to quantify - never finished college, but managed to get 2 patents while there and ran a million $ business, then he dropped out to try his hand at the next thing. His mind is constantly working. He literally can't do only one thing at a time! He's also one of the kindest persons I know. Very gentle. This guy can fix anything - he built a Tivo from scavenged dumpster parts one weekend b/c he "felt like we could use one". The funny thing is he was much "smarter" before a felon in a stolen vehicle rolled the car he was in and wiped his long term memory. He didn't recall me or his family at all for 2 months. Plus he had the University main computer codes in his memory as he was working on that...I think the Uni was more upset about that than him being injured!

However, the true genius is that he puts the dirty socks in the hamper about 85% of the time ;) And I love him for that...now launch that rocket already!

 

Michele in CA

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My dh is a rocket scientist.That's his current job. He just moved us to take this position and he is like the happiest man on the planet nowthat his brain has something new to wrestle with. He left his post teaching at Lehigh University and the scuba diving business he was running on the side. He is a genius in my opinion but in a way that's difficult to quantify - never finished college, but managed to get 2 patents while there and ran a million $ business, then he dropped out to try his hand at the next thing. His mind is constantly working. He literally can't do only one thing at a time! He's also one of the kindest persons I know. Very gentle. This guy can fix anything - he built a Tivo from scavenged dumpster parts one weekend b/c he "felt like we could use one". The funny thing is he was much "smarter" before a felon in a stolen vehicle rolled the car he was in and wiped his long term memory. He didn't recall me or his family at all for 2 months. Plus he had the University main computer codes in his memory as he was working on that...I think the Uni was more upset about that than him being injured!

However, the true genius is that he puts the dirty socks in the hamper about 85% of the time ;) And I love him for that...now launch that rocket already!

 

Michele in CA

 

I loved reading this :) Thank you for sharing :)

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Thanks Polly! I love to remind myself that being married to my dh is an adventure and I'm pretty lucky to have an out of the box thinker. Unfortunately (or not, depending on your thinking), my ordinary genes have made our kids "regular strength" instead of "extra strength" like him.

My genius showed some more signs of genius - ness - he's taking me on a date tonight! Wooo Hoo!

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I don't think the actual definition of gifted has changed significantly. The level at which government schools admit children to 'talented and gifted' programs has changed, but that has little to do with the true gifted label.

 

Do you happen to know what the actual offical definition of gifted is? This is a sincere questions, not meant to be snarky.

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I know a great many people of high IQ, many of whom are probably above the 'genius' level, but may not make obvious world-changing impact. Some prefer to work on a smaller scale. :)

 

I do not consider myself a genius, but depending on how you scale things, I've been told my scores might qualify. I personally doubt this. But I definitely think in a weird sort of way, and have many bright friends who are equally odd, and we all get along well together. And I am sure some of them are geniuses. At any rate, I don't think genius is quite the same thing as prodigy (and a few I know definitely fall in the prodigy range ... they are amazing to be around).

 

Both your statements describe me. I have the IQ, but I also have ADD which screwed me up miserably in high school. And I just can't focus on anything long enough to excel in it. :willy_nilly: I am going back to school in the fall, but I still don't think I'll change THE world. I'm too busy changing my own little world.

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Do you happen to know what the actual offical definition of gifted is? This is a sincere questions, not meant to be snarky.

 

IQ over 130 (2 deviations from the norm.) It works out to be 2% of the population (I believe.) In ps, gifted often means "high achiever" rather than truly gifted.

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My son has an IQ of 162. I would not say he is gifted, troubled yes, but gifted? No.

 

 

I have loads of people in my family with IQs over 130. Some of them are gifted in one area. Most of them are more jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none types. I don't think everyone with an exceptionally high IQ is "gifted." That's just not my experience.

 

I tend to think of people with an exceptional ability in one area as "gifted."

 

Geniuses, I believe, are people like Leonardo DiVinci.

 

I have known a few people who are/were true geniuses and I know that many of those types lead troubled lives. :grouphug: to you, KidsHappen.

Edited by Mrs Mungo
clarity
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and they definitely qualified as genius. But in music, unfortunately, this means the child is a "circus" freak and will usually crash in adulthood. A nine year old who plays concertos with technical superiority gets attention and a lot of it. However, by age 20, the playing field is leveled as there are so many talented players who may not have had the genetics but certainly had the drive and now compete for that attention. The "genius" quality seams to fade and they do not always continue to stand out from the pack.

 

There are a lot of "geniuses" that do not change the world in some way that gets enough fame and attention for the general public to ever know about and yet, they are geniuses none-the-less.

 

My dh has an IQ that has to be extrapolated but he is a gentle, somewhat shy soul who has never desired to be a part of that particular version of the "rat-race". But, he makes a huge difference in the lives of a lot of kids in 4-H when they get to make low temp metal castings from compounds that they have mixed themselves with his careful teaching and supervision. We've had children who are literally failing school that have learned how to balance fairly complex equations as young as 110/11 years of age just because his particular genius exudes itself in a truly equisite teaching style. Though mathematics and physics are his technical aptitudes, there is no doubt that if teaching had a recognized genius form, the definition would be "see Faith's DH". However, due to DH's very laid back personality and completely non-political nature (he has no inate desire to be right in a conversation, just heard), he does not have that "genius" appearance about him until you really, really get to know him.

 

My aptitudes have been measured (if this is even possible - and I don't think it is) at pretty shockingly high. Oh well, most days I don't feel like I reflect that too much! So, though I fall in the range, I would not even dream of calling myself that and I hope no one I know ever refers to me that way.

 

Ds#3 (child number 4) has an IQ so high that it had to be extrapolated. However, this was masked by Sensory Integrations Disorder. We had him tested as a four year old thinking that we were dealing with autism and some other issues. Um, no....we've worked hard on his SID and are now seeing this little caterpillar really morph. However, given the world's general weirdo need to exploit high functioning academic children, we have chosen to really hold him back in mathematics and math based sciences due to maturity issues. He's nine and begging me to teach him algebra. I occasionally give in and show him some things here or there but refuse to really get into it with him. There is a lot to be said for having a childhood. So, his fourth grade math is miles beneath him. But, then again, this child has zero inherent self-esteem so I am happy for him to be doing math that takes him about 5 minutes to do 50 problems and then walk away saying "that was just sooooo easy". He also didn't talk in full sentences until nearly five (then began talking paragraphs) but that delay in communication skills also created some emotional issues that needed to be dealt with. We are happy to hold him back academically in order to have the pleasure of watching other areas of development blossom. We've been criticized for holding him back. I guess we will probably never be sure we have done the right thing. But, my once intensely unhappy, repressed, angry, little boy is now a very happy go-lucky little man that is pure joy to be around.

 

That said, I have two cousins who fall into the genius category and this is true even by the strictest and most conservative definitions. Cousin one, a male, was involved in high level computer hacking at an extremely young age and ran afoul of the law. He was sooooo young that nothing was done about it except that his parents had to promise to never give him another computer while a minor. He went to M.I.T. at 17 on full scholarship, promptly began smoking weed, and failed out at the end of his freshman year. Ran afoul of the law a whole lot more for several years, though thankfully most petty stuff, stupid stuff because he couldn't focus in and do anything with his life, and then finally got sober and landed a job handling data security for a bank. This is something we all reaaaaaaally laugh about when we think back over his youth. He had a very rough 20 years though and much heart ache before settling down.

 

Cousin two, did all of the "right" things for genius to do. Graduated high school much too early, went to college emotionally unprepared, buried herself in completing four majors in 3 1/2 years. P.H.D. by age 23. She had no life and became quite the little hermit. After some counseling, came out of her shell, met a man, married him and promptly discovered that she had never really learned anything about relationships. She was the female equivalent of Mr. Spock from Star Trek. He was the opposite and resented her not understanding his lack of logical thinking or at least, that is how she interpretted his thinking. Marriage ended in an acrimonious divorce and she was lonely for a very long time. Some health problems caused her to re-evaluate and get more counseling. Now she is much healthier person, married to another total opposite, and doing very well. It only took oh.....25 years to get straightened out.

 

I'd say she is the main reason we are treating ds#3 with kid gloves in the academics and making sure his life is full of lots of different experiences and people.

 

Based on my experiences, I would say that there are many, many more geniuses born per year than one might think.

 

Fun discussion! Thanks Hive.

Faith

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