25 Amazing Savant Minds

Posted by on November 30, 2011

Savants, those legendary masters of mental mayhem. They are blessed with an oasis of talent in a desert of disability and ineptitude. Although they could probably tell you how many thread are in their shoelaces, tying them together would be an almost impossible task. Although savant syndrome is not an officially recognized medical disorder it is perhaps one of the least understood and scientists are still trying to figure out what is going on in the minds of the these amazing savants.
25

Jedediah Buxton

Wikimedia

Jedediah was a mathematical monster. Born in Derbyshire, England he was never properly educated but boy could he count. It has been reported that he once measured the entire Lordship of Elmton simply by walking across the grounds. And not only did he give the measurement in acres (of which there were about one thousand), he gave it in square inches. He was so good with numbers in fact, that he had to invent names for them because no one else had ever found a use for such large quantities. In Jedediah’s head a “tribe” was the cube of a million and a “tramp”, well, that was a thousand tribes of tribes.

24

Orlando Serrell

orlandoserrell.com

A very rare example of an “acquired savant”, Orlando began to exhibit his skills after being hit by a baseball on the side of the head at the age of ten. He soon came to realize that he could perform very complicated calendar calculations and he has been able to remember the weather of every single day since the accident.

23

Rüdiger Gamm

unikz.com

Although not technically a savant because he understands the mechanics of the math behind his calculations, this German born math prodigy is about as close as you can get to savanthood without actually stepping through the door. Despite the fact that his mental abilities didn’t develop until after he turned 21, Rudiger can do ridiculously complex math problems in his head and strangely enough, he can speak backwards fluently.

22

Jerry and Mary Newport

toptenz.com

The couple whose lives were the basis for the 2005 film “Mozart and the Whale” they are both highly functional savants living with Asperger’s Syndrome. Jerry has been labeled the world’s “most versatile calculator” and Mary has a talent for art and piano.

21

Thristan Mendoza

perfectpitchpeople.com

Nicknamed Tum-Tum, Thristan was born in Quezon City in the Philippines and as soon as he was old enough to a drop a beat he has been amazing the world with his incredible percussive talents. Having begun at the age of two he has since been dubbed a “marimba prodigy”.

20

Tommy McHugh

tommymchugh.com

Although Tommy is not really considered a savant in the classic sense, he comes awfully close. An Irish ex-con with a taste for violence he had a brain aneurysm one night and after the doctors managed to save his life he came back to the world with an insane desire to paint. Although he may not be the next Picasso, it’s not his talent that is so amazing, but rather his drive. In fact, it would be hard to accuse him of not making the most of his available space as he fills even his ceilings with his work.

19

Temple Grandin

Steve Jurvetson

A doctor of animal science and a professor at Colorado State University, Temple is a highly functional autistic savant who was featured in Time 100 Most Influential People in 2010. She has used her savant skills and superhuman eye for detail to help design more human animal-handling equipment and she has worked extensively with the livestock industry.

18

Derek Paravicini

Wikimedia

Although he is one of the most talented musicians to ever sit behind the keys of a piano, the same fingers that can play Sweet Home Alabama in almost any musical style at all can barely button his shirt.

17

James Charles Castle

degreescout.com

Unusual would probably be the best word to describe James’ work. Born in Idaho, he was a self-taught artistic savant who would only use random items he found lying around to make his art. For pencils he would use sharpened sticks and for ink he used a mixture of soot and saliva.

16

Gottfried Mind

Wikimedia

This Swiss savant could draw. More specifically, he could draw cats. And draw them he did. He even came to be fondly known as the “Raphael of Cats” due to his peculiar ability.

15

Matt Savage

Charles Haynes

Although this musical wunderkind never received any formal training he has been astonishing audiences ever since he laid hands on a piano at the age of 6. An accomplished performer, he tours the world and performed for heads of state with his band, “The Matt Savage Trio.” He has received many awards and is the only child to ever sign a contract with Bösendorfer pianos.

14

James Henry Pullen

museumofdisability.org

Also known as the “Genius of Earlswood Asylum” James never managed to speak or write more than one syllable in his entire life. In spite of his linguistic setbacks and institutionalization however, his talent for woodwork was evident to all who knew him. Although he was usually quite reserved, he was also stubborn and once reportedly constructed a guillotine like contraption over the door of a staff member’s room. Luckily for his victim it misfired.

13

Henrietta Seth F.

Wikimedia

It has been estimated that only 16 percent of savants are female so Henrietta is certainly a minority within the minority. A native Hungarian, she is an accomplished artist, poet, and writer. Her life has been feature in the documentary “Freedom of Speech” and she has also authored several books.

12

Leslie Lemke

marianuniversity.edu

Leslie is an autistic savant who unfortunately had to have his eyes removed shortly after birth. At six months he was put up for adoption after which May Lemke, a nurse, took him in. Although Leslie needed almost 15 years just to learn how to walk, he learned Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto no. 1 in about 15 seconds after hearing it on television one night. Before long he was playing everywhere from Japan to Scandinavia and he has since made appearances on CBS, 60 minutes, and ABC.

11

Gilles Trehin

urville.com

At 5 he learned to draw and by 12 he had founded a city. Well, not a real city, but pretty darn close. As a child this French savant started to lay the foundations for a city he called “Urville” with some lego blocks he had lying around. He quickly realized however, that legos are a scarce resource and he could expand his territory much more efficiently on paper. Since then he has drawn over 250 painstakingly detailed pictures, created an entire history, and even written a book concerning Urville’s geography, culture, and economy.

David Pegg

About

After helping found the United Nations, the United States, and United Airlines, David consigned himself to a transient life of writing lists and sleeping on park benches.

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  • Alexandre Tremblay

    Aleksander Vinter is pretty dope too he made 10 000 songs in his carrer he’s a musician/dj/producer and he has Savant symptome

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aleksander_Vinter

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  • Orlando

    The fact of the matter is that savant-ability is only recognized in concrete disciplines that leave no room for questions of veracity. Yet for the many would be savants that have succeeded in less precise disciplines such as psychology, theology, and philosophy, the establishment itself disguises it’s authority as lacking “empirical data” blah, blah, blah, under-minding the excellence thereof. How easy to refute genius when you wield the wand of denial in the form obscure forms of plausible deniability via ignorance. Thus why it was said: “Surely you will say… : “Doctor! Heal yourself!”. Not one one single person has ever been recognized in any area of psychology, psychiatry, or philosophy as savant, while the ‘order’ itself nerves to rule and diagnose. Socrates, Gandhi, and “Jesus” were just myths I guess. Yet if you can’t see a glimmer of correlation between functional savant-ability and any of the fore-mentioned than maybe it’s just me being compulsively disordered as usual :)

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  • Adam

    Learned behavior is one thing a gift is totally different, by circumstances or by accident some of these tremendous people have the ability to explain the complex and totally misunderstood nature of our brains

    • Chris

      It depends on what you mean by “learned behavior” and “gift”. Most people considered savants have splinter skills that allow them to memorize various facts (though obscure most of the time) and do specific things with relative ease due to the OCD component of many developmental disabilities that allow one to be obsessive about certain topics or subjects and thus, gain a breadth of knowledge on such subjects. Less common are the “talented” savants who, in their fields of expertise, can learn in the same manner as those with splinter skills but to a much deeper level. What you’re talking about are the prodigious savants, most likely, who can do certain things beyond the comprehension of most individuals who don’t have certain handicaps though yes, they do learn some behaviors as well believe it or not.

      However, it’s important to know that ALL savants should be viewed in the same manner, the ordinary splinter skilled savant may not seem as impressive as the prodigious, and unlocking the key to their abilities will likely do great things for the fields of neurology and psychology, in terms of explaining how the brain can work to full capacity, so I do agree with you on that point!

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  • Enrique

    To George
    Yes nature provide it .Psilocibyne in magic mushrooms, or mezcaline in some cactaceas. and all other entheogens plantas as coca or ayahuasca,toe.etc etc produce savant hability while you are in trance with them.Shamans use them to precicely diagnostics and curative natural prescriptions and some display miraculous psy hability that is useful in many cultures.The use of drugs for entertaining or savant habilities for amusing people that watch TV is a degenerative use of these gifts,like the corrupted scams in fraudulent medicinal touristic tours,religious and mass evangelistic miracles.that bring money to smart people …drugs are like knives that can be used for making things or kill people.For these reason probably is restricted its use Acording Yoga all the super habilities can be developed without drugs or accidents that damage your brain or degenerative anormalities..So don’t knock your head to walls nor be adict to drugs to present yourself in TV
    with a nonsense exhibition of memorizing 20,000 digits of PI, when you are incapable with only 3 of them calculate the area and after the volume of your brain.

  • coltin

    hi my name is cody my math teacher told me about pi and i got interested so he told the class who ever can remember the most of pi they would get a prize so i learned up to57 digits of pi in 50 minutes then i learned 43 after school in about 20 minutes then when pi day came up i said 100 digits and he was very impressed , i got an oatmeal cream pie (totally worth it) and then he went bragging off to the other teachers and when i got in 7th period my science teacher wanted to hear it i said it then he said i han an exxelent brain by the way pi 100 digits is 3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751058209749445923078154062862089986280348253421170679 an that was on march 14 ,2:59 – 3:50 2013 :D

  • Derrick

    I can’t study but I have an ability to talk of anything accurately!! I’m not a SAVANT

  • RVD

    Eli Lilly realised this long ago with the development of Thimerosal in vaccines, which is mercury -and have been producing autism and savants ever since.

  • Josh

    It is already known that non-savants can learn to memorize 20,000 digits of pi. Look up the major system and the method of loci.

    • NO DIGGITY

      Thank you for the only sane, intelligent comment on this lousy piece.

  • george

    what if there is already a drug that can induce sevant abilities? I have had some strange events happen to me but were caused by side effects of a drug!

  • Luiz Felipe

    I can remember more than 150000 commands of my computer, but cant remember mora than 150 people names. I am ultramicrosavant