12 Prodigious Savants...SHOWING US WHAT WE ARE ALL INHERENTLY CAPABLE OF ONCE WE ACTIVATE OUR CODONS
12 Prodigious Savants Savant syndrome is a rare condition in which people suffering from mental retardation, autism or schizophrenia nonetheless possess an unusual ability in a single field, most often relating to music, art or numbers.
1. THOMAS `BLIND TOM' BETHUNE (1849-1908)
Although his vocabulary was limited to fewer than 100 words, Blind Tom could play more than 5,000 pieces on the piano, an instrument he had mastered as a four-year-old slave on a Georgia plantation. At the age of 11, he performed at the White House for President James Buchanan. He learned each piece after hearing it only once; his repertoire included Mozart, Beethoven, Bach and Verdi.
2. ELLEN BOUDREAUX (1957- )
A California resident, Boudreau, also blind, shares with Blind Tom Bethune the ability to learn a musical piece after hearing it once. Despite an IQ of only 50, she can play rock'n'roll songs in minuet form and vice versa. She performs on both piano and guitar.
3.-4. GEORGE and CHARLES FINN (1939- )
Known as the Bronx Calendar Twins, they first attracted national attention when they were featured in a 1966 Life magazine article. The brothers can give the day of the week for any date over a period of 80,000 years. They can also recall, in detail, the weather for any day of their lives.
5. THOMAS FULLER (1710-90)
Born in Africa, Fuller was taken to Virginia as a slave in 1724. He was a calculating wonder who could easily multiply nine-digit numbers. At the age of 78, Fuller, who was never able to learn to read or write, was asked, `How many seconds has a man lived who is 70 years, 17 days, and 12 hours old?' Ninety seconds later he gave the answer - 2,210,500,800. Informed that he was wrong, Fuller corrected his interrogator by pointing out that the man had forgotten to include leap years.
6. LESLIE LEMKE (1952- )
Like many prodigious savants, Leslie is blind, was born prematurely and possesses an extraordinary memory. He sings and plays the piano and has appeared on numerous television shows, including 60 Minutes and Donahue. He has also been the subject of two films, An Island of Genius and the Emmy-winning The Woman Who Willed a Miracle.
7. JONATHAN LERMAN (1987- )
Lerman, who was diagnosed as autistic at the age of 3, has a tested IQ of 53. He began drawing at 10, shortly after the death of his maternal grandfather, Burt Markowitz, who had always insisted that Jonathan had promise. His charcoal drawings, which critics have compared to the works of George Grosz and Francis Bacon, sell for $500 to $1200. A book of his artwork, Jonathan Lerman: The Drawings of a Boy with Autism, was published in 2002.
8. KIM PEEK (1951- )
A mathematical savant, Peek, who lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, was the inspiration for the character played by Dustin Hoffman in the 1988 Academy Award-winning film Rain Man. His true story is told in the book The Real Rain Man (1997).
9. CHRISTOPHER PILLAULT (1982- )
Born in Iran, Pillault is unable to talk, walk or feed himself. He discovered painting in 1993, using his hands, since he can't use his fingers functionally. His paintings, featuring striking, ethereal figures, have been exhibited in France, Italy, Japan and the US. He is also a member of several artists' societies.
10. MATTHEW SAVAGE (1993- )
At the age of three, he was diagnosed with Asperger's disorder, a condition similar to autism. Savage is a professional jazz musician, who leads his own trio, has performed at jazz festivals throughout the US and Canada, and recorded three CDs. He was described as `amazing' by jazz legend Dave Brubeck. Savage is also prodigious in mathematics - he is learning advanced algebra at the age of 11 - and geography - he represented New Hampshire in the US National Geography Bee in 2004.
11. RICHARD WAWRO (1952- )
Wawro, who is autistic and moderately retarded, started drawing at the age of three. He held his first exhibition in Edinburgh, Scotland, when he was 17. Most of his works are landscapes and seascapes based on images that he has seen just once in books or on television. Wawro can remember where and when he drew each picture. He was the subject of the documentary With Eyes Wide Open (1983).
12. STEPHEN WILTSHIRE (1974- )
Although Wiltshire, who lives in London, has the IQ of someone half his age, he is able to glance briefly at a building and then draw it in exquisite detail. Wiltshire has produced three books of drawings, one of which, Floating Cities, was a number-one bestseller in Great Britain.
NOTE: The best book on savant syndrome is Extraordinary People, by Darold Treffert, MD. It is also worth noting that there exists a school - Hope University, in Anaheim, California - devoted solely to educating gifted developmentally-challenged adults.