What is it that makes someone a genius? If it was just intelligence we would have many more geniuses around. “Some minds are so exceptional they change the world. We don’t know exactly why these people soar above the rest of us, but science offers us clues.”
But monumental intelligence on its own is no guarantee of monumental achievement, as Terman and his collaborators would discover. A number of the study’s participants struggled to thrive, despite their towering IQ scores. Several dozen flunked out of college at first. Others, tested for the study but with IQs that weren’t high enough to make the cut, grew up to become renowned in their fields, most famously Luis Alvarez and William Shockley, both of whom won Nobel Prizes in physics. There’s precedent for such underestimation: Charles Darwin recalled being considered “a very ordinary boy, rather below the common standard in intellect.” As an adult he solved the mystery of how the splendid diversity of life came into being.