The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Ainan Cawley's Chemical Equations: the "doodles" of a young scientist

Most children doodle. No doubt there is a typical child's doodle: a fairly formless scribble perhaps...or a shape that they like. Ainan Celeste Cawley's doodles are a little different. He is six years old, but his doodles belong in a chemistry paper. Every day he presents to me sheet after sheet of chemical equations, concerning his latest chemical thoughts. They are balanced equations, with state symbols, for often very complex reactions. Where do these reactions come from? In most cases he makes them up. By this I mean that he reacts chemicals in his mind and decides what the outcome would be, based on all that he knows about chemistry...then writes the equations down.

He tends to explore different chemical ideas, looking at the possibilities and presenting me with his conclusions. I duly read them - and they seem correct to me. (I did chemistry up to the end of my first year at Cambridge University).

What I find most remarkable about this is the sheer detail of his work. Every nuance and aspect of a chemical situation is examined - and all of it written down in minutest detail. He will write not only the molecular formulae but also draw the structural formulae, charges, attractive forces - and provide a written commentary on the chemicals, their nature, their purpose, any problems posed in handling them, environmental concerns, toxicity, the need for catalysts, what the catalyst is, the boiling points, melting points etc. The list of aspects to which he gives attention is awesome. Neither are these common reactions that he deals with: he often thinks in terms of the most obscure of reactants, and the most unlikely of reactions and products.

These are not just doodles. These are childhood scientific treatises, in miniature.

(If you would like to learn more about Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, his gifted brothers, and child prodigy, child genius, savant, creatively gifted and gifted children in general, then please go to: Thanks)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:46 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, thats really ...

... well it expands my mind.


What your child can do is awesome in the extreme. It greatly extends my concept of intelligence in various directions at once, and Im really glad to have found your blog. :)

Now I have read your entire blog. Except for your new posts since yesterday. Im sorry I havent commented on your comments to my comments yet, or gotten to your email. I have been very busy being preoccupied with some personal issues and with reading your blog. I will probably start replying to your comments soon, since I have run out of blog. Lol. I might even have time to check my email now. ;)

Gotta love the industrial strength attention span that comes along with these overexcitabilities... I hope you have enjoyed all my attention and that my prolific commenting has not worn you out :)

- Kathy

7:26 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks Kathy for your every comment. They are stimulating and rewarding to read and always add something to the discussion, with your own flavour to it. Keep them coming...and I will keep answering them, as best as time allows me.

It has been a pleasure to hear your thoughts.

Kindest regards, for now and the future.

9:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


- Kathy

9:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ainan is really a talented in science,,,chemistry especially.
happy to know what a profoundly gifted child doing in all of his day.:)

4:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very nice :)
Greetings from Poland.

12:23 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you, "Poland"!

9:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has your son shown any interest in true skill testing papers or competitions like the international chemistry olympiad?

6:28 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

It is funny that you should ask. We thought of that very same competition last year and wrote to the organizer of the, then, next competition. We explained that our son was rather young and asked whether there was a minimum age for entry to the competition.

We didn't receive a reply.

So, I wrote to him again, again asking the same question - and again received no reply.

At that point, we gave up on the International Olympiad for Chemistry. Anyway, he may not be eligible for admission because he has done quite a bit of post A level work (College level).

We have long gone beyond the need to test his skills...and in the zone of actually trying to meet his needs. I think, at first, parents of gifted children find themselves having to test their skills, perhaps to prove their needs, to others - but, at some point, you get beyond that and realize that it is better just to try to meet their ever changing and growing needs. It is saner. For "test their skills" read "compete, compete, compete" is an unhealthy path to spend too much time on. Some people spend their whole lives on such a gets them precisely nowhere. It certainly doesn't make them any happier.

Thanks for your question.

6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyway, he may not be eligible for admission because he has done quite a bit of post A level work (College level).
almost everyone who is selected to represent their country has done in depth university level work. There are people who get selected under the age limit of 18. For instance i remember having read about a maths candidate who got selected at the age of 10,11 and 12, youu may have heard of him, Terence Tao. All you need to do is enter ainan for the singaporean olympiad competitions, where he will be selected if he gets one of the top 10 or so marks in teh country.

9:58 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you for your comment. May I point out that just because the Maths Olympiad made an age exception that does not mean that the Chemistry one would: they would not even reply to my emails. That speaks clearly of their attitude to the situation: I wasn't even worth a reply.

Thanks for your advice however.

11:05 PM  
Blogger EbTech said...


I've been reading your blog with great interest lately. Ainan's actions and intellect truly expand the limits of what I imagined possible at his age! Thanks for sharing that with us. :)

Ainan might enjoy competing in a Chemistry Olympiad. Unlike academic exams which assess knowledge, contest problems require creative and insightful thinking. Some of the problems are very unique and interesting.

While it can get competitive, I believe most people compete in good spirit. After all, it's not obligatory for anyone. I personally had a lot of fun with mathematics competitions when I was younger, including the USAMO at age 15. :)

If they choose not to accept Ainan due to his age, you can also try the International Junior Science Olympiad...

10:23 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Ebtech,

I wrote twice to the International Chemistry Olympiad people - and they didn't reply either time. I explained Ainan's situation and interest - and mentioned his age. I think that was a problem for them.

I will take a look at your other suggestion.

Thank you for your kind words re. my blog and Ainan's life story...I am rather glad I began this record, otherwise it would all have been lost to a fading memory, as I got older.

Best wishes

10:35 AM  
Blogger EbTech said...

Perhaps we are not supposed to contact the IChO directly...

Each country selects its own teams for representation at the International Olympiads. Thus, you can try researching the local or national contests which lead to Singapore's IChO team.

To give an example, I will describe the sequence of contests leading to the American IMO (International Mathematical Olympiad) team. There are several rounds, each more difficult than the last. The first 3 rounds (AMC, AIME, USAMO) can be administered by schools. Only a few hundred students qualify to write the USAMO. The winning contestants are invited to an enriched summer program, designed to train the country's most gifted aspiring mathematicians. At its conclusion, the official IMO team is selected.

A quick Google search led me to the Singapore Chemistry Olympiad. Unfortunately, I was unable to find information on how to enter. Contests papers are usually sent to schools, so a good starting point would be to ask your local high school if they administer any chemistry contests during the year.

By the way, it seems this year's IChO will be taking place in Japan!

12:21 PM  
Blogger My Diary said...

Ainan is very smart. I am also a student, so admired. come to Indonesia. he is a gifted child, the successor of our scientist albert einstein
-Nahda Anisa Rahma. Your fans :)

5:54 PM  
Blogger diandibi said...

I just watched the news about this Genius. I'm 17yo and still learning Chemistry. I love it, though I found so many difficulties.
This kid is super amazing! Ainan has become my inspiration.
-Greet from Indonesia :)

12:50 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Diandibi. I wish you well in your studies.

2:32 AM  

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