Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Genius' performance on tests?

  1. Oct 21, 2011 #1
    There are always people arguing here about IQ and "geniuses" etc.. So I've came up with a relatively interesting question on this debate.

    The people who made history.. Glaois, Newton, Einstein, Niels Bohr, Riemann, etc..

    Were "geniuses" the ones getting 95+ on their test, or were they the exceptional yet creative ones that knew how to tackle a problem?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 21, 2011 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    I dpn't know about those guys, but I have friends who are some of the best research mathematicians in the world, and some of them mentioned they did not do so well on their GRE's. They got good grades though, and no one was in doubt about their qualifications.
  4. Oct 21, 2011 #3
    I'm fairly sure they all excelled academically, not to say that they didn't try at all though. With natural talent must come work ethic and all of the "famous geniuses" dedicated the vast majority of their time to learning and mastering their particular field. But, to get to the level that Galois, Lagrange, Newton, etc. were at on a pure intellectual level you probably just have to be born with it.
  5. Oct 21, 2011 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    If you have read Riemann's biography you know how different conditions were then. He ha a hard time even qualifying to receive a tiny honirarium to teach university students even though he always came across as a genius.

    Around WW2 also people like Andre Weil, among the handful of absolute best mathematicians in the world, could not find any employment in the US. I do not know whether this was anti semitism, (I don't even know if Weil was Jewish), or if there were really poor opportunities for brilliant people in the past.

    But this question may sort of assume there was the same sort of standardized testing going on in the past.
  6. Oct 21, 2011 #5
    Perhaps a better correlation instead of using historical figures would be using IMO/Putnam winners. With this, it's easy to see that quite a few famous mathematicians have been past IMO medalists or Putnam fellows: Milnor, Shor, Elkies, Tao, Borcherds, Perelman, Ngo Bau Chau, Green, .... The list goes on and on.

    However, it's clear that not all great mathematicians are good at competitions (or perhaps never tried), so don't take this to be a limiting factor.
  7. Oct 21, 2011 #6
    You're not going to get anywhere with this because one, everyone's opinion on this will differ. And two, there are many things to take into consideration even with the specific names you mentioned. Your only bet would bet would be to design and run an experiment. Aside from that, the argument from both sides will just be nonsense coming out of the "blowhole". Even then, there are several factors surrounding that nonsense like, how a person thinks.
  8. Oct 21, 2011 #7
    I always say and will say, a person is way more than a number and name of school they attend.
    I know people who graduate top of their high school classes and can't throw together an essay. I know people who got A's in a class but wouldn't even be able to answer a simple question on the subject. There are people who attend well known schools, you read their work and say to yourself "WTF!?"? A person is more than their grades and school they attend.
  9. Oct 21, 2011 #8
    Newton was a regular man like you. What stops you from doing what your fellow man can do? Newton doesn't = God or a supernatural being. He was a human being like you. Your style of thinking hampers advancement. But hey, you're entitled to your beliefs. Whatever you say
  10. Oct 21, 2011 #9
    What you are saying here is one of the factors I feel surrounds the names of individuals the OP provided
  11. Oct 21, 2011 #10


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Well, Galois failed the entrance exams to his chosen college, then went to a lesser college.
  12. Oct 21, 2011 #11
    Lol. I guess he's an idiot lol. Like I say, a person is more than GPA and name of school :-) many people were told they suck and won't amount to anything only to prove people wrong later on
  13. Oct 21, 2011 #12
    Oh OP, here's something you're leaving out and not considering when it comes to standardized tests. There are some children who from a tender age are schooled by their parents. So by the time such people enter school, they will be way ahead of their class. Now if a test is given and such a student does well on the exam they are labeled genius. The test doesn't take into consideration that early "start" and such a person will be looked at as a genius by their classmates because their classmates as-well. :-)
  14. Oct 21, 2011 #13


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    In my opinion of the word, no label of genius is meaningful when applied to tests or school marks. Genius is indicated through accomplishment. i.e the proof is only in the pudding.
  15. Oct 21, 2011 #14
    Best response so far. This discussion is really pointless.

    Even if you were a 4 time gold medal winner at the IMO and started taking grad courses at 15, there is no guarantee you will live up to the hype in math. Yes you will probably be good, but not certainly a modern Euler Gauss or Newton.
  16. Oct 21, 2011 #15
    This. Nuff said. :cool:
  17. Oct 21, 2011 #16
    What about Charlie Epps? :smile:
  18. Oct 21, 2011 #17

    I always found it interesting to hear of child math prodigies, and then to never hear of them again. There seems to be a limit to the progress of human understanding, and it doesn't matter at all if you hit that limit at 5 or 14 or 70. Most people never hit that limit, and those that do aren't really guaranteed that they'll make any further progress. I suppose quite a few prominent scientists made it to that level early, simply because the sciences had always interested them and that's just what their lives were always about, but I see no reason why it be necessary that you win IMO gold or other prestigious achievements to make real scientific progress.
  19. Oct 21, 2011 #18
    That depends on whether he ever manages to prove his cognitive emergence theory :smile:
  20. Oct 21, 2011 #19
    :rofl: unfortunately some people don't see it that way
  21. Oct 21, 2011 #20

    :rolleyes: the actor? :rofl:
  22. Oct 21, 2011 #21
    Hahaha, there we go!
  23. Oct 21, 2011 #22
    So you are telling me there is nothing special about Newton or Euler? They just were THAT amazing (do you understand how amazing?) by pure hard work ethic? Natural intelligence is a factor, and I used to believe that it wasn't but some people are just born with it.
  24. Oct 21, 2011 #23
    Yep! He's a human being like yourself and I; not some god! Should we congratulate them on their achievement and respect their achievements? Absolutely. But you and I are also capable of achieving things just like them. If everyone in the world thought, "I wasn't born with it so I can't be good at it" we wouldn't have some of the things we have now.

    But then again, here you and I are wasting precious time on Physics Forum when we could devote that time to studying in our respective fields. Newton didn't have some of the distractions we have now.

    Ultimately, it all boils down to "be careful of your thoughts for they become your words, and be careful of your words for they become your actions". Sit there and keep thinking you weren't born with it so you wont reach a certain level :devil:
  25. Oct 21, 2011 #24
    Well of course there was something special about Newton and Euler, but I have no doubt that there are thousands of mathematicians alive who could outperform both in "Intelligence" tests and Mathematical Olympiads. They had the right skills, at the right time. Newton didn't invent gravity, his work was the culmination of nearly 1000 years of thought in the natural sciences. He didn't even "invent" calculus, i mean the concept of infintismals was considered by archimedes. Many still believe that it is to Leibniz we owe for the calculus. Even so, neither mathematician put the work on a rigorous grounding, it worked but Newton did not understand why it did so. It took the development of the limit and other great mathematicians to do so.

    My point is, none of us live in a vacuum. In the future we should put the smartest child on earth determined by genetics, on an isolated island in the pacific and come back in 20/30years and see if he has formulated a new string theory.:tongue:
  26. Oct 21, 2011 #25
    Who cares how they did on tests. I want to know more about how they approached everyday tasks: doing the dishes, cleaning, logistics, organization, etc. In one of Feynman's biographies he talked about little things that he wanted to change in certain tasks to make them better. It wasn't only physics, he saw things different in everything in life. That's most fascinating to me.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook