A Study of
WHEN I first planned to study early prodigious achievement I envisioned undertaking a simple and circumscribed investigation: I wanted to test sixteen prodigies (four composers, four chess players, four visual artists, and four mathematicians) on a number of intellectual and psychological tasks. I quickly discovered, though, that there were two major problems with my carefully devised plan. First, bona fide prodigies were much more difficult to locate than I'd anticipated and when I did find them, the children didn't always accommodate my experimental design by hailing from the needed domains. Second, while it was reassuring to confirm that the children performed on the psychological tests as I had predicted, I felt as if my experiment provided little insight into the hows and whys of early prodigious achievement. I found myself continuing to visit these children and their families, seeking a richer and more detailed picture of the prodigy phenomenon. It was in this way that my original experiment evolved into a series of case studies.
Psychologist Howard Gruber once warned me that he thought it was impossible to do an adequate study of more than one case at a time. I took the comment seriously, as his masterful study of the development of