When I first read about Gabriel See, he reminded me of another kid I had blogged about from the Greater Seattle area who was also a “genius,” Raymond Zheng. But as I read further, I realized that Gabriel is probably a lot smarter:
Ernest Henley, physics professor, dean emeritus at the University of Washington and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, has never met a student quite like him. “Frankly, I have never seen a boy of his age who displays as much intelligence and aptitude for learning,” Henley said. “He is one of a kind.” …He started taking upper-level math classes at the UW in 2009, and in 2010 began taking graduate math classes; this quarter, he’s taking applied linear algebra.
…At age 8, he began teaching himself calculus and physics from sources he found on the Internet. Curious to know how much he was learning, his parents signed him up for the SAT; he scored a 720 out of 800 on the math portion, placing him in the 95th percentile for college-bound high-school students. … Nivala would give Gabriel a textbook on a subject — say, chaos theory — and Gabriel would read the book in a few days. He could then answer specific questions and open-ended questions on the subject. He even remembered the exact page number in the book where certain formulas first appeared, Nivala said, hinting at a photographic-like memory.
Much like Raymond, there are challenges of being such an advance student beyond his age. And of course, just because you are brilliant as a kid doesn’t mean as that kid grows up, that he’ll want to utilize his intellectual gift.
I think the only “genius” of kind of personally knew is when I mistakenly took an honors physics class in college and met Jon Kleinberg, who went on to eventually win a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (“genius award”) in 2005 and the Nevanlinna Prize in 2006 (an award that is given out once every four years along with the Fields Medal as the premier distinction in Computational Mathematics). Scary to think how smart some people are, and it’ll be interesting to see if we hear of similar accomplishments from Gabriel in the future.