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, October 05, 2006

A talkative baby genius - verbal intelligence on show

The average age at which a child will speak three word sentences is 23 months. I use the word child, because three word sentences are not normally the province of babies. How early, however, may a gifted child speak them?

Tiarnan is very much a baby: he is but eight months old, however, he doesn't seem to know how little he is supposed to speak. It is the tendency of gifted children not to obey the limits we customarily expect of kids. That is what makes them gifted. This tendency is more so in those children who are of genius or prodigy status.

On September 23rd 2006, Tiarnan Hasyl Cawley saw his mummy wearing a green face mask. Seeing this he chased after her in concern, repeating, very clearly, as he did so: "I want mummy...I want mummy...I want mummy!" Now, we know enough about babies to know that three word grammatical constructions are normally far from their grasp. Here, however, was Tiarnan, speaking a three word sentence, clearly, and appropriately to the circumstances, with relevant meaning. He was just eight months old...a third of the age at which three word sentences are normally used.

What is notable about Tiarnan, is not just that he has spoken many different words since he was two months old and he first uttered the diplomatic choice: "Daddy!" to me...but that he uses them in grammatically correct sentences. It seems that a gifted child, at least in this case, is able to extract the rules of grammar very early from the speech around them.

It is too early to tell if Tiarnan is going to be a prodigy like his eldest brother but the signs are looking good and I am willing to place a large wager that to speak so well, so early is to signal verbal gift to come. Perhaps Tiarnan will be a writer, one day, or an actor. We will see.

He is already a prodigy in one sense, however: his precocious, early child development is prodigious. I will trace the development of this over time and we will discover if it heralds a more specific prodigy in the years ahead.

(For a guide to this blog, and posts on Tiarnan and his scientific child prodigy brother Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, go to: )

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 2:11 PM  8 comments

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Signs of Genius: Arcane Knowledge

Ainan Celeste Cawley is but six years old, but he knows things most people never will. He also asks things no-one thought to ask but that is for another post.

A week ago, on the 27th of September, he said to me, all of a sudden, as he tends to: "Apart from Promethium, Thulium is the rarest Lanthanide."

Now, I don't know about you - but I didn't know that - and I studied Natural Sciences at Cambridge (incidentally, a dull place).

He went on to point out: "You know, you can find Technetium in Uranium and Thorium ores."

Two days before that he had disclosed: "You know, Uranium is always found impure in nature."

I have chosen these three sound bites from Ainan's general talk to illustrate a point. A child who is a genius will often show a very refined knowledge of their areas of interest - delving deeper, and learning more than others ever would. At least, that is what I generalize from Ainan's example. He is able to see relationships between elements and chemicals that others cannot - adults or otherwise - because they have not looked closely enough at the subject and do not even begin to have the requisite background. Furthermore, they may not be able to link knowledge in the way that Ainan does - finding relationships where none had been pointed out to him.

There is another thing which Ainan does: he finds possible applications for what he knows. For instance, two weeks ago, on the 22nd of September, 2006, he said: "The reaction between potassium permanganate and glycerine is so exothermic that it is hot enough to ignite a thermite reaction." Now, I don't know enough chemistry to comment on this remark of his, but the intent is clear: to apply knowledge to the real world, to achieve an end. This is a kind of genius that goes beyond the possession of knowledge, to the creation of an effect in the world.

It is too early to say what Ainan might do in the future - but there is a definite promise there, that it will be interesting - if he is afforded the right opportunities for development and employment. That, I suppose, is my job, as a father.

As always I welcome comments and thoughts from you, my readers. Thanks.

(For more posts on Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, six, and his gifted brothers, please go to: )

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:54 PM  36 comments

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Athleticism in a baby opens the door to the world

Tiarnan Hasyl Cawley is an athletic baby. Athletic in the sense that he was mobile from a very early age: raising his head and looking around on the day of his birth, crawling at four months and one week, climbing down stairs at five months and two weeks and up stairs at eight months exactly. Here we see Tiarnan opening the door...controlling its movement while not losing his own balance as he manouevres it open. These photographs were taken about a week ago. Tiarnan is now eight months old.

Ainan Celeste Cawley showed even greater precociousness of movement - but, at that time, we were naive parents who did not know enough about children to make a detailed record of his unusually fast progress. We have some photos however and will upload some in due course.

For more on Tiarnan's athleticism, go to:


For Tiarnan's speech development:

For the Cawley family in general, and Tiarnan's brothers, Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, a scientific child prodigy and Fintan Nadym Cawley, a natural leader and brave boy, go to:

Photographs by Syahidah Osman Cawley

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:28 PM  0 comments

Monday, October 02, 2006

Prodigy, genius and the gifted: why are they important?

Prodigy, genius and the gifted, are vital to Man, for reasons too many to cover in a brief post. I shall, however, focus on two reasons. The first is that most, perhaps all that is good in our cultures, sciences, and arts, comes from these categories of people. Without them Humanity would be so much less interesting - and leading so much less comfortable lives. That point should be obvious.

The other one, however, is not so clear. Prodigy is important for the same reason that the Olympics are important. It is through the feats of the greatest minds among us that we discover what the limits of the Human are: just as the fastest man over a 100m fascinates us with the half-disbelieving thought that a man could run so fast. We need to know what Man can achieve. We need to know how far a Man can go. In this way, the study of savants, prodigies, geniuses and the gifted is essential to an understanding of man - for just as the Olympiads are the pinnacle of the physical human, so are those who are geniuses, in some way: they are the mental Gold Medallists of Man. Let us come to be better acquainted with them - and appreciate them in the same way that we appreciate the fastest runner, the strongest man, the greatest decathlete. For thousands of years, the physical greats have won our fascination - let us not overlook, then, the mental greats among us - and accord them the respect that we accord our greatest athletes. For they are two of a kind - the best of Men - or Women.

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

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 3:50 PM  10 comments

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