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 13, 2007

Gerhard Ertl, Nobel Prize for Chemistry 2007

Given the subject of Ainan’s central interest, it seems appropriate that I should mention Gerhard Ertl, Emeritus Professor at the Fritz Haber Institute of the Max Planck Society, in Berlin. He has just been awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his ground-breaking research into surface chemistry.

Now, like many areas of basic research, there are often many applications that go beyond the obvious. Ertl’s extremely precise work, under conditions of vacuum, has revealed the inner workings of many chemical mysteries. Ertl has provided an answer as to why iron rusts, the destruction of the ozone layer, how fuel cells work, the operation of catalytic converters (through the oxidation of carbon monoxide on a platinum catalyst) and other catalysts such as the iron used in the Haber-Bosch process for fixing of nitrogen fertilizers. His work began in the 1960s and has had an extensive influence over all areas of surface chemistry.

This is the first time I have heard of Gerhard Ertl – a name known, I suppose, beforehand only to his colleagues in Chemistry. It is this way with many Nobelists. Their work is of great importance to mankind – but they labour in the relative obscurity of their respective niches. It is only when they win a major prize, such as the Nobel, that we become aware of them. I am not sure that that is the best situation. I, for one, would like to know of the names and personalities of those who shape our world – and not have to rely on the decision-making powers of a body in Sweden to bring them to my attention. I would rather have known of Ertl beforehand – and all the other great scientific thinkers at work, today, whose names may never be known, by the public, unless they are recognized by a Nobel Award.

Congratulations to Gerhard Ertl. Unusually, in these times of scientific co-operation, in which group work is common, Ertl does not share the prize with any other scientist.

Oh, and Happy Birthday, too: the prize was announced on his 71st birthday.
(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged seven years and ten months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and three months, and Tiarnan, twenty months, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 6:56 PM 


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