Child prodigy

person who, at an early age, develops one or more skills at a level far beyond the norm for their age

A child prodigy is a child who is very smart at an early age. They can do things that average people can only do when they are adults. Child prodigies are often musicians or mathematicians. A child prodigy does not always grow up to be a world-famous genius. Some of them lose their exceptional gifts in adulthood.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Prodigies change

  • The composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a child prodigy. He could play the harpsichord when he was three, and by the time he was six his father was taking him on concert tours to show off his son's talent. Fortunately Mozart did grow up to be a world-famous composer.
  • The composer William Crotch was also a child prodigy. He could play God Save the King with both hands on the piano when he was two. But Crotch did not become famous like Mozart. He just grew up to be a good musician.
  • There may have been many other child prodigies who never became clever adults at all, or who died before they could become famous. Sometimes their childhoods are very difficult because people expect so much of them.
  • The great German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss was an exceptional child prodigy. It is said that when he was three he saw a mistake his father had made when adding up the wage bills. Another famous child prodigy was the Irish mathematician William Rowan Hamilton. At the age of 13, Hamilton was not only a brilliant at math but also spoke 13 languages.
  • Zerah Colburn was the first of several children known as "mental calculators." Zerah was born in 1804 in Vermont. At age six, before he could read or write numbers, he could multiply a two-digit number by a two-digit number in his head. At age eight, he could compute 8 to the sixteenth power. His answer was 281,474,976,710,656. By the time he was 10 years old, Zerah's father took him to cities all over the United States to display his amazing abilities. He was also already well known in Europe. His abilities declined as he got older. Later he wrote an autobiography about his life and his unusual skills.