- #1

oahz

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Is this also true for mathematicians and physicist?

Could anyone give examples of great mathematicians and physicists who started late in life?

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- Thread starter oahz
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- #1

oahz

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Is this also true for mathematicians and physicist?

Could anyone give examples of great mathematicians and physicists who started late in life?

- #2

e.bar.goum

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Is this also true for mathematicians and physicist?

Could anyone give examples of great mathematicians and physicists who started late in life?

How "late in life"? Most perfectly successful career physicists start university at the same time everyone else does - 17 or 18.

- #3

oahz

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How "late in life"? Most perfectly successful career physicists start university at the same time everyone else does - 17 or 18.

Well, they may start university at the same age as everyone else. However, If they have parents who taught them the basics of mathematics at the age when most kids are learning how to read from their parents, then will that have an effect?

For example, I heard that Chomsky taught his children set theory at a really really early age.

- #4

e.bar.goum

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Well, they may start university at the same age as everyone else. However, If they have parents who taught them the basics of mathematics at the age when most kids are learning how to read from their parents, then will that have an effect?

For example, I heard that Chomsky taught his children set theory at a really really early age.

This varies, I'm sure. Parents that encourage an interest in science in their children will mean that their children see science as a possible career choice. On the other hand, I have colleagues whose parents absolutely discouraged an interest in science. It depends. I certainly don't think it is required. You don't need to be a child prodigy to be a successful physicist as an adult.

- #5

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But it's not a necessary condition. There's a myth that floats around out there that you have to have completed a PhD by the time you're 26 in order to truly become a physicist. But the fact of the matter is that age doesn't really matter unless you're talking about extremes.

We often get posts here from people who discover a little later in life that they enjoy physics or mathematics and express a concern that they're starting too late to really pursue that interest.

From my point of view whether or not you pursue an academic interest is a lot more about the constraints on your individual life. It's perfectly plausible for someone who's 30 to enroll in university, work his or her way to a PhD in 10 years, compete for post-docs and then tenure-track positions and eventually become a professor (subject of course to the same small probabilities as anyone else). You don't see this happen all that often because (i) most people who have an interest in academic do discover it earlier, (ii) later in life people have different constraints - partners to consider, families to support, debts to pay off, etc., and (iii) the probability of becoming a professor, even for someone who is quite bright, is rather low to begin with.

- #6

gleem

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However, If they have parents who taught them the basics of mathematics at the age when most kids are learning how to read from their parents, then will that have an effect?

Whether early parental intervention can produce a great scientist is certainly possible but I believe that the child must have an innate interest and ability in the subject to proceed to the pinnacle of their field. The parents can give the "tools" for success in a field but it is up to the child to pick them up and use them. Conversely if the parents do nothing the child who has the interest and ability will find a way to suceed

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newjerseyrunner

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- #8

pmr

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You could definitely argue that it's still better to start young, but I don't think it's any more catastrophic than getting to a movie a few minutes late. For the few minutes you'll look goofy asking everyone to catch you up on what has been happening, but by the end of the movie you'll basically be on the same page as everyone else.

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