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Eleven Amazing Savants Show the Power of the Human Brain

Savant Syndrome is a condition in which an individual who is mentally disabled in some capacity possesses a phenomenal skill in another area. It is a true display of irony: the most amazing capabilities of the human brain are revealed when something goes wrong with it.

11. Kim Peek

Who He Was:

Kim Peek was an American mega-savant and the inspiration for the movie Rain Man.

His Ability:

Peek had a remarkable memory. He remembered every detail of every book he read and was able to recall facts and trivia on a multitude of subjects. Even more incredible was the way he gathered this knowledge; Peek could read two pages at the same time, the left page with his left eye and the right page with his right eye, in eight to ten seconds.

After Rain Man:

Following the release of Rain Man, Peek received a great deal of attention, which made it possible for him to gain confidence and increase his social skills as he grew older, a unique trait for a savant.

10. Henriett Seth F.

Who She Is:

Henriett Seth F. is a Hungarian writer and artist.

Her Ability:

An autistic child prodigy with a genius IQ, Henriett’s first creative outlet was music. She played a few instruments as a child but moved on to abstract and surrealist art by thirteen. At the age of 18, she was awarded for her talents in art and literature. She has published two books about living with autism and has won many literary honors.

A Rarity:

Only 16 percent of savants are female, making Henriett even more of a rarity than her male counterparts.

9. Orlando Serrell

Who He Is:

Orlando Serrell is an “acquired savant,” someone who acquires a savant-type skill following an accident or injury.

His Ability:

Serrell has the ability to perform calendrical calculations of amazing complexity. He can also recall the weather, as well as where he was and what he was doing every day since the accident that brought on his skills.

The Accident:

Serrell is an acquired savant because he did not possess any special skills until he was struck by a baseball on the left side of his head when he was ten-years-old. At first, he suffered from frequent headaches. When they went away, his abilities appeared.

8. Gilles Trehin

Who He Is:

Gilles Trehin is a French artist and author.

His Ability:

At the age of 12, Trehin started to build the city of Urville… in his mind. He gave the fictional city history, geography, culture, and economy. To illustrate his thoughts, he has created over 300 drawings of different districts.

The Book:

Trehin has published a book about Urville, describing every aspect of it in words and pictures. Here is a video showcasing his creation:

7. Alonzo Clemons

Who He Is:

Alonzo Clemons is an American animal sculptor.

His Ability:

Clemons can create an anatomically-correct sculpture of any animal he has seen, whether in real life or in pictures, in perfect detail. He is able to do this even after seeing only a glimpse of a two-dimensional image. His works are of such high quality that they have sold for as a much as $45,000.

The Accident:

Unlike many savants, Clemons was not born with his disability. Rather, he suffered from a severe brain injury as a child which left him developmentally disabled and an acquired savant. Here is a video showcasing his ability:

6. George Widener

Who He Is:

George Widener is a prodigious savant and self-taught artist.

His Ability:

Widener combines his vast abilities in mental calculation and image-making to create complex works of art. These include complex calendars, numeric palindromes and numerically decorated technological cross sections and cityscapes. Widener’s art is very versatile in both material and subject matter.

Fame:

George Widener has been the subject of multiple movies and books, and many galleries have displayed his art. You can see some of his work here.

5. James Charles Castle

Who He Was:

James Castle was an Idaho artist and book binder. He was most likely autistic and thought to have been deaf.

His Ability:

James Castle was a self-taught artist who achieved regional success during his lifetime and international success decades after his death. His creations were incredibly unique, as they were all made with found items. He sharpened sticks and twigs to make pens. For ink, he mixed stove soot and saliva. Paper was scavenged from discarded materials such as junk mail, cardboard packaging or used textbooks. The thread, yarn, string or twine that he used to bind his books was also found, never purchased.

His Art:

Though Castle’s creations were widely considered to be folk art, it is actually a lesser-known type of art known as Outsider Art, art that is self-taught and does not drawn on any artistic influences.

4. Stephen Wiltshire

Who He Is:

Stephen Wiltshire is an architectural artist who is autistic.

His Ability:

They call him the “Human Camera.” He can draw any city landscape with perfect detail after only seeing it once. He has traveled the world and flown around many different cities in helicopters just to draw them. Time and time again, he has shown no city is too complex for his talent.

Growth:

Though he was a mute as a child, Wiltshire has since learned to communicate on a basic level in his adult years.

3. Derek Paravicini

Who He Is:

Derek Paravicini is a musical prodigy and a blind autistic savant.

His Ability:

Paravicini has absolute pitch and such a strong musical memory that he can play a song on the piano after only hearing it once. Beyond that, he can transform a song into any style or key seamlessly. In his many performances, Paravicini will take requests to highlight this skill.

Perplexing Disability:

The same fingers that can play a piano perfectly cannot button a shirt or show a number.

2. Daniel Tammet

Who He Is:

Daniel Tammet is an adult autistic savant with synesthesia.

His Ability:

Tammet’s skills reside in mathematics and language. He became famous for reciting Pi to the 22,514th decimal place. His mathematical abilities come from his synesthesia which enables him to “see” integers up to 10,000 as individual entities, with their own shapes, colors and textures. This same sight applies to the results of any calculation.

Tammet is also able to speak eleven languages, most famously Icelandic, which he learned in seven days for a television show. He is even developing his own language, which he calls Manti.

What Makes Him Special:

While every savant is amazing in some way or another, Tammet is by far one of the most incredible. What makes Daniel so unique is that he is able to tell people exactly how he does what he does. By describing what he sees in his head, he is able to further scientists’ knowledge and understanding of the savant syndrome. In that regard, he is not only remarkable, but invaluable.

1. The Future You

New technologies are currently underway that may someday give us all savant like abilities. Transcranial magnetic stimulation can “quiet” certain areas of the normal brain, allowing the true potential of other parts of our brain to show through. Here is an excellent video demonstrating some early research.

Images:

http://egyenloesely.freeblog.hu/files/seth_f_henriett_mozaik.bmp

http://judithhoffman.net/blog/images/OtherPeoplesArt/castleconstruction.jpg

http://www.wisconsinmedicalsociety.org/_SAVANT/_PROFILES/george_widener/_media/images/widener_large.jpg

http://www.newscientist.com/data/galleries/mg20227111500-savant-art/clemons_2horses.jpg

http://static.neatorama.com/images/2008-09/urville.jpg

Comments (3)

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  1. Janko says:

    Thank you. interesting and inspiring :)

  2. […] Eleven Amazing Savants Show the Power of the Human Brain | DegreeScout (tags: brain health mind inspiration genius ability savant mental human-brain) […]

  3. reZa says:

    Very interesting! :)

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