Special Report

31 Famous Child Prodigies

Source: Courtesy of Ministère de la Culture Plateforme / Wikimedia Commons

1. Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662)
> Country of origin: France
> Talent: Mathematician

Blaise Pascal, a mathematics prodigy from France, came from a math background — his father was a tax collector and mathematician. When he was 12, the young Pascal figured out that the inside angles of a triangle always add up to the total of two right angles (180 degrees). Three years later, the 15-year-old Pascal wrote an original mathematical work titled “Essay on Conic Sections.”

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

2. Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1648 – 1695)
> Country of origin: Mexico
> Talent: Writer, poet

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, who was born in what is now Mexico, demonstrated extraordinary intellectual capacity at a young age, learning to read at age 3. Limited by gender and her parents’ financial situation from getting an education, Juana went to live with her maternal grandparents in Mexico City. She was a fixture at the city’s library and learned Latin quickly, wrote poetry at 8, and dazzled professors with her intellect. She eventually joined a convent and wrote poems and plays.

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

3. Maria Agnesi (1718 – 1799)
> Country of origin: Itay
> Talent: Mathematician

Maria Agnesi, born to a mathematics professor who taught at the University of Bologna, displayed a gift for learning languages as a youth. By the time she was 11, Agnesi could speak Latin, German, Greek, Hebrew, and Spanish to go along with Italian and French, which she already knew. Agnesi was also very proficient in geometry and ballistics. While still a teenager, she discussed topics in various fields with intellectuals that her father brought to their home.

4. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 1797)
> Country of origin: Austria
> Talent: Composer

The genius of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, composer of such works as “Don Giovanni,” “The Marriage of Figaro,” and “The Magic Flute,” is well documented but no less astonishing. He started playing the piano when he was 3 years old, the violin at 4, and wowed the Austrian royal family with his piano-playing prowess as a 6-year-old. Mozart composed his first symphony at age 9 and penned his first operas while traveling through Italy at age 14.

Source: Courtesy of Musée du Louvre / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

5. Jean-Francois Champollion (1790 – 1832)
> Country of origin: France
> Talent: Philologist

You might remember the name Jean-Francois Champollion as one of the people who helped decipher the Rosetta Stone, the massive stone tablet inscribed in hieroglyphics, Demotic (the language of everyday Egyptians), and ancient Greek. What you may not know is that the renowned philologist was a precocious child who learned Latin, Greek, Arabic, Sanskrit, and other languages by the time he was a teenager.

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