Some of the most famous names in history got their start when they were youngWolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756-1791
Perhaps the most well known child prodigy, little Wolfgang was playing the harpsichord at three and composing his own music at five. When he was six, Mozart headed out on a three and a half year tour across Europe with his father and sister, both talented musicians in their own right. The crowds loved the tot’s talent, which became even more apparent when at age eight he wrote his first symphony. Good thing Mozart started early because his life
John Stuart Mill, 1806-1873
At age three this famous Brit and utilitarianism proponent learned Greek and began studying philosophy. By eight he knew several dead languages, had read all of Herodotus’s Histories and could quote from Plato’s Dialogues. David Ricardo, then a well-known philosopher, often called on the teenage Mill to discuss political economic theory. The first of Mill’s many major works was published while the whiz kid was still in his teens.
Pablo Picasso, 1881-1973
As soon as pint-sized Picasso could speak he demanded a paintbrush. And he really didn’t want to let go—the only way his parents could get him to attend school was if he was allowed to draw the entire time. By 12 he had a total grasp on fine art fundamentals and was creating photo-realistic portraits. Pablo’s dad, a capable artist as well, admitted that his son surpassed his skill at just 13, when the wunderkind was already
Kim Ung-Yong, 1962-
This Korean phenomenon could hold conversations at six months, read four languages by age four and could complete complex calculus problems by five. From ages three to six Kim sat in on college physics classes and at seven, NASA invited the adolescent stateside to work on their campus while earning a Ph.d. Though Ung-yong left the public spotlight, the professor has published nearly 100 papers on hydraulics in scientific journals. Did we mention he also has the highest IQ
Felix Mendelssohn, 1809-1847 Often referred to as the 19th Century Mozart, young Felix began playing the piano at six, held his first public performance at nine and wrote his first composition at 11. By the time he was 17, Mendelssohn had finished one of the most famous works of the Romantic period, the overture to "A Midsummer Night’s Dream." Haven’t heard the tune? We bet you know his "Wedding March," featured within the piece.
Carl Friedrich Gauss, 1777-1885
As a child, this German mathematician and scientist had a photographic memory and could sum hundreds of numbers in mere seconds. By his teens Gauss was making the first of his many groundbreaking discoveries. The Duke of Brunswick was so impressed upon meeting the youngster that he offered to pay for Gauss’s continued education. Thank goodness: Carl ended up making major strides in algebra, number theory, astronomy, geodesy and electromagnetism
Tiger Woods, 1975-
While Wayne Gretzky and Pelé make for tough competition in the sports prodigy category, Tiger Woods takes the cake. This ten-time PGA Player of the Year was featured on The Mike Douglas Show at two, appeared in Golf Digest at five and won the youngest division of the Junior World Golf Championships at eight, a year before he was technically old enough to compete. Tiger’s dominance was underscored when at just 15 he became the youngest U.S. Junior
By 16 this Frenchman could speak 12 languages and had presented a paper concerning the Coptic language before Grenoble Academy, an organization composed of several universities. By the end of his teens, Champollion had added several more tongues to his impressive list, was a professor of history and could decipher hieroglyphics. Shortly thereafter he published the first translation of the Rosetta Stone and started the entire field of modern Egyptology.
Marie Curie, 1867-1934
While female prodigies from the days of yore were likely as prevalent as their male counterparts, most were discouraged from pursuing academics. However a few—like two-time Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie—managed to make the history books. The daughter of two teachers, Marie taught herself how to read French and Russian, could solve complicated math problems and had mastered complex memory skills by four. After saving up for five years, she put herself through college in Paris, discovering radium
William Rowan Hamilton, 1805-1865
By his early teens this Irish braniac spoke 14 languages and understood complicated mathematics. He wrote what eventually became a groundbreaking paper on optics before finishing high school. The gifted half-pint went on to make important discoveries in algebra and create a number system that’s vital today in everything from computer graphics to quantum physics.