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, June 05, 2008

Jeanne Louise Calment: successful aging.

As a counterpoint to my tale, the other day, of meeting with an old colleague who was unable to quite place me, I would like to write of Jeanne Louise Calment, the longest lived, verified person in the world.

Is decline of mental function to the point of dementia a necessary part of aging? Does the mind expire before the body? This is a common perception of aging, but is it true?

Jeanne Louise Calment is a good test case. If the mind declines with time, then the one of longest life should show the greatest decline (on average). A neuropsychologist, K. Ritchie was very interested in Calment's mental function and in February 1995 he reported his findings, upon testing her over a six month period, in the British Journal of Psychiatry. The results are most inspiring.

Despite being 118 years and 9 months old at the time of the tests, her verbal memory and language fluency were comparable to people of the same education in their 80s and 90s. She showed no disturbance in frontal lobe function, at all - and no evidence of any progressive neurological disease whatsoever. Any decline in function over her lifetime appeared to have occurred long ago and there was no ongoing decline, at all, over the period in which he examined her. In short, not only had she not "lost her marbles", she wasn't in the process of losing them either. Her mind was clear and not fading.

Jeanne Louise Calment's example shows that, for those who escape neurological disease, such as Alzheimer's, dementia is not inevitable - time, alone, will not deprive you of your mind. Indeed, it is possible to outlive a typical person by 50 years (as Jeanne Louise Calment did) and still have good mental function and memory.

Calment's example inspired me, with regards to what the distant future might hold - and I hope she inspires you too. She lived an enviable life, I feel, not just for the length of it - but for the fact that she was compis mentis to the very last day. She lived to 122 years and 164 days old and, in her long life, attended Victor Hugo's funeral and met with Van Gogh (whom she took an instant dislike to). What a surreal life.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and five months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and ten months, and Tiarnan, twenty-seven months, 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, wunderkind, wonderkind, genio, гений ребенок prodigy, genie, μεγαλοφυία θαύμα παιδιών, bambino, kind, niño, gênio criança, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 10:00 PM 


Blogger Miao said...

I heard she recorded a rap CD as well.

11:22 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, and she cracked jokes too. She was recorded as saying to journalists: "I only have one wrinkle - and I am sitting on it."

She was calm about life and death, too. When she was asked on her 122 birthday what she thought of the future she said: "Short." She died five months later.

I wonder how long it will be before someone else lives longer than her? She has held the record since the 1990s.

11:37 AM  

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