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, July 11, 2009

Computer programming by a child.

Ainan is ever surprising - and that, in itself, is the most surprising thing about him. One would have thought that he would have run out of surprises by now...but no, he hasn't.

One of Ainan's surprises is his ability at computer programming. Yesterday, for instance, my computer was behaving in odd ways. It was "talking" to me, in written words, in response to my typed entries. Furthermore, it was doing things in response to my typing, that I hadn't asked it to do.

I asked Ainan, knowing that he must have done it: "How did you do that?"

"It is simple." he began, obviously believing it to be, before he launched into a very rapid, detailed and utterly incomprehensible description of the programme he had used to do it. He listed the programme from memory (or recreated as he went along...I couldn't tell which), detailing, in a programming language, how to achieve what he had just done. After a while, I tuned out, knowing that attention would not inform me any better what he was saying. Finally, he ended his descriptive download. I hadn't understood a word of it.

"Who taught you to do that? Do they teach that at school?"

He looked at me like I had said something fundamentally silly. Perhaps it was the suggestion that school might actually teach him something.

"No, Daddy." he began with the kind of patience that told me he didn't think much of my question, perhaps questioning its underlying view of the world, "You can teach yourself that."

So, in between all the other things he was doing, in the sciences and maths, in art, and writing, in reading, and playing, he had found time to learn to programme computers, too - in what seemed a very natural way. He did it as if it were as easy as breathing.

I programmed computers, once. I was 17 and working at the National Physical Laboratory, in the UK. I had to create a programme to analyse data, but didn't know the language to do so - so I picked up a programming book and began to read. Three days later, I was programming. However, I was 17, not 9 and Ainan has been programming since at least 8, perhaps younger.

I am left to wonder what other surprises he has for me...and what other things he has learnt without me realizing that he has done so.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and seven months, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, five years exactly, and Tiarnan, twenty-eight 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.

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If you would like to look at my IMDb listing for which another fifteen credits are to be uploaded, (which will probably take several months before they are accepted) please go to: As I write, the listing is new and brief - however, by the time you read this it might have a dozen or a score of please do take a look. My son, Ainan Celeste Cawley, also has an IMDb listing. His is found at: My wife, Syahidah Osman Cawley, has a listing as well. Hers is found at:

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:25 PM 


Blogger rheipler said...

I have a few questions and comments for Valentine Cawley about a previous post concerning Ainan's IQ levels, which (in my opinion fallaciously) estimated his IQ levels in the 200's and 300's. This was strangely determined by comparing his aptitude for chemistry with individuals of various ages. You have failed to realize that skills and trades that one picks up during their lifetime and the times and ages that one learns them is not to be confused with the raw intelligence that one uses to gain them. Although chemistry and other "hard sciences" are more commonly associated with the higher intellectual functions, with the reasoning you used one may draw similar IQ scores for prodigies who play an instrument or paint or draw with levels of competency of over twice their chronological age. Although this reasoning is severely fallacious for the above examples, it is to a large degree fallacious for ainan's chemistry aptitudes as well. Also, ma/ca and ratio IQ's are really not used widely or held in very high regard by psychologists these days. The idea is just too vague and vacuous. It was an idea suggested by Binet quite a while ago, and we have come a long way. The study of neural networks suggests that as soon as we can explore the microscopic structure of the human brain and its sensory pathways, including neural connectivity and neurotransmitter concentrations, in vivo e.g., through new medical scanning procedures we can achieve what amounts to a purely biological measure of intelligence. The method you used in that post is flawed and archaic. For example, how can one give a ratio IQ score to a profoundly gifted person in their mid to late teens, and beyond? How can one discern the difference between a mental age of 26 and one of 29, for example. After a point, the brain slows and stops developments that are associated with reasoning, intelligence and higher mental functions that are ever so abundant in childhood, adolescence and teens. This method is only useful in limited cases, namely small children.
Anyways, I eagerly await your comment and apologize for what may seem to be a rant. I am a big fan of Ainan, actually. I'm currently a 14 year old university student studying for undergraduate degrees in psychology and biology, and Ainan has been an inspiration to me. I am also curious about where you see it likely for Ainan to be in the next few years up through his teens, academically and career wise. I was also wondering what kinds of mathematics Ainan knows. Several areas of study within chemistry depend quite heavily on mathematics, such as physical chemistry or quantum chemistry, so it might be a good idea to focus on math alongside chemistry, as he might encounter these advanced topics in the next few years, if he continues to stay with chemistry. Thank you for your time.
- Ron H.

11:18 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for your comment.

However, I have to disagree with your view that my analysis was fallacious. It is you, not me, who lacks a fuller understanding of intelligence. I have taught for many years, students of all ages. This is something that you, at 14, cannot have done. So, you see, I look at students with experience – and come to an understanding of intelligence through that.

Different subjects are learned at different ages, because the brain is not ready for them at younger ages, except in exceptional circumstances. Furthermore, certain subjects, such as the hard sciences, correlate very well to intelligence. Thus, they are good indirect indicators of underlying intelligence. Further still, every subject has an average IQ of its typical practitioners – using this data, as I have, it is possible to come to a good estimate of IQ.

Regarding ratio IQs…I feel it is a pity that deviation IQs are more heavily promoted these days, because the mental age revealed by ratio IQs is very useful to understand children – which is what it was meant for. Your criticism that it is not helpful with adults changes nothing with regards to its very great utility for children.

Are you in the US? Where are you studying? It is great that you are studying those two subjects at your age. I wish you well in your future. Let me know me more about your studies. I would be interested.

Ainan has already developed an interest in maths and programming and can already do very interesting things in these areas. Sometimes I don't know how he does what he does. I think he should be fine with physical chemistry if that proves of interest to him. Thanks for the tip.


12:00 AM  

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