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, January 14, 2010

Where creativity is to be found.

Recently, in Malaysia, I have encountered a strange idea. Well, it is strange to me. The idea is almost a religious belief, so strongly is it held, by those in whom I encountered it. It goes like this: "No-one who does not have a PhD can possibly do research."

Wow, I thought, on first hearing this view, expressed. Somewhere along the way, those who think this have come to confuse the ability with the credential: the latter is not the former and the former can exist without the latter.

This belief that no-one is empowered to think creatively, in science, without a PhD, is a dangerous and mistaken one. Were it to be believed and acted on, many good people, with good brains and good ideas, would never be allowed to do any research. This would be a great loss. There is no reason, at all, why someone who has never done a PhD cannot contribute interesting scientific work. I, myself, did a couple of interesting research projects at 17, for the British government (at NPL). I certainly did not have a PhD - but I did invent a scientifically useful device, as one of my projects. Not having a PhD certainly did not stop me from being able to do that.

I understand the anxieties of those who appoint researchers, however. They wish to be sure that someone can do research. In their minds, the PhD is evidence of that ability. However, just because this is so, that does not mean that other forms of evidence do not exist. Someone may have written and published research papers or invented things...these are all evidence of scientific creativity and are enough in and of themselves to show that someone should be able to do research.

It is apt, I think, to look with broader eyes on people, lest narrow vision preclude good people from contributing good ideas and good projects, because they haven't jumped through all the "right" hoops. If someone is creative and clear thinking they have all that is necessary to do research. They don't need a piece of paper to prove it.

So, I would suggest that recruiters look a little more broadly at what people have to offer. There can be some very good non-standard candidates out there. Indeed, I am sure that there are many potentially prize-worthy researchers, sitting in the non-PhD pile on the average human resources desk. Typically, however, they will never get a chance to show what they can do. Why not give them that chance? After all, Einstein didn't have a degree when he contributed his first four seminal papers to the world...Would you dismiss his work because he didn't have PhD after his name? Some would...

(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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IMDB is the Internet Movie Database for film and tv professionals. 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 @ 7:09 PM 


Blogger Christine said...

I am reminded of the Wizard of Oz. The story is really about governments. Dorothy's friends wanted a heart, courage, and brains. At the end of the story they received gifts from the Wizard: a testimonial, a medal, and a diploma. In reality, they had those qualities all along, they only thought they needed them from a ruler.

5:40 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

A very funny and apt comparison, Christine. Yes. It is like Oz, around here, in the academic world. The other funny thing is that people with PhDs look down on people without if they are a superior being. Of course, the PhD does not measure their merit as a "being" at all...and is not evidence of superiority over anyone, without knowing more about the person they feel superior to.

It is a funny business.

Thanks for your comment.

9:15 AM  
Anonymous Wilzuard Yonan said...

Hi Valentine,

It's nice to find someone who has the same idea just like you. I am also think like that. Somehow people judge others from their looks (using a tuxedo, having a high degree, lots of publication, etc..), not their 'real ability'. Even thought I don't like this, you cannot change the world alone.. :)

3:37 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

I am happy to hear that you agree with me, Wilzuard. Too often people judge on superficial matters and miss the depths within.

Thanks for your comment. Carry on seeing the truth!

7:06 PM  
Anonymous PhD Research Paper said...

Many institutions limit access to their online information. Making this information available will be an asset to all.

6:04 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes. I agree. All human knowledge should be on the internet...except for copyrighted books etc for which authors need to make a living. Then society would advance more rapidly.

Thanks for your comment.

2:36 PM  

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