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How a Difficult Pregnancy May Result in a Child Prodigy

Science By
The famed child prodigy Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart performs for a crowd of awestruck adults. (Getty Images)


By the age of six, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was performing on instruments including the violin and harpsichord while touring Europe. (He had also completed a composition.) Mozart was by no means the first or the last child prodigy. Still, he is one of the individuals who makes us wonder: Why do some people show so much talent at such a young age?

Michael Jawer has explored this subject for Nautilus and found a potentially intriguing trigger. Among these young achievers, Jawer suggests that a “significant influence is exerted by the lived experience and immune systems of their mothers when pregnant with them.” Beyond this, he notes that “individuals can acquire savant-like abilities almost instantaneously through a stroke, lightning strike, or other head injury.”

The resulting conclusion: Could a child’s extraordinary talent be created by an event during the pregnancy that was downright traumatic? Jawer writes:

“The role of prenatal experience in the development of prodigies is a relatively new area of study, with attention beginning to be focused in the mid 1980s. One finding gleaned so far is an apparent over-representation of complicated pregnancies and premature births. For instance, the mother of Jake Barnett (a renowned math and physics prodigy) was hospitalized multiple times before giving birth. In another notable case, the mother of an eventual prodigy had an accident while pregnant, but not just any accident—she fell as she was helping her husband fight off an intruder they surprised trying to break into their house.”

Obviously, traumatic events for a pregnant woman are incredibly dangerous. Odds are good they would just lead to harm for both the mother and her unborn child. Yet it’s also possible they’re a way to explain the child prodigy who is otherwise inexplicable. To learn more, click here. To listen Mozart’s earliest compositions (including one at age five), check out the video below.