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 +

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Long term ambition for children.

Ainan is not a child without long-term ambitions. Perhaps too long term, at times.

A few days ago, he turned to me with a thought on his lips.

"Dad...I want to plant a Redwood tree and a Kapok, and watch them grow. Then I could see one giant tree, and one tree with big buttresses."

I found it funny to hear him say such a thing, for I, too, am prone to rather long term ambitions.

"Well, you might have to wait a while: I have heard that some Redwoods can live 4,000 years."

He considered that for a moment. I interrupted his silence. "You never know...the way technology is going, you should live a long time."

"Perhaps 140 years, I think." he assessed, fairly. "So I could see the tree growing for 131 years." he said, subtracting one year for the time between now and his imagined planting of the trees.

"Yes. They should be a fair height by then."

I could see him trying to satisfy himself with that, knowing that, in all likelihood, he could only see a small fraction of the lifespan of the trees he wished to plant. He seemed to come to terms with it. To a child so young, 140 years must have seemed like a fair deal. (Though it doesn't seem so long to me...).

Remembering our conversation, I did some research today I learnt that Ainan's ambition is not so hopeless after all. Redwood trees are actually very fast growing in the right conditions, so, given his putative timescale, he could actually live to see one become rather large. A typical Redwood has a lifespan of 400 to 2,500 years, with some sites speaking (how accurately I do not know) of specimens reaching 4,000 years. However, in the early years they grow very fast and can reach good heights before slowing down somewhat. Typical heights reached are 250 feet, but again, some sites speak of peaks of 375 feet.

As for Kapok trees (otherwise known as Silk Cotton Trees), they have a lifespan of around 500 years - so he could see a much greater fraction of their lifetime. For those unfamiliar with the Kapok, it is rather impressive and its base is supported by wide buttresses that reach out from the trunk to the ground below. It is quite startling. They can become trees of great bulk.

Though young, Ainan looks ahead to the vista of his life yet unlived and has plans for it. He is not idling in the present, but already thinking long term. I think this is a good trait. It is the foundation of most great achievements. True geniuses tend to set themselves projects which others would not touch, simply because of the sheer timescale involved. They are life works. Just like Charles Darwin's investigations in support of the Origin of the Species, and his theory of evolution - his whole life was committed to one, massive project. Such is the thinking necessary to much great change. Ainan is already, in his way, showing this propensity.

Perhaps one day, he will pick a project that will occupy him for much of his life. I only hope he chooses well - and that it brings him fulfilment.

In the meantime, of course, he can watch trees grow: funny boy.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and one month, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and seven months, and Tiarnan, two years exactly, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, 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 @ 1:33 PM 


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