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More math/science prodigies in the future?

  1. Feb 2, 2016 #1

    tgt

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    It's a fact that there are more people in maths and science then ever before. This includes more students as well as more academics at Universities. Many of the students and even academics marry each other. They will then have children who may turn out to be prodigies in a discipline related to their parents. For example, look at the top academics in any field and it's likely their parents were in those fields as well. So we will be seeing more freaks in the future. What do people think about this?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 2, 2016
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 2, 2016 #2
    Do you mean prodigies?
     
  4. Feb 2, 2016 #3

    tgt

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    Yes or geniuses.

    I'm talking more the children of Gen X and Y.
     
  5. Feb 2, 2016 #4

    StatGuy2000

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    tgt, I disagree with the very premise of your original post, specifically that the top academics in any field likely have parents who are in the same field. That may be true for some, but it is hardly a rule by any means whatsoever even looking back historically. For every case of families of, say, mathematicians (e.g. the Bernoulli family), you have people like Gauss, whose parents were poor peasants (his father was a bricklayer, and his mother was illiterate). Among my own cohort who graduated with me in our undergraduate program in math and statistics, I recall only 4 (out of ~30-40 students) had parents who had studied math.

    I should also mention that my current girlfriend is the daughter of a math graduate (her mother) and an engineering graduate (her father), but she's currently working on her PhD in sociology.
     
  6. Feb 2, 2016 #5
    I would say that having parents in some kind of STEM field can be a huge advantage, all else being equal. This is all going to be anecdotal, but for what it's worth: I grew up in a rural town with no science/technology community to speak of, and it wasn't fun educationally. We had a fully functional chemistry lab in our high school that we didn't even use once. I tried to self-educate but the public library doesn't exactly carry textbooks, and no one knew what the heck I wanted when I asked. My mom meant well, but she couldn't really tell the difference between a pop-science book for teens and the sort of thing that would have furthered my education. When I got to college, I found maybe hald of my classmates in our (small, ~20 students) physics program had parents in engineering or chemistry, who helped them with homework and projects from the time they were a little kid. I suspect that the fraction of science students with parents in a similar field isn't exactly representative of the general population. Perhaps more importantly, these kids had a way better sense of how to navigate their way through the educational system than someone like me, the first university kid in my family.

    I get that my experience was about a lot more than my parents: resources, community, etc. But it's hard for me to buy the idea that a couple of STEM parents isn't an advantage, all else being equal. I had to swallow a lot of jealousy when I first walked into my undergrad research advisor's office, plastered all over with pictures of his eight-year-old daughter holding her science fair prizewinning thermoelectric generator.
     
  7. Feb 2, 2016 #6

    tgt

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    Newton was another such person but they are exceptions.

    Look at the top mathematicians and scientists today. I bet over 90% had parents from both sides (with at least one side educated in a science related area) who are educated (not necessarily educated in the same fields as the child nor with each other).

    I do agree that having both parents educated doesn't guarantee the child will be very smart nor work in the same area.
     
  8. Feb 2, 2016 #7

    micromass

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    It's time for some evidence.
     
  9. Feb 2, 2016 #8

    StatGuy2000

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    I agree that having a parent in some kind of STEM field can potentially be an advantage, in that seeing an example of a parent in some kind of technical field may provide an inspiration to, as well as some familiarity with, the types of careers that STEM fields can open up. At the same time, I'm not certain if the advantage is any more overwhelming than having more generally educated parents to begin with, particularly those who are both nurturing, highly involved in their children's education, and who encourage their children's interests in whatever field they ultimately choose to pursue.

    Just as a personal example, I graduated with a masters degree in statistics, and I am the only person in my immediate family who graduated with a STEM degree -- my father studied East Asian studies and political science, my mother studied art & design and worked as a bookkeeper, and my sister studied human resources and psychology. However, both of my parents strongly stressed the importance of education and encouraged me in my various interests, and I would think that involvement contributed to my choosing to study math.
     
  10. Feb 2, 2016 #9

    StatGuy2000

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    tgt, as micromass said, do you have any evidence to back up the bolded part of your quote above? As I've just posted earlier, I'm another counter-example, and I'm far from being an outlier.
     
  11. Feb 2, 2016 #10

    tgt

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    But are you a top mathematician/statistician or scientist? My claim regards only those top people and their parent's occupation.

    I can't back up my claim with evidence only through my limited sampling and reading. It is a gut feeling but a good one I suspect.

    I for one am similar to you. My mother excelled in the humanities but not maths. My father didn't graduate from high school. His mother was an accountant. I am pure maths/theoretical physics oriented. My parents wanted me to go into business but I'm not into that sort of thing.
     
  12. Feb 2, 2016 #11

    micromass

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    OK, so it's rubbish. Can we get this locked now please.
     
  13. Feb 2, 2016 #12

    tgt

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    Does every discussion in this forum need to be backed up with statistical evidence?

    Ok how about can anybody name a living (top mathematician or physicist - lets say with a Wikipedia entry) who have both parents not educated or both educated but not in maths nor science?

    I can't think of any at the moment.
     
  14. Feb 2, 2016 #13

    Evo

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    Took me 18 seconds. Ok, he's recently deceased, but he's enormously famous and known to just about all and an inspiration to many.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Sagan#Early_life

    Locked.
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2016
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