For what it’s worth, you should be very skeptical about news stories on child prodigies. They often make wild, overstated claims about the prodigy’s intelligence and imply that they are just about to make some tremendous scientific discovery that will revolutionize our knowledge of the universe. I’ve seen a number of news stories recently about Jacob Barnett, and they all look a little suspicious to me. These articles claim that he has an I.Q. of 170. The fact is though that I.Q. tests top out at 160. An I.Q. test has to be normed, and you can only do that by giving it to lots of people. It’s necessary to give the test to about 100,000 people just to norm it so that it will give an accurate I.Q. up to 160. A claim of a higher I.Q. means that this supposed high I.Q. comes not from a test but from someone looking at the person’s accomplishments and somehow, some way deciding that this means that they have some given I.Q.
Some of the news stories claim that he has a higher I.Q. than Einstein. Do I really need to explain that Einstein never took an I.Q. test? By the time that I.Q. tests began to be given to significant numbers of people, Einstein had already published his three papers in one year where he came up with major accomplishments on special relativity, quantum physics, and Brownian motion. He was just publishing his paper on general relativity about that point. Nobody was giving him an I.Q. test. Any claim of what I.Q. Einstein had is based solely on someone looking at his accomplishments and guessing at his I.Q. in some mystical fashion.
There are a lot of people every year who enter college several years before most people. Entering at 12 isn’t actually quite as rare as you might think. Child prodigies in general do pretty well later in life. They don’t tend to do enormously better than smart people who go through the educational system at the normal pace though. Some of the top people in any given field were child prodigies, but a lot more got their degrees at the normal rate. I could give some examples from my own knowledge of how child prodigies tend to do fairly well but not vastly better than other people, but I’m tired of typing and I’ll hold off on that for the moment.