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 +

Monday, February 19, 2007

Bestselling books for a genius boy

Imagine a world in which every child was like Ainan: what sort of books would be bestsellers?

Well, a clue lies in what happened in Kinokuniya, a bookshop written of below, where an incongruous scene unfolded.

Ainan is a slight boy, of delicate build, aged seven years and two months. I let him read what he wished in the bookshop and anyone who had observed him would have been a little surprised at what he chose. Firstly, he placed his hands upon a large scientific encyclopedia and browsed through that. Nothing surprising there.

Next he wandered into the academic section of the bookshop and set about digesting a book on the latest and anticipated developments in Nanotechnology: a densely written academic treatise. He liked it well enough to still be clutching it as he wandered into the chemistry section. Once there, he took a very large tome from the top shelf (about five foot high) and set it down on the floor where he sat down to read it.

I looked more closely at what he had chosen. It appeared to be an American University text, on "Molecular Science" - meaning, of course, Chemistry, which is the molecular science. He flicked through it, absorbing images and information much as a wine connoisseur might imbibe a good wine: with relish and gusto and a certain heightened awareness of his subject matter.

"Do you like that book?" I asked. He just nodded, in his quiet way, words being unnecessary.

"Do you think it would teach you anything?"

He shook his head in his quiet way. He already knew the material.

"Then why do you like it?"

"I like the reactions."

It was notable that it had clear drawings of molecular structures and elucidations of he favoured its presentational style but, in his view, it had little to teach him.

Soon, I would have to find him more specialized books so that he can continue to expand his understanding of his chosen science.

I am so accustomed to Ainan's choice of reading matter, that it no longer surprises me, but on more than one occasion, he has drawn astonished gazes from adults who see exactly just what this little boy is so interested in.

If every boy was like Ainan, the books that now sell the least, would sell the most. The most technical of tomes, in the most difficult of sciences, would top the bestseller lists...and surely science and technology would be racing ahead, borne up by so many scientific minds at work. It would be a very different world to the one in which we live. In this world, a little reader like Ainan is subject to many a curious gaze and whispered aside. I am not sure if that is a better world than the one imagined.

For now, Ainan reads the scientific works of others, in preference to any other kind of reading material. Perhaps one day, however, it will be others reading what he has written. Little would they know where it all began.

(If you would like to read more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and two months, or his gifted brothers Fintan, three and Tiarnan, twelve months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, intelligence, IQ, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, baby genius, savant, the creatively gifted, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 7:34 PM 


Anonymous Anna Stanton said...

Hello Valentine

I was very interested by your post and indeed by one of the labels you have assigned to it: reactions to giftedness. My interest stems from the numerous times my son Jack has been approached by adults, on some occasions in the library, over his abnormal abilties and interests. You mentioned Ainan draws attention from passing adults, have any or many of them gone so far as to confront him alone about it?
This always requires Jack to defend his position regarding his right to read his chosen material or his right to know obscure biological facts as was the case at the our last visit to the Natural history museum.

I know curiosity is probably (I would like to think) the only motivation for their questioning, but it leaves Jack with many questions about why it bothers these people ( one middle aged woman was quite forthcoming with her disaproval) and I find myself increasingly accused of 'hothousing'.

I wondered whether you have experienced any similar situations and how you've dealt with them. I don't want Jack learning to be apolgetic over his character and aptitudes.

Sorry for ranting

Anna Stanton

1:10 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hello Anna,

Thanks for your post and your interest.

I do not know whether Ainan has been confronted by any passing adults since he has never spoken of it. However, I do recall an incident at his school in which a teacher he had never met before asked to be given the molecular structure (which he had invented)drawn on paper which Ainan clutched in his hand, at school one day. Ainan thought it unusual that someone he had never met should make such a demand of him. He didn't give the man the piece of paper but what I thought most peculiar was that one corner was torn off, as if it had been snatched away from someone who had been holding it. Odd.

"Hothousing" is a word you will hear from people who have no idea waht such a gifted child is like. Such children learn by themselves, they are not forced to learn. Ainan has taught himself Chemistry, in the main, he has not been forced to do so. I am sure it is the same with Jack and his biological/anatomical interests.

I think Jack should be made aware that given his unusual abilities, few will understand. Perhaps later you might let him know that some will even be angry when they see what he is reading: why? Jealousy. They may perceive his superiority as some kind of personal slight. I hope he doesn't get too much of that, but he should be made aware that the problem is not his, but theirs and deserves no apology therefore. Let him be who he is - whatever anyone else thinks.

P.S: I will ask my wife if anyone has mentioned "hothousing" to her: because no-one has done so to me.

Kind regards

8:48 AM  

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