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 +

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Was Rembrandt a genius?

You may recall that I asked in an earlier post whether, given his eminence in Dutch art history, Rembrandt was a genius. ( This was meant to stimulate a response from you on the topic. However, no-one chose to write on him. This may mean that you are not interested in Rembrandt - or that you don't know enough about him to venture an opinion.

I asked the question on Rembrandt's genius for a reason. It is widely held that Rembrandt's IQ was only about 110. Yet most consider him a great artistic genius. This observation is very interesting when set beside what is commonly thought of as genius today: the high iq individual.

From Rembrandt's example (and there are others) we can see that the trait which may be identified as "genius" does not necessarily depend on IQ. Why is this so? It is because IQ is measuring a different kind of thinking. IQ is convergent thinking - that is thinking that converges upon a single answer to a single question. Genius is more properly the product of divergent thinking: that which produces many answers to a single question. The two are not really correlated. Hence it is possible to be recognized as a genius - and yet not possess a high IQ. It is also possible to have a high IQ and not be recognized as a genius. Of course, there are high IQ geniuses, too. These people show high creativity and high convergent reasoning ability. This may occur in scientific geniuses, for instance, among others.

There is however something to note. Creativity - the very stuff of genius - is correlated with IQ up to about an IQ of 120. Beyond that point there is no positive correlation. What this seems to mean is that you might need a certain level of IQ to make use of your creativity in creative works of genius - but beyond that modest threshold it really has no bearing on the matter.

I think all this raises a very serious issue. Are gifted programs, which normally require an IQ threshold of 130, missing the Rembrandts 0f the world: those who have a gift of genius in some department - but who DON'T have a high IQ to match? The answer is a clear yes, if they rely upon an IQ test as the means of qualification for the programme.

It is time to recognize that human gift doesn't all fall into the neat IQ box. There are gifted children - and gifted adults - who can do unusual things, unusually well enough to mark them out as "talented" or as "geniuses" - yet who don't possess a high IQ to match. These people will be ignored by gifted programmes everywhere, despite, in some cases, their later eminence or distinction, like Rembrandt.

So, if you think you have a gifted child - perhaps a creatively gifted child - don't be disheartened if their IQ doesn't meet the 130 threshold, for know this: there are historical geniuses, whose IQ did not reach that threshold - and they achieved great distinction. So, too, might your gifted child, given the chance to express their inner gifts.

As a parent, you know your child better than any test will. So, as to the question, "Is my child gifted?" - you know the answer already, if you look into their eyes and their heart.

Good luck all.

(If you would like to read about my scientific child prodigy son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, who just turned seven a few days ago, and his gifted brothers please go to: I also write of child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, the creatively gifted and gifted children in general.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:40 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You said: "Creativity - the very stuff of genius - is correlated with IQ up to about an IQ of 120."

Ooh! Would you cite that for me?

They have reclassified the IQ score ranges on the newer tests so that, at least on the stanford binet, 120-129 is now considered "Moderately Gifted". But at the same time, they have pulled "Profoundly Gifted" down from IQ 180+ to IQ 135-141... This irritates me a lot. Its great that they included 120-129 in the gifted category. But its very sad to have taken away the only term that such rare people have to describe themselves with. As if they dont already feel isolated and alien enough... now there isnt even a category label for them...

Sigh. Not only that, but now ALL the writing that has been done using those category descriptions for the different levels is worthless. One has no way of telling WHICH category of "profoundly gifted" or "moderately gifted" was meant... How utterly shortsighted! They could have simply added a category at the bottom... If they had made a new scale completely from scratch, that would have been better. See for yourself:

50% of the population has an IQ of 100. 75% of the population has an IQ between 85 and 115. IQ 110 is (probably rightly) considered to be in the normal range. 110 would be 10% advanced, but not even in the top 25% of the population. Obviously not all people with IQ 110, (and nowhere near a substantial number of them) become emminent geniuses. If a gifted program is to be designed for geniuses of normal IQ, they will have to use something other than IQ tests to find them. Or just use a different schooling approach - John Taylor Gatto thinks we are all geniuses, but whether that trait manifests is a matter of how we are schooled. I like the latter approach better.

I wanted to add a "Low" IQ genius to your list: Richard Feynman. According to his IQ is 126.

- Kathy

10:46 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for your post.

I have seen the observation that creativity is positively correlated with IQ up to 120 around for many, many even seems to be a memory from my teen days. I would say, therefore, that it corresponds to an IQ on the old style tests. That is really quite a modest score and indicates that IQ is not the great determinant of "genius" that people think it is. It is measuring a different kind of person: the "intelligent" person. To be intelligent and to be creative are two different things. I know of examples in my family who are one but not the other - both ways - though some are both (and therefore potential geniuses).

I am SHOCKED that the new tests have been so drastically recalibrated because it will take decades before people come to understand the change. In the meantime, a whole generation of profoundly gifted people can expect only sneers from their teachers at their "modest" IQ scores (because the teachers will remember the old towering scores and be guided by those as a baseline). This is really worrying.

It is almost as if there is an agenda to eliminate the profoundly gifted from consideration...and I wouldn't be surprised if it were so, the world being generally anti-elitist as it is.

As for Richard Feynman's IQ...that is really telling. He was apparently able to solve very difficult problems in Physics with remarkable ease - and yet this doesn't show in his IQ. Another Rembrandt, then?

Your writing is most welcome, Kathy.

12:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I have seen the observation that creativity is positively correlated with IQ up to 120 around for many, many years..."

Thanks for that little piece of information. Thats interesting.

"I am SHOCKED that the new tests have been so drastically recalibrated because it will take decades before people come to understand the change."

Urgh! Yes! Now I wonder if the "Profoundly gifted" 140 IQ range is the equivalent to the previous 180 IQ score, or if they just changed the labels. My guess is that they changed the labels... because I think (and I could be wrong) theyre trying to keep a certain bell curve that consistently reflects the same rarity at each IQ score. Either way: Sigh.

BTW do you know where I can find out the answers to these questions? Maybe you know the answers?

- Kathy

5:03 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...


I am sorry to say that I think, for some of the tests, the new label of "profoundly gifted" is actually an indicator of direct correspondence. In other words, someone who scored 180 plus on the old tests would score 140 or so on the new. They have ruined the scale. More thoughts on that soon.

Best wishes.

10:55 PM  

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