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 +

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The peer group of a prodigy: intelligent adults.

A prodigy has no peer and no peers. That is, by definition, they are outstandingly unusual, for their age, in the sense that no-one is better - and also they have no peers, of their own age. This is both the beauty and the tragedy of the progidy. What they can do is wonderful to behold - and no-one who has never met one, and held a discussion with one, has any idea of how marvellous they are - but it is also tragic, in that their very gift tends to isolate them. If they are to talk of their true mind, none of their age peers can understand.

I wrote of Mensa of Singapore and our experience with trying to introduce Ainan to them. It wasn't a happy one: their minds were closed to even considering the idea for reasons known only to them. However, a reader has alerted me to an interpretation of this that I had not seen: the implication that a Mensa member was Ainan's peer. This is not so. It is not so for any prodigy. Why is this? Well, Mensa selects the top 2% of the population, in IQ terms. That is they select one out of every fifty people. That isn't particularly rare. A typical school of a thousand children would expect to have 20 potential members. Yet, does a typical school have 20 prodigies? No. A typical school has no prodigies at all. In fact, a typical city might not, either. True prodigies are very rare. How rare, I do not know...except to say that in my search for them, I found very few true examples. The rarity value, then, of a prodigy's abilities is far higher than 1 in 50 - and so Mensa members are not the peers of prodigies. Is a high IQ enough for prodigy? It is not. It is just the beginning of the requirements. A prodigy must have an area of excellence, that is highly developed, far beyond age expectations - and a high IQ doesn't guarantee that, though it may help. Special talents or gifts are not really the province of IQ. IQ measures reasoning ability in a subset of human thinking capabilities. It is not enough, in itself, to define a genius. If it were, the world would be filled with geniuses - and it is not. They remain rarely found - and rarely welcomed.

Who then are the peers of prodigies? In terms of performance, intelligent adults are the peers of a prodigy. Why do I say this? Well, it is only intelligent adults who can converse with a true prodigy on a level that the prodigy would wish. Intelligent children are not developed enough to do so, in general. The other child would have to be a prodigy in the same area of interest, for the conversation not to be one-sided. This is not a likely situation.

So, who then are to be the friends of a prodigy? I recommend a mix, for the full development of social skills. There should be bright children of their own age - and bright older children, too, as well as adults who specialize in the area of the child's interest. This would provide them with the relief of an outlet for their thoughts. Care must be taken in the choice of adult friends, for many reasons beyond the obvious. An adult can easily be "inspired" by a prodigy, for instance. So, ensure that they are the type to respect the prodigy's ideas...not adopt them.

Are adults the ideal intellectual companions of the prodigy? No...for though they may have more experience than the prodigy it is likely that the prodigy has greater thinking power, than even a bright adult. Yet, highly intelligent adults, experienced in the prodigy's speciality, are the best peer group available. They will have to do.

Are there any prodigies or parents of prodigies reading this? If so, please get in touch and relate your own experiences and solutions to the difficulties you have faced. Thanks.

(For a particular prodigy, Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, a scientific child prodigy, and his gifted brothers, go to: )

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:20 PM  6 comments

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


This is Syahidah Osman Cawley, mother of Ainan, Fintan and Tiarnan. She comes from a Malay-Bugis heritage, is a gifted artist - and a brilliant cook, which explains why it is difficult to remain slim around here.

(For a general guide to the Cawley family, including her son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, a scientific child prodigy, please go to: )

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:28 PM  7 comments

Did Leonardo Da Vinci exist?

There once was a man called Leonardo Da Vinci. He was not just a man, he was every man rolled into one - there was nothing he could not do better than any other - and all of them put together.

Leonardo Da Vinci was a painter of such fine art that his works breathe of life itself. To look on them is to witness a shadow of the Creator. I need only mention the Mona Lisa, for any who have seen it, in person, as I have, know this to be true. Yet, he was not just a painter. He was a scientist too and explored all areas of science accessible in his day. He was a great anatomist, effecting detailed studies of the human body, unusually working on cadavers himself. He was an inventor, who invented a myriad of the devices we have come to know, today, five hundred years later, including the submarine and the helicopter, the tank and the mortar. He was a military engineer. He was a sculptor, of great ambition, though sadly his finest work was not realized in his lifetime. He performed geological studies, that lay undiscovered until modern times. He was a natural musician who was noted for composing songs spontaneously, and being able to play any instrument he was given, even if he had never before encountered the instrument. He was the finest fencer, that is swordsman, in Florence. He was also the most handsome man in the city - so handsome in fact that people would line the roads to watch him walk to work in the mornings. His eyesight was of such rapid perception that he could perceive the details of the shape and angle of a bird's feathers, in flight, and drew them to provide concrete proof of his ability to this very day. This is remarkable since his drawings were not confirmed until the invention of modern stop-motion photography. Furthermore, he was of such physical strength and grace that he was reputedly able to stop a running horse in its tracks and lay it down on its side, without harming it.

Do we believe in such a man? We do. In fact, we are sure that he existed and call him the quintessential Renaissance Man - a man able to do all things well. We enjoy his works, marvel at his inventions and wish, just a little, that he were still alive.

Perhaps he is. Perhaps his like still lives in the world, today. But how would we treat such a man today? I, for one, would seek him out and endeavour to become acquainted with him, perhaps even his friend. For it would be a fascinating adventure to know such a man. Yet how do many people of today treat such a portrait of a man? They call it fiction. They choose not to believe it. They doubt its every word. Why do they do this? It is because they cannot conceive of someone or something greater than themselves. I can. I can imagine one greater than myself - and I would enjoy meeting such a one, for in that encounter could only come enlightenment. If Man can believe in God, why cannot Man believe in a great Man? Is Man meant to be an ordinary being of modest ability and little imagination? Is Man meant to have difficulty learning and growing and severe limits in doing so? Is Man a specialized being with but one skill, moderately developed. I do not think so, but that is how many think. That is how they view themselves and the people they know. Yet, Man is greater than that. There are Men as great as the Men of the past of which we write in awe. They exist, they live, they breathe - but in these times, it is quite possible that you do not know of them. Why? Because they are not treated well by many of their fellow men. They are greeted with scepticism and scorn, doubt and suspicion. They are told that they cannot be real, that there is some trickery afoot. It is not so, however. Such people are in the world. They are few, that I admit. But they are there. Leonardo da Vinci still lives, but his name is different. He may be of a different race to the Italian he was. He may yet be a child. But he is out there somewhere. We may never, however, meet him. For he may assess the way of Man and decide that a quiet life is best. A life that does not disturb the common perception of many, that Man is a limited creature of little mind. If that is so, that is a pity. For we need such people. We need the new Leonardos for, from them, new worlds come. Worlds that all of us may live to enjoy.

Why do I write this article? Because some among the readership of this site, have read of Ainan and doubted his existence. Ainan Celeste Cawley exists. So does Fintan Nadym Cawley. So does Tiarnan Hasyl Cawley. So do I, Valentine Cawley. So, too, does my wife, Syahidah Osman Cawley. We are all real. Every word in description of every deed any of us has accomplished is true. Nothing has been exaggerated, nothing is even satirical. It is all fact. I am a writer of non-fiction. Not fiction.

I want there to be understanding in the world, of the few who are most gifted - of the ones, who could, if nurtured, change the world for the better. These people are ignored to the point at which some people do not even believe in them. Why is this so? It is because gifts of the dimension I write about are so rare as to be outside the experience of most people. Most people will never, in all their lives, meet a child who began to talk in his first month, crawl in his fourth, or walk in his sixth. Most people will never meet a six year old with an adult's grasp of science and an ability to think creatively within it. Yet, this is an error in thinking. Just because you have no experience of something, that does not mean it is not true. None of us have visited another star - but the stars still shine - and they will long after we are all dead.

Ainan's story was once my story. Yet, my story was never told, never seen, never understood. It was lost in a universal indifference to what is special in Man. That must not be allowed to continue. There must be greater understanding of, and appreciation for, those of true genius amongst us - otherwise they will never be allowed to flourish and we are all the poorer for that.

So, read of Ainan, Tiarnan and Fintan. Read of Valentine and Syahidah and spread the word far and wide to all you know, of this site and its contents. For, in doing so, you will be creating understanding in the world of those who are most misunderstood and unappreciated. Those who could make this world what it could be, instead of what it is. So choose: do you want the world to be the best that it can be - or do you want it to remain the one you have?

I welcome your thoughts on this and all other matters. Thanks for your help.

This article is copyright Valentine Cawley 2006, as are all the articles on this site. No use is permitted, except for a reference to them through a link. Please respect this.

(For an introduction to Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, a scientific child prodigy, and his gifted brothers, go to:

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 2:46 PM  1 comments

Photos of the Cawley Family

Some readers have requested that I post photos of my family. I have begun to do so. Please scroll down the page to find two photos that have been inserted into previous postings. There is also a photo in the "First words of a Child Prodigy". Thanks for your feedback.

(For an introduction to the Cawley family, in particular the scientific child prodigy, Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, please go to: )

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 9:59 AM  0 comments

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The Problem of Genius: how to find a peer group

Every child needs friends. Yet, for those who are gifted, or who have genius-level intelligence, that simple need is hard to meet. How can a child relate to his age peers, when his mind is like that of an adult? In truth, he can't. Some learn to adjust their behaviour to match the kids around "dumbing down", others don't even try, and so pass through school essentially alone. It is not a happy situation.

Ainan Celeste Cawley has friends...and people seem to like him. However, we thought it might help if he had more friends who were "on his level". One possible source that seemed obvious was to call the Singapore branch of Mensa, for we thought that they might have a group of highly intelligent children to interact with.

My wife made the call.

"Hello." She began, "Do you take kids aged six?"

A woman had answered the phone. "No, we don't." she said, somewhat snobbishly.

My wife began to ask another question: "Could..."

"And we DON'T take parents either!", she said, curtly.

That was the end of the call. We were both rather taken aback by this. The world over Mensa is thought of as a social organization for the intelligent. Whoever had answered the phone was certainly one of the least welcoming people we have encountered in Singapore - and distinctly lacking in the social skills department. Perhaps there are others in the organization, here, who are kinder and more generous of spirit - but they weren't answering the phone.

Perhaps other branches of Mensa, in other countries, have better mannered staff. We don't know. However, from our experience, if you live in Singapore, and you are thinking that Mensa might be a good home for your bright child, it would seem better to look elsewhere.

If anyone reading this has suggestions regarding suitable social settings for a bright child, please post a comment. Thanks.

(For further posts on Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, six, go to: )

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:07 PM  2 comments

The Leader of the Pack

Leadership is a mystery. Why do people follow one person but not another? What quality in a person leads others to be lead by someone? Is leadership a gift of the mind or the heart? It depends, I think on the kind of leadership in question - some lead by the power of their thought, others by the power of the personality, and the heart that powers it.

Fintan Nadym Cawley is a very sweet boy: there is great kindness and thoughtfulness in him, but it is not these qualities that make others follow him. There is something engaging about him, some charisma that emboldens others to imitate him, to be like him.

Fintan makes his own choices, guided by his own desires. A story of an incident in school, captures his charisma at work. Fintan is now three years old, but this happened when he was two. The teacher had set the class the task of colouring something on paper. Fintan began to do so, along with the rest of the class, until he had a better idea. He started colouring the top of the table, finding it a much more interesting artistic medium. The teacher scolded him, of course. He had a solution to that, too: he crept under the table, where he could no longer be seen by the teacher, and began to colour the underside of the table. Seeing this, the whole class joined in, crawling under the table and beginning to colour the underside of the table, like Fintan.

This is typical of Fintan: he does something new and the other children follow him. One secret of his success in getting others to follow him, is that he is original. He does things no other kid thought to do...and so, having seen him do it, they imitate him.

Interestingly, Fintan is not one to imitate others: he follows his own heart, in all things, and does what he wishes. His is a creative spirit. He is a true leader of the pack.
For more on Fintan Nadym Cawley as a natural hero see:
For an introduction to his brother, Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, a scientific child prodigy, go to:
Photograph by Syahidah Osman Cawley

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:04 PM  0 comments

Monday, September 25, 2006

The Grand Ambition of Genius

One of the primary signs of genius is the ability and drive to undertake huge projects. Today, Ainan Celeste Cawley, my six year old son, wanted to build a haemoglobin molecule from metal balls and stick magnets. For those who don't know the chemical formula of haemoglobin is C2952H4664N812O832S8Fe4. The letters represent atoms: C for Carbon, H for Hydrogen, N for Nitrogen, O for Oxygen and Fe for Iron. The numbers represent the number of each atom.

Look at those numbers and think about how complex that molecule is. That's what my son wanted to do this evening. Now, that is ambition.

(For more on Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, a scientific child prodigy, please go to: )

Photograph by Syahidah Osman Cawley

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 9:39 PM  2 comments

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The baby who sings himself to sleep

Tiarnan Hasyl Cawley, has just turned eight months old. For over two months now, he has sung himself to sleep at night.

I first noticed this when I turned the radio on to a classical music channel, while holding him in my arms before bedtime. He is fond of being walked around, before sleep, since it seems to lull him off. As I walked about the room, his head resting on my shoulder, I heard this small, high-pitched voice singing along with the music, rising and falling in pitch, and with enough shape and meaning to call it an effort at singing. Ever since, at times, even when music is absent, he has been known to sing at bedtime. If left alone, he will sing until overcome by sleep. If, however, one tries to sing along with him, he will fall silent, and listen to his parent's voice, as if to learn better how to master his own.

Musicality was an early gift of my own. As a child I would remember a tune at a single hearing and be able to sing or whistle it back, even years later. I believe that music, like all gifts, is an inheritance...and it seems that Tiarnan has it in him. It is emerging, spontaneously, without prompting, from the silence of early childhood.

His elder brother, Fintan Nadym, too, is known to sing: he remembers well the tunes he hears, and captures the character of the piece well, though again, and rather shamefully, we have made no effort to actually teach him to sing: he seems to be learning all on his own. Being a parent is a busy task and there doesn't seem to be energy to do all the things that an ideal world might require of us. We both try, however.

Ainan is a different matter. He has not been known to sing, but his fingers have been known to play the piano. He learnt to play around his sixth birthday, though actual performance no longer interests him. Composition was his interest in music - and he composed several pieces of his own - again unbidden, arising from his own inner creative impulses. Perhaps he will return to music to compose further - if science doesn't become his life entire.

As for Tiarnan: how does a baby know how to sing? Why does a baby wish to sing? What message is there in his tuneful voice? We cannot know...but Tiarnan does, as he sings on my shoulder, as night falls about him. There is no known song in his voice - the song is his own, the effort at form and shape come from within and not through mimicing music from without. One day we will know what and why he sings - but until that day, we just listen to his little voice, until it is stilled by sleep.

(For more on Tiarnan and on Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, his scientific child prodigy brother, and Fintan Nadym Cawley, three, a natural leader and brave boy, go to: )

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:22 AM  14 comments

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