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 +

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Hafiz Osman's Art: a birthday surprise.

Hafiz Osman is a Singaporean artist who works in many media: painting, sculpture, designed objects and interiors. He is uncle to Ainan Celeste Cawley, 6, the scientific child prodigy - and brother to Syahidah Osman Cawley, also an artist. (To read about Ainan, the prodigy, go to: )

"Hafiz Osman's Birthday Surprise!" is an exhibition of some of his works, showing at the Gone Fishing Cafe, Chu Lin Road, Hillview, Singapore, from October 22nd to November 2nd 2006. This cafe has evolved into an alternative arts venue, showing art works, installations and photography and attracting much attention for its initiatives in this area. The exhibition is called "Hafiz Osman's Birthday Surprise!" because it is just that: a birthday surprise. He has no idea the exhibition is taking place and will only discover it on being invited to the cafe for a birthday party, with his family.

Here we have a few of his art works. "Copy of a copy" and the Blue Writing series will be shown at the exhibition.

Below are the opening hours of the Gone Fishing Cafe. If you would like to come and view the paintings, sip a coffee, eat some cake and chat amiably, please check these times first.

Operating hours:
Open 5 days a week (Wed-Sun), closed on Mon-Tue (except for talks/special events).
Weekdays (Wed, Thu & Fri):
Open 11.30 am - 2.30 pm, 5.30 pm - 11.30 pmClosed for siesta 2.30 pm - 5.30 pm,

Weekends (Sat & Sun) & Public Holidays:
Open all day: 11.30 am - 11.30 pm (no siesta)

The exhibition opens on the 22nd October 2006 and runs to the 2nd of November 2006. The exhibition is organized by Syahidah Osman Cawley, whose surprise it is.

All works are copyright Hafiz Osman. If you want the work, commission him, don't copy him.

For more on Hafiz Osman's art, go to:



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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 4:01 PM  0 comments

Interior designs and object designs of Hafiz Osman

Hafiz Osman, Ainan Celeste Cawley's uncle, is a Singaporean artist. In addition to his work in painting, sculpture and installations, he does interior designs of public and private buildings - and designs objects for clients, such as these chairs, shown above.

Shown here are the white and grey design for the Jaja Restaurant, Singapore and the reds and repeated objects of the Skin Bar, Singapore.

These interior designs, chair designs, and artistic works are copyright Hafiz Osman. If you want the work, commission him, don't copy him.

(To read about Ainan Celeste Cawley, the scientific child prodigy, go to: )

For more about Hafiz Osman's work go to:



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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 3:03 PM  0 comments

The genius child and adult envy

There are many ways an adult may harm a child, particularly a gifted child. One of them is through their attitude. A genius child or a prodigy, often inspires strong feelings in adults. In many, there is admiration and amazement. But in some there is something darker: spite, jealousy, envy. I have seen both kinds of reaction to Ainan Celeste Cawley, 6. Oddly, the darker reactions are more likely to occur in adults who are working in the area of the child's interest. Why is this so? Because they feel threatened. They know, without wishing to know, that the extremely gifted child before them, the prodigy who has just spoken, the little genius, will one day be an adult genius and leader in their field.

I took Ainan Celeste Cawley to see a group of scientists, seeking others who might assist in the answering of Ainan's incessant questions. What I found, however, was something much more interesting. One of them wanted detailed information on how Ainan thought. There was admiration of a kind, in him, though his ultimate purpose was not clear. One endeavoured to answer his questions, sincerely, but was unable to do so. Another, however, was more surprising. He was unable to answer the questions put to him, but instead of admitting that this was so, he attacked the questions themselves, undermining their very basis. It was a marvel to see an adult professional in his thirties attack a six year old child in this way - for, indirect though it was, by attacking the questions of Ainan, he was getting at Ainan himself. The basis of his attack was peculiar. One question was challenged on the basis that it concerned something astronomical and could not, therefore, be tested in the laboratory (thus dismissing the whole science of astronomy as unworthy of being called a science!): he argued that it was a non-question therefore. I pointed out that it was something that could be calculated. He dismissed the question, stating that nothing was known about the properties of the substance in question, and arguing that it could never be made and so never tested.

Just because a question is difficult to answer, that does not make it something other than a question.

I have previously advised that a prodigy needs adult conversation in the area of his interest. This is so. However, care must be exercised in choosing these adults. Watch how they interact with your child: are they sincere...or are they envious?

Raising a child is a challenge: raising a prodigy child, a genius kid, or a gifted child, is much more so. For more insights into these children, look at the postings in the side bar. Only a small number show, other postings become visible as you access lower ones. Or go to for an overview of key pages. Thank you.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:19 PM  7 comments

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Paintings, sculptures, installations: Art of Hafiz Osman

More of Hafiz Osman's art works, in several media and forms: paintings, sculpture and installations. Hafiz is a Singapore based artist, who makes a living doing art and interior design. He is the uncle of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 6, the scientific child prodigy. (Some people arrive ont his page accidentally, in search of a child prodigy called Ainan. To read about Ainan go to:

"No Reply From Bank" above was shown at the Singapore Art Show 2005.

These paintings, sculptures, art works and installations are copyright Hafiz Osman. If you want the work, commission him, don't copy him.

For more about Hafiz Osman's work go to:



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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:43 PM  2 comments

Hafiz Osman: painter, sculptor, installation artist

Hafiz Osman is my brother-in-law and uncle to Ainan Celeste Cawley, the scientific child prodigy.
(To read about Ainan, the child prodigy, go to: ) Like my wife, Syahidah, he is an artist, though two very different artists it is hard to imagine. Hafiz Osman is concerned with colour and the abstract, my wife is concerned with line. Thus their works betray no relationship: one would never guess that they were brother and sister, other than the fact that both were artists.

Here are a selection of Hafiz Osman's installations, interior designs, paintings, sculptures and designed objects. Unlike most artists in Singapore, Hafiz actually makes a living at his work, needing no other job to support him. He has found a niche in the homes of the wealthy, and the entertainment establishments of Singapore, fashioning their environment with his usually vibrantly coloured artworks.

Hafiz Osman is a trained artist, having graduated from the Lasalle-SIA College of the Arts, Singapore, with a degree in Fine Arts. His work was shown at the Singapore Art Show 2005 and he has been the Artist-in-Residence, at the Hotel Galleria, Singapore.

These paintings, sculptures and installations are copyright Hafiz Osman. If you want the work, commission him, don't copy him.

For more on Hafiz Osman's work go to:



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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:11 PM  0 comments

Scientific child prodigy: an introduction

If you are new to Scientific Child Prodigy and know nothing of The Boy Who Knew Too Much, then go to: for a guided tour of the site's key pages.

There are many more posts on this site than are indicated in the side bar on the left. As you view the lower pages, others will become accessible to you. Or, just go to the page above and follow any link of interest.


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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 4:00 PM  0 comments

Plagiarism and creativity: original thinker - or derivative copyist?

Is your child creatively gifted? Does your child have new ideas? Fresh conceptions? Original viewpoints? If so, your child could grow into a genius. This presents great promise, but great danger too. You see, it is most likely that your child is surrounded by people who do not think in original ways. The children your child goes to school with may look on his or her ideas acquisitively. The adults your child comes into contact with, may not be paying rapt attention to your child out of altruism, but out of acquisitiveness: the desire to "adopt" an idea that drops from the lips of your child.

Why do I say this? Well, it was my experience in school that whenever I did anything original, whether it be an artwork, a story or a creative idea of any kind, that others would imitate me, pretty quickly. It was disheartening to see echoes of my work in others. Worse still, however, was to see my childhood work, as a child artist, made into advertisements years later. Presumably my fellow students, or others who had seen or heard about the works, had used my ideas later, for personal, professional and monetary gain, claiming them to be their own. It was sickening to see. Why am I sure that the origin of the advertisements lay in knowledge of my works? Simple: the idea, and composition of the images were the same in every significant way. I don't believe in coincidence in matters of art. There is an infinity of possible imagery. If someone reproduces all distinct elements of your work, they have not done so by some independent miracle. They have stolen your work.

A British artist has even built his reputation on ideas lifted directly from an unguarded conversation I had, while at Cambridge. We were at the same college. This man has become famous on the basis of stolen ideas: he is, in effect, an artistic fraud. Such a matter is very difficult to pursue. He would, of course, deny the conversation in question - and pursuing it is a very expensive course of action, legal fees being what they are.

So what should the parent of a creative child do, if they wish to prevent the sorry circumstances above from becoming their life story. Firstly, advise them to be circumspect as to whom they discuss their ideas with. Nothing is more easily stolen than an idea. It seems sad to urge them to such caution, in their young and supposedly free lives - but people have long memories - and the people they share their childhoods with can easily profit later in life from the ideas they acquired from your child.

I cannot think of anyone at my school who was not essentially derivative in outlook. Much the same can be said for most of the people of Cambridge University. Therefore caution is to be advised at all stages of your child's education. Don't think that the academic staff at University won't find "inspiration" in your child's thoughts either - for that type of plagiarism happened to me too.

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

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 3:28 PM  6 comments

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Creativity, self-expression, and time pressure

Today, an uncle-in-law died. He was a very sweet natured and humble man, a quiet presence in any crowded room, but one who seemed always to mean well. At the time of writing I do not know his age, but it was not great. No greater than mine, perhaps.

His death reminded me of a story. When I was at Cambridge University, amidst the dullness of a place which largely ignores its students, I was told the life story of a young man at my College. Well, not the man himself, but his father. You see, his father had always harboured the wish to be a writer: it was his special love. He would think literary thoughts, jot notes, and ponder plots. Then he met a woman, a woman who became the mother of my fellow Cambridge student. Meeting the woman was a wonderful thing - but it soon led to a complication: pregnancy. My friend had been conceived. This led to a scramble for a "serious" job, by his father, who had to shelve, for the time being, the dream of becoming a writer. He found work at a carpet company: a steady, if somewhat less than interesting job. He was good at the work, however, but found himself rather busy, what with being employed, and being a new father. The writing was still in his mind, ideas still bubbled over, to be set aside, "for now". Years passed, and he was no less busy than before. He was good at his job, and received promotion after promotion. Yet, with them came ever more work. There never seemed to be time to write, but he consoled himself with the thought that when he was older, and his child was grown, there would be time. That child grew up and one day, his father was promoted to President of the company. Suddenly, he found himself able to delegate. His work load slackened and he actually found that, though he now had the highest position in the company, he had plenty of free time. He began to write, to let well up a lifetime of longing to be a writer. The words came aplenty and all looked good.

Then he had a heart attack and died.

He had not finished a single literary work in his lifetime. He had lived a life postponed.

His son, who was telling me this story, had resolved never to let the same thing happen to him. He had decided to be a comedian. So, instead of postponing this wish, he was working in a pizza restaurant to support himself, (this was after he had left Cambridge) and was doing comedy gigs the rest of the time. He was not about to postpone his life away. I lost contact with him, and do not know what became of him. That he did not become famous is clear - but that he had also lived his dream, instead of dreaming his life away, is also clear. He did not become as his father had been: nor should you - or your children. If you have a desire to create something, or indeed to be anything, the best time to start is now. There is never a better time than that.

(For an overview of the blog site, and an introduction to Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, a scientific child prodigy, and nascent genius, and his gifted brothers, go to: )

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:32 PM  0 comments

IQ testing: to test or not to test?

IQ has proven to be a controversial subject since the invention of its measurement in 1905 by Alfred Binet. Binet produced an intelligence scale and proceeded to measure the intelligence of people against it, but it wasn't until 1912 that William Stern coined the term Intelligence Quotient and proposed stating intelligence in this way.

Yesterday, I was asked my opinion of intelligence testing by a reader, and I answered him or her - for it was an anonymous comment - in the comments after my previous post about homeschooling. However, since remarks often get lost in comments, I am readdressing the matter here.

IQ tests can reveal useful information about a person's ability - but at the same time there is much that they do not speak of. People have elevated intelligence tests a little too much over the past century and have lost sight of their essential limits. I will look at what they do well - and what they don't do at all.

IQ tests propose to measure g, a general intelligence factor, by setting a number of tasks, mostly verbal, logical and mathematical, though some tests include spatial tasks, as well. Through one's performance on these tests, which are characteristically successively harder throughout the test, a magical number is produced at the end: an IQ. This number has been taken in our culture to be of great significance, a means by which to rank humans from the smartest to the dumbest.

What real world validity does this idea have? Well, IQ correlates quite well with academic performance and with real life job performance. It also, rather strangely, correlates with general health, longevity and socioeconomic status. So, it is measuring something, however indirectly, that has a real world effect.

What does a high IQ say about a child? It says that the child's convergent reasoning ability - the ability to converge on a single answer in problems that have but one answer - is greater than his age peers. The higher the IQ, the rarer is that ability. An IQ of 130 indicates a child - or adult - that is moderately gifted - and is present in about 1 in 44 of the population. An IQ of 145 indicates highly gifted and is present at about 1 in 1,000. An IQ of 160 indicates exceptionally gifted and is present at about 1 in 10,000. Finally an IQ of 180 indicates profoundly gifted and is present at the rate of 1 in 1,000,000. Higher IQs are rarer still.

High IQ is very useful for people who work in professions where this kind of thinking is at work - law, accountancy, and medicine, where, oddly, the mean IQ for members of these professions is 128 each. The mean IQ of researchers is only 131 - 134 depending on the study looked at. So, clearly, any child who is gifted has all professions open to them.

Yet, there is something important that IQ does not speak of: creativity. Genius is not fully captured by IQ tests. Most geniuses have high IQs, but most people of high IQ are not geniuses - in fact, almost none of them are. Why is this? It is because creativity requires a very different kind of thinking than what is measured by IQ tests. The ability to come up with a new idea is NOT the same as the ability to solve a problem in an IQ test. There is not really any relationship there.

Thus what does it mean if your child has a very high IQ? It means they are very likely to do well in school, and quite likely to do well in life. They will have access to the widest range of jobs and they will be able to do well at those jobs. But it does not mean that they are going to be the next Einstein, Goethe or Shakespeare. The gift required in those areas is a different one. They MAY indeed by the next Einstein, Goethe or Shakespeare - or indeed Leonardo da Vinci - but the evidence of an IQ test is not enough to show that this is so. To be as great as those thinkers of the past, one would have to possess a special creative gift in an appropriate area. If that gift is present, it should be obvious to an observant parent - and, if nurtured, it could blossom into something wonderful. Such special gifts don't necessarily require a very high iq to support them. So, if your child does not have a high iq, but perhaps has a more moderate one, don't despair - for that does not mean that your child might not be a great musician, or artist, or might possess any number of gifts.

There are, in short, children who are gifted on IQ tests, who are good at convergent reasoning. Then there are children who are good at creative tasks, and who could shine in a creative pursuit. They may not be "gifted" according to an IQ test - but they are very much gifted people. Then there is a third group of people who are both gifted in terms of IQ and gifted in terms of creativity. These people have what it takes to be a true genius.

(For a guide to the blog site, and 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 @ 3:30 PM  14 comments

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Photographic memory: myth or fact?

Memory is one of the key attributes of high intellectual performance: without it, there is nothing to be thought about it. We all know people who seem to show "good" memory, but how good can memory be?

Recently, about a couple of months ago (I will find the exact date and upload it), we took Ainan Celeste Cawley, 6, and his two brothers, Fintan Nadym Cawley, 3, and Tiarnan Hasyl Cawley, then a few months, to the Singapore Art Museum.

We began a detailed tour of the paintings, going from one to another, trying to see them all. It had been about two years since our previous visit to the museum, and we thought that Ainan would, therefore, enjoy seeing the art museum again. However, he appeared to have no interest in the paintings at all. Ainan and Fintan ran around treating the art museum as a playground.

This went on for about half an hour. Finally we came to one painting, at the edge of a partition, jutting out into the body of a hall.

Ainan stopped in his running, suddenly and said: "That one used to be about books. All the others are the same as before."

My wife and I looked at each other, and realized the truth - only one painting in these galleries was different to the ones he had seen on his first visit. Every painting was the same, in the same position - except for one, which had, unaccountably, been exchanged for another.

Ainan had remembered the position and content of an entire museum full of art, which he had seen but once, in a cursory fashion two years before. Not only this, but he had noticed the one change - and had been able to say what the original painting had been about.

What is a photographic memory? Does Ainan have one? Whether or not he does, it is certain that he is able to recall a large number of random images, and their positions, two years later - and to know the content that they had had. Whatever such a memory is called, we were left somewhat stunned at this evidence of visual memory. I have met enough children to know that memorizing the contents of a museum at one glance is spectacularly unusual. More unusual still is to hold that memory for years - and to be able to comment on its content years later.

We had our explanation as to why Ainan wasn't interested in the museum, the second time around: he knew it already - and none but one was new. He was bored, with the repetition.

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

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:35 PM  8 comments

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Considering Homeschooling: education at its best?

Ainan Celeste Cawley, 6, has been in primary school for almost a year now. During that time he has learnt nothing really, that he did not already know. The only things he has learnt are those matters of his personal interest that he has followed in his own time, and largely by his own effort: the sciences, in particular the hard ones.

What, then, is the purpose of school? Everyone speaks of "having peers" - but are the children he is at school with his peers? Can they truly understand what he says when he speaks his mind? Adults can't even follow him when he speaks what he is really thinking. The torrent of scientific ideas, references, theories and information is too fast and too great to be readily followed. I have often found myself asking him to repeat himself so that I can grasp his intention. Yet, when I do so, I always find that there is strong reason in what he says - and good sense - along with a great deal of original scientific insight.

How many children, therefore, are his peers? From what I have heard, he has not even one peer in school. It is clear that his fellow students benefit from his presence, for he has the habit of teaching them science, and telling them all about it. It is, I suppose, his way of planting the seeds that might lead to them being able to converse with him one day, in his areas of interest. However, this educative experience is a one way flow. There is no means by which he can learn from them.

Homeschooling seems an obvious solution. His teacher would be a man of similar interests and former abilities: his father...but then how is one to manage the home finances? There is juggling to be done, arrangements and sacrifices to be made. It is all rather difficult. Why should we be considering this path? Because the schooling provided by nations everywhere, is not schooling at all, if your child is a genius, a prodigy or highly, exceptionally or profoundly gifted.

My son is learning a lot about boredom from school, but little else. That is not how it should be.

If any reader has experience of homeschooling or is in a similar dilemma, please feel free to share your insights. Thanks.

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

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 6:02 PM  16 comments

On helping grow an audience

First of all, thanks for visiting. Second of all thanks for reading. However, thirdly, I would like to thank you, in advance, for recommending this site to others so that I can grow an audience. This is a new blog - and my first blog. Your help in making it grow would be much appreciated. If you have a site of some kind, why not link to this one? Presumably you have an interest in giftedness if you are on this page: well, others share your interest please mail a link to your friends. Thanks very much.

(For an overview of the site and an introduction to Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, a scientific child prodigy, go to: )

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 8:15 AM  4 comments

Here's...Daddy! (in Singapore)

Singapore is not known for its coolness and here you can see me sweating a little under the incessant heat.

I am Valentine Cawley, father of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 6, a scientific child prodigy - and his two brothers, Fintan Nadym Cawley, 3, and Tiarnan Hasyl Cawley, 8 months. If you have wondered about my name, it is because of my date of birth: the 14th of February. I was born in London, of Irish parents and grew up in Ireland and England: two more contrasting worlds could not be imagined, in ways too many to describe in a sentence or two.

I went to school in London - I shan't name it as yet, since the experience was not a happy one. If one word were to characterize the place it would be "hostile." After that, I spent three years at Cambridge trying to find a teacher who wanted to teach. I found only one. If I were to choose one word to characterize that University, I would say: "neglectful."

My life has been varied and I have worked as a Government Physicist, at 17, an Arts magazine editor and founder, at 22, an event promoter, an actor, a writer of two books (well, three, if you count one presently unfinished), a teacher and many other jobs in between. I have also been interviewed on CNN, by Richard Blystone, for my performance art piece, "Lord Valentine the Misplaced." I was covered by Reuters, too. The piece was global news, appearing in newspapers and magazines, too. For a while, thereafter, I found myself recognized in places such as London and New York. It was a strange experience - but more of that, one day.

If asked what was my most satisfying creative work, I would have to say my first book - for no modern book is as ambitious as it, nor as complete. It is as long as War and Peace, but altogether different from it. I hope to see it one day on a shelf other than my own - many of them. We will see.

(For an overview of the site and an introduction to my son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, six, a scientific child prodigy, and his gifted brothers, please go to: )

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 1:49 AM  11 comments

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