Einstein's SATs and early recognition

From: Michael Vassar (michaelvassar@hotmail.com)
Date: Thu Nov 17 2005 - 15:27:59 MST

Actually, Da Vincy was identified as a remarkable painter at age 14 or 15
and became the apprentice of a one of the famous painters of his day.
Stravinsky, at age 20, acquired an apprenticeship with Russia's most famous
musician. Newton was recognized as unusually able as a child, but if he
conceptualized gravity at age 12 as he later claimed, he told no-one and was
not acclaimed till much later. Leibnitz was recognized as a much more
remarkable scholar in youth, and applied for a doctorate in law, on of
several subjects he had mastered by that time at age 20, but was refused.
Einstein was a bad student, dropped out of school, and failed his liberal
arts exams, but in fact it is a testomony to his extrordinary mathematical
test scores that he was recruited by the Eidgenössische Polytechnische
Schule anyway under the condition that he first finish secondary school.

In other words, by college age all of these examples had been recognized as
unusually talented, surely 99th percentile and probably 99.9th percentile,
but none of them had accomplishments that would be particularly unusual
among say, Cal Tech students or SL4 posters.

A curious demonstration of regression, by the way, comes from Cal Tech's
admissions policy in 1995. In that year, the two schools with the highest
SAT averages among freshmen (both 1470 vs Duke at 1440 and Harvard and MIT
at 1430) were Cal Tech and Harvey Mudd. Obviously, these two schools have
radically different standards. The difference is that Cal Tech doesn't
consider SATs as an admission criterion at all, while Duke and Harvey Mudd
appearently consider SATs almost exclusively, so the SAT average for Cal
Tech students regressed to from the impression they made on Cal Tech faculty
1470, while for Harvey Mudd actual ability regressed from an SAT score of
1470. This difference, as well as the fact that Cal Tech students studied
much more than those at Harvey Mudd or any other school and presumably
benefitted from better professors and a better student-professor ratio
(Equal numbers of faculty and undergrads!) presumably explains the much
greater number of prominant Cal Tech alums relative to Harvey Mudd alums.
The Harvey Mudd student body can probably be seen as the approximate
practical limit to the effectiveness of selecting for IQ. 1/3 of the
student body are national merit scholars, and 40% achieve PhDs, a value
comparable to the 50% rate of MDs+PhDs+JDs among by CTY’s group selected for
99.99th percentile childhood scores in either SAT math or SAT verbal and the
64% rate among children in the 99.99th percentile in both math and verbal
(above the 97th percentile SAT verbal and SAT math scores correlate .55, by
the 99.99th percentile probably much lower). Mudd is about 1/3 the size of
Cal Tech, and half as old. So, how does the level of achievement differ
between the schools? If SATs perfectly predicted Nobel Prizes, Mudd
alumni would have about 1/6th as many as Caltech alumni. In fact, Mudd
alumni total 1, Caltech alumni total 18. Alphabetical lists of
distinguished alumni for the two schools (from Wikipedia) follows.

Harvey Mudd
Gael Squibb, 1961, former director of NASA/JPL's Telecommunications and
Mission Operations Directorate, and veteran leader of numerous unmanned NASA
Michael G. Wilson, 1963, executive producer of the James Bond films.
Rick Sontag, 1964, founder and former owner of Unison Industries, a leading
manufacturer of airplane parts.
Don Chamberlin, 1966, co-inventor of SQL (database query language) and IBM
representative to the working group developing the XML query language.
Robert Kelley, 1967, Nuclear physicist and one of 2,200 members of the
Secretariat of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which was recognized
with the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2005.
Donald Murphy, 1968, head of the Applied Materials Research Department at
Bell Laboratories, Lucent Technologies, and was elected to the National
Academy of Engineering for his research on a variety of electronic
Walt Foley, 1969, founder of Accel Technologies, Inc.
Richard Jones, 1972, former US Ambassador to Lebanon, Kazakhstan, Kuwait,
and Chief Policy Officer and Deputy Administrator of the Coalition
Provisional Authority in Iraq.
George "Pinky" Nelson, 1972, astronaut, flew on three space shuttle
missions, and was the first American to walk in space without a tether to a
Joseph Costello, 1974, chairman and CEO of think3, and former president and
CEO of Cadence Design.
Bruce Nelson, 1974, inventor of the remote procedure call for computer
Susan Lewallen, 1976, a member of the British Columbia Centre for
Epidemiologic and International Ophthalmology and ophthalmologist for
Third-World countries.
Ned Freed, 1982, co-author of the MIME email standard (RFCs 2045-2049).
Jonathan Gay, 1989, creator of Flash software.
Stan Love, 1989, astronaut, currently a "capcom" or communications officer
with the International Space Station.
Scott Stokdyk, 1991, winner of the 2005 Academy Award for visual effects for
Spider-Man 2, and nominee for Hollow Man and Spider-Man.
Michael Elkins, 1993, computer scientist, creator of the Mutt email client.
Sage Weil, 2000, inventor of the webring concept.
Karl Mahlburg, 2001, a mathematician who proved Freeman Dyson's "crank
conjecture" about certain congruences involving partition functions.

Carl D. Anderson, BS 1927, PhD 1930 - Nobel laureate in physics (1936)
Moshe Arens, MS 1953 - former Israeli defense minister and foreign minister
Arnold Beckman, PhD 1928 - Founder of Beckman Instruments and financier of
the first "silicon" company in Silicon Valley, Shockley Semiconductor
Sabeer Bhatia, BS 1991 - Co-founder of Hotmail
David Brin, BS 1973 - science fiction author
Frank Capra, BS 1918 - Filmmaker, director of such classics as It's a
Wonderful Life
Chester Carlson, BS 1930 - Inventor of the photocopier, the foundation of
Chung-Yao Chao, PhD 1930 - The first scientist that captured positron
through electron-positron annihilation. Father of atomic energy enterprise
of China.
Sidney Coleman, PhD 1962 - theoretical physicist
Fernando J. Corbató, BS 1950 - Computer scientist, recipient of the 1990
Turing Award
William A. Fowler, PhD 1936 - Nobel laureate in physics (1983)
Yuan-Cheng Fung, PhD 1948 - Founder of Biomechanics
Donald A. Glaser, PhD 1950 - Nobel laureate in physics (1960)
Juris Hartmanis, PhD 1955 - Computer scientist, recipient of the 1993 Turing
Leland H. Hartwell, BS 1961 - Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine
N. Katherine Hayles, MS 1966- critical theorist
Steingrímur Hermannsson, MS 1952 - former Prime Minister of Iceland
David Ho, BS 1974 - AIDS researcher
Tsien Hsue-shen, PhD 1939 - Father of China's rocket program
Herman Kahn, graduate studies - Nuclear strategist
Donald Knuth, PhD 1963 - Computer scientist, creator of TeX typesetting
language, and author of The Art of Computer Programming, recipient of the
1974 Turing Award
Edward B. Lewis, PhD 1942 - Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine (1995)
York Liao, BS 1967 - inventor of liquid crystal displays
Alan Lightman, PhD 1974 - physicist and novelist
William Lipscomb, PhD 1946 - Nobel laureate in chemistry (1976)
Sandra Tsing Loh, BS 1983 - writer, performer, musician, humorist
Paul MacCready, MS 1948, PhD 1952 - Father of Human Powered Flight, invented
the Gossamer Condor and the Gossamer Albatross
Benoît Mandelbrot, Eng 1949 - Pioneer of fractal geometry
John McCarthy, BS 1948 - Computer scientist, inventor of the Lisp
programming language and recipient of the 1971 Turing Award
Edwin Mattison McMillan, BS 1928, MS 1929 - Nobel laureate in chemistry
Robert C. Merton, MS 1967 - Nobel laureate in economics (1997)
Mark M. Mills, PhD 1948 - nuclear physicist.
Cleve Moler, BS 1961 - Inventor of MATLAB, co-founder of The MathWorks,
influential in the field of numerical analysis
Gordon E. Moore, PhD 1954 - co-founder of Intel Corp. and author of Moore's
Andrew Odlyzko, BS, MS 1971 - mathematician, demonstrated the
Montgomery-Odlyzko Law
Frank Oppenheimer, PhD 1939 - Manhattan Project physicist, founder of the
Douglas D. Osheroff, BS 1967 - Nobel laureate in physics (1996)
Linus Pauling, PhD 1925 - Nobel laureate in chemistry (1954) and peace
William Luther Pierce, graduate studies - Neo-Nazi activist, founder of the
white supremacist National Alliance, author of The Turner Diaries
Kenneth Pitzer, BS 1935 - winner of the National Medal of Science, third
president of Rice University, sixth president of Stanford University,
Director of Research for Atomic Energy Commission (1949-1951)
John M. Poindexter, PhD 1964 - Director of DARPA Information Awareness
Office, National Security Advisor to Ronald Reagan
Leo James Rainwater, BS 1939 - Nobel laureate in physics (1975)
Simon Ramo, PhD 1936 - co-founder of TRW and developed ICBMs
Benjamin Rosen, BS 1954 - co-founder of Compaq
Harrison Schmitt, BS 1957 - astronaut and US Senator, the only geologist to
have ever walked on the moon
William Shockley, BS 1932 - Nobel laureate in physics (1956)
Edward Simmons, BS 1934, MS 1936 - inventor of the strain gauge
Vernon L. Smith, BS 1949 - Nobel laureate in economics (2002)
Robert Tarjan, BS 1969 - Computer scientist, recipient of the 1986 Turing
Howard M. Temin, PhD 1960 - Nobel laureate in physiology or medicine (1975)
Charles H. Townes, PhD 1939 - Nobel laureate in physics (1964)
Harry Turtledove, undergraduate studies - historian and fiction writer
Kenneth G. Wilson, PhD 1961 - Nobel laureate in physics (1982)
Robert W. Wilson, PhD 1962 - Nobel laureate in physics (1978)
Stephen Wolfram, PhD 1979 - Creator of Mathematica

One final note. one of the Cal Tech Nobel Laurate alumni was William
Shockley, who was excluded from the Terman Study of high IQ youth, which
used a ratio IQ cut-off of Weschler IQ 140, slightly below the 99th
percentile. Ironically, despite this, later in his life William Shockly was
an extreme outspoken advocate of IQ tests and of eugenics. He became the
less vitriolic of the two famous Caltech alumni to be a prominant late 20th
century racist. I don't really know what to make of this, but it could be
seen as a reminder of the importance of rationality and its non-equivalence
with intelligence. Wolfram's semi-crank status (incidentally, he was one of
the few prodigies from the above lists) further emphasizes this point.

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