Nature's Gambit: Child Prodigies and the Development of Human Potential

By David Henry F E Ldman; Lynn T. Goldsmith | Go to book overview

NOTES

Chapter 1. Out of the Usual Course of Nature
1.
This definition is from Webster's Third International Dictionary.
2.
Robert Graves, Claudius the God (New York: Vintage Books, 1962, pp. 558-59).
3.
Eberstark reflects on his own prodigious abilities in his Introduction to Steven B. Smith's book, The Great Mental Calculators: The Psychology, Methods, and Lives of Calculating Prodigies, Past and Present (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983). Eberstark's quote can be found on page xi.
4.
Fred Barlow, Menial Prodigies (New York: Greenwood Press, 1952, p. 47). Barlow's book is a collection of short biographies documenting the lives and abilities of children with prodigious mental abilities. As an example of exploitation of prodigies, consider Barlow's description of the childhood of George Parker Bidder (1805-78). An English calculating prodigy, Bidder and his father toured the country giving performances. According to Barlow, "This was so profitable for the father that the boy's education was entirely neglected. Even at the age of ten he was only just learning to write; figures he could not make" (pp. 29-30). Bidder was luckier than many other children of his era who displayed curious talent: he did eventually receive an education, becoming an engineer with a distinguished career. His son, George Parker Bidder, Jr., was also a calculating prodigy.
5.
Olaf Stapledon's novella, "Odd John," about an individual with a superior intellect who nonetheless lives on the fringe of society, offers a fictionalized view of how unusual ability may threaten the status quo. Odd John is disdainful of the rest of humanity, calling them "cows," at the same time that he is unable to function within the society established by those of more modest abilities. He eventually connects with others of similar, extraordinary abilities. This group of superior, yet outcast, individuals go off and begin a new colony which, presumably, will reflect their higher level of ability and sensitivity, and which will provide the basis for further human evolution. See Olaf Stapledon, Odd John and Sirius: Two Science Fiction Novels (New York: Dover Press, 1972).
6.
See especially Herbert Simon and William Chase's article, "Skill in Chess," in the American Scientist, 63, no. 4 (1973):346-403, and A. D. de Groot's book, Thought and Choice in Chess (The Hague: Mouton & Co., 1965). These treatments of chess and chess ability are not strictly psychometric in approach, for they are not interested in linking chess skill to general levels of intellectual functioning. They are motivated instead by a branch of psychological theorizing known as information processing. Their understanding of unusual ability is nonetheless similar to the psychometricians in the identification of underlying thinking capacities that can account for all levels of performance.
7.
For a discussion of these issues, see David Henry Feldman, Beyond Universals in Cognitive Development (Norwood, N.J.: Ablex, 1980).
8.
I have been reminded that Jung also used the term co-incidence, although for a somewhat different purpose. Jean Shinoda Bolen, a Jungian writer, puts it as follows: "Synchronicity is a co-incidence of events that is meaningful to the participant; thus each synchronistic experience is unique." See her book The Tao of Psychology: Synchronicity and the Self (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979).
9.
Time Magazine, August 5, 1985, p. 55. Ruth Lawrence is a young English prodigy who recently completed her undergraduate studies at St. Hugh's College, Oxford University, at the age of thirteen with honors in mathematics. She is described in the media as a child with an omnivorous intellect and the ability to grasp complex concepts rapidly and with ease. While her accomplishments are truly prodigious, she has not yet—as her tutor has noted— found her own voice in the field.

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