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The 5 Most Brilliant Children in History

From world-renowned composers to elementary school surgeons, these kids changed the world.

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Parents can brag endlessly about high test scores and honors courses — this group of children rises high above the rest. From world-renowned painters and peace negotiators to elementary school surgeons, take a look at some of the most brilliant prodigies to have ever walked the Earth.

Shakuntala Devi, The Human Computer

Devi’s father was a traveling magician in India and had an eye for talent — particularly if it was real. Onstage from the time she was three years old, Devi could “effortlessly memorize” a shuffled deck of cards, find the cube root of a number, name the day of the week an audience member was born based on their birthdate. A profile in New York Times Magazine reports Devi was so gifted that she ultimately became the sole earner for her family, traveling all over the world and performing unprecedented feats of “mathematical greatness.”

Akrit Jaswal, The Child Surgeon

Jaswal was 7-years-old when he first performed surgery on the hands of a young burn victim in India. Obviously lacking a medical degree, Jaswal gained notoriety for this incredible feat and his IQ of 146. Jaswal’s genius landed him on the Oprah show, which reports he’s since gone on to pursue a master’s degree in applied chemistry.

Mikaela Fudolig, The Physics Whiz

Fudolig started an experimental college program for extremely gifted children while the rest of her peers were wrapping up the fifth grade. Graduating summa cum laude at age 16, the Filipino physics whiz — who was bullied by her peers — went on to earn her master’s and Ph.D. shortly after. Today, she’s on track to become a lawyer.

Sufiah Yusof, The Troubled Mathematics Prodigy

Brilliant but pressured by her family, Yusof was admitted to Oxford at age 13 to study mathematics. Called a prodigy by media around the world, Yusof was skewered by tabloids — first for running away from the university after sitting an exam at the end of her third year, then later when it was reported that she had become a sex worker. When she initially ran away, she wrote an email that reportedly cast blame on her controlling father, saying she was finished with the emotional and physical abuse the two had subjected her to. She was placed with a foster family in the U.K. and did not finish her degree. In a 2015 interview, she said she doesn’t regret the years at Oxford, or the ones that came after.

“There was a time when the media interest in me was ridiculous. I was getting a lot of emails a day saying they were going to make a documentary about me whether I consented or not. They were going to track me down, film me and reveal my address,” Yusof said. Today, she’s working on an engineering degree at a university she wants to keep private.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, The Classic Composer

The most well-known on this list, Mozart was a prolific composer of the classical era whose influence is still felt and heard in countless scores and elements of popular culture. Born in Austria in 1756, he was a musical prodigy as a child, playing at age three, traveling and performing at age six, and regularly composing complex pieces by 13, though his first music was written when he was just five. By the year 1784, he was at the height of his career, appearing in dozens of concerts and performing in unconventional venues around Europe; in the latter years of the decade, he fell into financial hardship, appearing less and less, ultimately dying in 1791 at the age of 35. Some speculate that he was poisoned by his Italian rival, Kapellmeister Antonio Salieri, a legend popularized by Peter Shaffer’s play, Amadeus. Though there is no clear evidence for this, it is known that some of the composer’s most beloved works, including the opera The Magic Flute, were composed between 1790 and 1791.