Ciancarelli: Yale an outlier as Ivy admit rates drop

Yale an outlier as Ivy admit rates drop


Application numbers across the Ivy League surged this year, with almost every school receiving a record number of applications. As a result, every Ivy saw a lower acceptance rate this cycle, with the exception of Yale.

Yale had a record-breaking 32,900 applicants for the class of 2021, a 5 percent uptick from last year. In preparation for the opening of two new residential colleges, Yale accepted 2,272 students from this pool, 300 more students than last year. Yale was the only school in the Ivy League to see its acceptance rate increase, moving from 6.27 percent to 6.9 percent this year.

Harvard University, however, maintained its 5.2 percent acceptance rate, accepting 2,056 students from a pool of 39,506, according to the Harvard Crimson.

Five Ivy League schools posted record-low acceptance rates this year, continuing a trend of falling acceptance rates at selective universities nationwide. Brown posted a record-low acceptance rate of 8.3 percent, according to the Brown Daily Herald. Columbia, whose applicant pool was the largest in its history, set a school record with an acceptance rate of 5.8 percent for Columbia College and Columbia’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Cornell also had a record number of applicants and a record-low acceptance rate, with 12.5 percent of applicants accepted out of 47,038.

The University of Pennsylvania admitted 3,699 students from a pool of 40,413 applicants, according to the Daily Pennsylvanian. This 9.15 percent admissions rate is the lowest in the school’s history, and the number of applicants represents a substantial increase over the 38,918 for the class of 2020.

Princeton University received a record-breaking 31,056 applicants for the class of 2021 and admitted 1,890 students, a 6.1 percent acceptance rate, the lowest in school history.

Dartmouth was the only Ivy League college to receive fewer applications than last year, with 20,675 applications to the class of 2020 and 20,034 applications to the class of 2021. Dartmouth accepted 2,092 for an acceptance rate of 10.4 percent, the college’s lowest admissions rate since 2013, The Dartmouth reported.

High school seniors interviewed said they have felt the effects of an increasingly competitive Ivy League admissions process.

Cassandra Hsiao, a high school senior from Los Angeles who was accepted by all eight Ivy League schools, said she thought the country is increasingly valuing higher education. But in Ivy League admissions, she thought these national trends had made the process “cutthroat.”

“Many students feel that getting into an Ivy League nowadays is a lottery game,” Hsiao said. “Thinking of it in that way removes the sting if it’s a denial and humbles students when it’s an acceptance.”

Charlotte Buck, a senior at Blair Academy in Blairstown, New Jersey, said many of her peers viewed the Ivy admissions process as a “crapshoot.” She attributed the increased number of applications to the perceived prestige of the eight Ivies.

“A lot of people apply just to apply on the off chance that they get in,” Buck said.

And Adam Wolnikowski, a Yale-admitted senior at Eastern York High School in Wrightsville, Pennsylvania, said he believed the record-high Ivy League admissions rates could be attributed to the increasing ease of applying to multiple schools through standardized applications like the Common App.

Yale released admissions decisions for students applying regular decision to the class of 2021 on Thursday, the same day as the other seven Ivy League colleges.

Indian-American teen wins top science award worth $250,000

Indian-American teen wins top science award worth $250,000

Indian-American teen wins top science award worth $250,000

PTI | Mar 16, 2017, 07.25 PM IST

Indrani Das (Centre), 17, of Oradell, New Jersey, wins top prize and $250,000 in Regeneron Science Talent Search. (Photo courtesy: Das (Centre), 17, of Oradell, New Jersey, wins top prize and $250,000 in Regeneron Science Talent Sear… Read More
WASHINGTON: An Indian-American teen has won the top award, worth $250,000, in the oldest and most prestigious science and math competition in the US, for her research on preventing death of neurons due to brain injuries or neurodegenerative diseases.

Indrani Das, a 17-year-old resident of New Jersey, and four other Indian-origin students were among the top ten finalists to be honoured at the annual Regeneron Science Talent Search Awards Gala for their research projects demonstrating exceptional scientific and mathematical ability.

Forty finalists took home more than $1.8 million in awards.

A contributor to neuron death is astrogliosis, a condition that occurs when cells called astrocytes react to injury by growing, dividing and reducing their uptake of glutamate, which in excess is toxic to neurons.

In a laboratory model, Das showed that exosomes isolated from astrocytes transfected with microRNA-124a both improved astrocyte uptake of glutamate and increased neuron survival.

Arjun Ramani, an 18-year-old student from Indiana won the third place honours worth $150,000 for blending the mathematical field of graph theory with computer programming to answer questions about networks.

Typically, these questions require statistical comparisons to hundreds or thousands of random graphs, a process that can take a relatively long time.

He developed an algorithm that greatly accelerated the process by reducing the time required to generate these graphs.

“Congratulations to the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2017 top winners,” said George D Yancopoulos, president and chief scientific officer of Regeneron.

“My experience as a Science Talent Search winner led me to embark on a career in science, and I hope it will inspire these exceptional young scientists to become the next generation of innovators that will improve the world and solve some of our most pressing challenges as a society,” said Yancopoulos.

Archana Verma, 17, from New York, received a $90,000 award for her study of the molecular orbital energy dynamics of dyes, which may someday result in windows that produce solar energy.

Prathik Naidu, 18, from Virginia, received a $70,000 award for his creation of a new machine learning software to study 3D interactions of the human genome in cancer.

Vrinda Madan, 17, from Florida, received a $50,000 award for her study of 24 potential compounds for the treatment of malaria, in which she found two potential candidates that appear to target the disease-causing organism in a novel way and may warrant further study.

Of more than 1,700 high school seniors who entered the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2017, roughly 300 were named scholars in January.

Of those scholars, 40 students were named finalists and invited to Washington, DC to compete for the top 10 awards

Vanderkam: How These Parents Work And Homeschool Too

How These Parents Work And Homeschool Too

It’s the ultimate second shift: Here’s how some parents teach their kids at home while building their careers.

How These Parents Work And Homeschool Too

Homeschooling has become increasingly popular in the past few years. The National Center for Education Statistics estimates that 3.4% of Americans aged 5-17 were homeschooled in 2012. While that’s not a huge proportion, it’s a more than 50% increase from 2003.

Plenty of families would like to try it. However, many are held back by the assumption that one parent (likely Mom) would have to stop working. But talk to homeschooling parents and you find that a number are attempting the ultimate “second shift”: building a career while running a small school operation at the same time.

It sounds crazy, but it’s doable for people committed to the approach. Catherine Gillespie, a marketing consultant, says that combining the two means she earns a good living while “getting to give my kids individualized educations that really meet their needs.”


Parents who make it work embrace a few ideas.

First, they realize that all working parents need some sort of child care, even parents who work from home. Traditional schools serve this function for some families, but “education” and “custodial care” can be unbundled.

Second, core learning comprises fewer hours of the traditional school day than you might think. A school day that runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. includes lunch, transition times, and classroom management. One-on-one instruction is a lot more efficient. Twenty hours a week would match what most schools offer, and most schools only run for nine months a year. Gillespie says homeschooling runs from 7:30 or 8:00 a.m. to noon or 1:00 p.m. in her house, with some extra reading time. “School does go faster when you are teaching a smaller class,” she says.

Third, homeschooling parents can share the load. Two parents can divvy up subjects and instructional time. Many hire tutors for individual subjects. Carrie Beam, an engineer who works in an office Monday through Thursday, told me that her daughter goes to tutoring for a few hours per day. On Fridays, Beam teaches math to her daughter and several other homeschooling students. Many homeschooling families belong to such co-ops or programs that provide group learning or specialized instruction at least one day a week.

These co-ops and programs mean students don’t just stay home. They also go to college classes, or do intense athletic endeavors, or swap time at friends’ houses, all of which gives parents time to work.


This is important for the final concept: there are 168 hours in a week. “Their school day and your work day do not have to mirror each other exactly,” says Pamela Price, author of How to Work and Homeschool. Work doesn’t always happen from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday to Friday in an office (even a home office), and schooling need not happen during these hours either. Once you wrap your head around that, the math makes sense. You can work 40 hours and homeschool for 20 hours, sleep eight hours a night (56 per week), and still have 52 hours for other things. The key is moving the pieces around.


So that’s what many families do. A nurse might work Monday, Thursday, and Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. She homeschools on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday. If the kids go to a homeschool co-op on Thursday, that leaves just one weekday for coverage. Maybe her partner can take that day, or she hires a sitter.

Tera Gall, who works in teacher professional development, homeschools her 7-year-old son. He does an online learning program while she works from home. She travels twice a month for several days, and during those times a sitter comes from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. to supervise while her husband is at work. “The people who are coming in are mostly graduate students or college students, and they have no issue with it,” she says. She leaves detailed instructions, but they understand the concept: “They’ve all taken some sort of class online.”

Shelly Lynn Nellis, a serial entrepreneur and editor-in-chief of Fresh Vancouver magazine, had always been interested in homeschooling. “Just because the majority of society does something does not mean it’s the optimal way for you,” she says. “That’s being an entrepreneur–always thinking there’s another way to do it.” That turned out to be a useful mind-set when her now 9-year-old daughter was diagnosed with severe allergies that made school attendance dicey. These days Nellis gets up early to work from home and do phone calls with people on the East Coast before starting homeschooling. She has a nanny come one day per week, and her daughter is in an all-day homeschool program one other day. These allow her to attend meetings. Coupled with some evening time–her daughter dances five days per week–plus her husband’s flexible schedule, she has time to run her businesses.


Many parents swap shifts. Ali Davies and her husband share the homeschooling of their 12-year-old son. Her husband works fluctuating hours. She runs a training company, and schedules client meetings during the hours he’ll be available. “I get what I can done in 20-25 hours,” she says. “I always have another bonus five to 10 hours, I just never quite know when it’s going to be.” She maintains a list of tasks she can do when these bonus hours appear. Working opposite shifts as a spouse can be tough on a marriage. “We made the mistake of letting those things go the first few months,” Davies says. But now they’re mindful of scheduling couple time when their son will be gone, such as during an upcoming scouting trip.


Gillespie homeschools in the morning, then works when a nanny comes three afternoons per week. The kids are in a homeschool program one afternoon a week, and she works on Saturdays when her husband covers. Since email–which one study found consumes 28% of the average workweek–can be snuck in here and there while the kids are occupied, there winds up being space for everything: a job and school too, she says. Consequently, a lot of parents she knows are giving it a whirl. “They are passionate about giving their kids a great education, but they also have their own interests and passions outside of school,” she says.


Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management and productivity books, including I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time (Portfolio, June 9, 2015), What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast (Portfolio, 2013), and 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think (Portfolio, 2010).She blogs at

Hempel: The Peter Thiel Pedigree

Jesse Leimgruber has 22 employees, and every last one is older than him. He tells me this over coffee at a downtown San Francisco Starbucks that is equidistant from his company’s coworking space and the one-bedroom apartment he shares with his girlfriend. Leimgruber is the CEO of NeoReach, a digital marketing tools firm he started in 2014 with his brother and a friend; they have raised $3.5 million so far, and last year they did over a million dollars in sales. He is 22.

Leimgruber is one of 29 people who make up this year’s class of Thiel Fellows — the crazy smart youth paid by Peter Thiel to double down on entrepreneurship instead of school. Leimgruber has dramatic eyebrows, longish hair, and the kind of earnest perma-grin that creeps across his face even when he’s trying to be serious. He speaks with the authority of a three-time CEO who has learned a lot on the job, explaining a challenge particular to fellows like him: “A common piece of advice is, don’t hire your peers; They probably aren’t qualified.”

Welcome to the 2016 version of Peter Thiel’s eponymous fellowship. What began as an attempt to draw teen prodigies to the Valley before they racked up debt at Princeton or Harvard and went into consulting to pay it off has transformed into the most prestigious network for young entrepreneurs in existence — a pedigree that virtually guarantees your ideas will be judged good, investors will take your call, and there will always be another job ahead even better than the one you have. “We look for extraordinary individuals and we want to back them for life,” says executive director Jack Abraham. He speaks with the conviction of a man who sold a company by age 25, has spent the entirety of his professional life in the cradle of the upswing of the technology revolution, and only just turned 30. With no irony, he adds: “We consider ourselves a league of extraordinary, courageous, brilliant individuals who should be a shining light for the rest of society.”

This is not what Thiel endeavored to build. In 2010, when he set out to take down higher education by plucking kids from the ivory towers of the Ivy League and transporting them to San Francisco, he had his eye on teenagers. In a hastily conceived plan that he announced at a San Francisco tech conference, Thiel said he’d pay $100,000 to 20 people under the age of 20 to drop out of school for two years, move to the Bay Area, and work on anything they wanted. His goal was to jumpstart the kind of big tech breakthroughs — walking on the moon, desktop computing — that he believed the contemporary Valley lacked. He also meant to prove that college was often counterproductive; it required kids to take on debt while laying out a set of overly prescriptive options for their futures. A college diploma, he once said, was “a dunce cap in disguise.”

In the first years of the program, Thiel’s fellows were a hodgepodge group of searching teens, many of whom didn’t yet have clearly defined projects or end up becoming entrepreneurs. Some even went back to school. His first class, in 2011, included a fellow who had begun studying at MIT when she was 14, and another who, at 19, was in his fourth year of a Ph.D. program in neuroscience. Six came directly from high school.

Jesse Leimgruber, a Thiel fellow and CEO at NeoReach.

Six years later, the fellowship looks quite different. To a person, the fellows are entrepreneurs, and for the most part, they are already successful. They include founders who have already built and sold multiple companies, or made so much money they are acting as angel investors on their own. They have raised a collective $409 million dollars in funding and had $40 million dollars in exits so far. Most are now older than 20 and some have even graduated college. Instead of supplying bright young minds with the space and tools to think for themselves, as Thiel had originally envisioned, the fellowship ended up providing something potentially more valuable. It has given its recipients the one thing they most lacked at their tender ages: a network.

Think of it as a kid version of the Young Presidents’ Organization; it’s a group whose network has grown to include 123 past and current fellows. I’ve now spoken to two dozen of them. And sure, most of them have stopped out of school for some period of time (it does remain a requirement of the fellowship). Yes, the money’s helpful. But the network? That’s everything. The fellows lean on Thiel’s name to open the Valley’s doors (though in the aftermath of the presidential election, it’s not working quite as well as it once did). As important, they lean on each other. After all, the set of challenges you face when you are young — say, young enough that you’re employing people with mortgages at the same time as you’re signing your first lease — are unique. And the types of relationships you cement in adolescence, when you are still forming your ideas about the world and your role within it, are uniquely strong. For Leimgruber, as for many of his peers, Thiel fellows are the first call you make when you have to figure out, say, whether you should hire your friends. Or whom you should ask for money. Or which reporters you should talk to.

“It’s a really strong group, way stronger than even, like, VCs,” Leimgruber says. “If you make friends with three or four fellows, these people are way more likely to have a higher conversion rate on intros than investors do. They’re your friends, whereas with investors, it’s always a favor.”

Like many of the 2016 fellows, Leimgruber didn’t apply. He had grown up in Orlando, where his dad owned an auto shop and his mom worked as a customer account manager. Neither had college degrees. He built his first website at 10, and started an ecommerce site at 15. (Among the most popular products were bright neon hats that said “Rage” and “Party” and became a staple at music festivals.) During his senior year of high school, Leimgruber worked with his brother to start a small digital marketing agency.

By the time he showed up for his first computer science class at Stanford University in 2012, Leimgruber’s businesses had pulled in a million dollars in revenue. One of his advisors suggested he think about building software tools for digital marketing, instead of a traditional agency. So, he teamed with his older brother and a friend to start NeoReach. He joined a student accelerator, squeezing his classes in on the side. An older student mentioned the fellowship to him that year, but Leimgruber wasn’t interested in leaving school. He’d worked too hard to get there.

President of the Thiel Foundation and Principal at Thiel Capital Blake Masters in his office on Oct. 4, 2016.

By sophomore year, Leimgruber shared a campus apartment with five friends, all of whom were working on startups. All were raising money. “It was crazy,” says Leimgruber. “We raised millions of dollars between four companies!” One by one, they began to drop out so they could focus on their companies. One roommate left to become a Thiel fellow. In the fall of 2014, as NeoReach closed in on a million dollars in revenue, it got too hard to manage the company and stay in school. So he took a leave of absence.

Leimgruber had been working from San Francisco for nearly a year when an email arrived from Thiel Foundation president Blake Masters. Masters invited him to a two-day conference in San Francisco. The invitation was a bit last minute, with only two weeks’ notice, but he wouldn’t even have to travel. He figured, why not?

When Leimgruber arrived at the conference, he figured out quickly that the event was actually a finalist round for the fellowship. He was one of about a hundred people gathered at Thiel’s offices, which are in the same set of buildings that houses Lucas Films on a leafy campus in the Presidio. Outside, a bronze Yoda statue anchored a fountain in the center of the complex. Inside, supremely young founders from across the globe compared fundraising tips and commiserated on hiring. “It was the first time I met a lot of other young dropouts outside of my Stanford network,” Leimgruber said. Many appeared nervous, he remembers, but he wasn’t. “I was pretty sure that if I wanted it, I would get it,” he said. He had, after all, been recruited. When he got home, he filled out a brief application — it maybe took ten minutes — and then he waited.

Last January, he got the call. It lasted less than ten minutes. Leimgruber had been accepted.

Leimgruber happened to work from the Bay Area, but these days, more than half the fellows don’t. In Boston, Grace Xiao, 20, is working on Kynplex, a social networking software for scientific innovations and Brian Truong, 23, is building software that replaces ads with questions for online publishers. In Durham, North Carolina, Ivonna Dumanyan, 22, is building wearable sensors for athletes. In Los Angeles, Anthony Zhang, 21, is building an on-demand food delivery app for college kids.

These fellows are very different than their predecessors. They are older. They are often members of founding teams, and occasionally the fellowship will be awarded to more than one founder on a team. (More often, the other founders have aged out; Leimgruber’s cofounders, for example, are 23 and 28.) No one is trying to do anything as impractical and far-reaching as mining space asteroids; their endeavors are scrappier, and more readily turned into the types of businesses that see profit on the horizon. Many come to the fellowship with tech street cred already. Truong managed Boston deal flow for a venture fund while at Harvard, the college from which he graduated in May. Zhang and his cofounders have funding from the accelerator 500 Startups, where they completed the summer 2015 program.

Many fellows, like Sohail Prasad, have completed Y Combinator, or are currently enrolled. A Texas native, Prasad, 23, left Carnegie Mellon’s computer engineering program after his first year. He’d taken a summer internship working on speech technologies at Google. After that summer, he took a startup job and stuck around San Francisco. His YC project was an ebooks company that he later shut down. A couple years later, however, Prasad and two friends started Equidate, a stock market for private tech stocks. One of his YC batch mates was a Thiel Fellow alum (class of ’12) and suggested he apply; he was accepted last May.

Prasad said that while YC offers a larger network, Thiel’s network consistently delivers peers whose companies are more advanced. Also, while YC — and nearly every other accelerator — accepts companies in exchange for a slice of equity, the Thiel Fellowship isn’t interested in profiting from the companies its fellows start. It takes no equity, and even Thiel’s personal funds and the venture firm he founded, Founders Fund, shy away from backing the fellows.

Once a year, the fellowship gathers all its members for a retreat. This year’s retreat was held in September in Los Angeles. Attendees were treated to a tour of SpaceX, and got individual sessions with executive director Jack Abraham to review any challenges they faced. Everyone received black Everlane backpacks and sweatshirts with “Dropout” written in black letters.

One figure who was noticeably absent was Thiel. In fact, Leimgruber said that in the nine months he’d been a fellow, he’d only crossed paths with Thiel a couple of times, and then, only in group settings. “I don’t think he would know me,” says Leimgruber.

Founder & Co-CEO at Equidate and Thiel Fellow Sohail Prasad.

Inlate September, Thiel invited current fellows and a few alumni over for dinner. It was one of those rare hot San Francisco evenings when the fog fails to roll in, and many visitors were still in short sleeved t-shirts bearing startup logos as they climbed the steps to his front door. Pizzamakers had set up an oven in the driveway to bake gourmet pies that were whisked through the garage, to the kitchen. From there, servers brought them out to the dining room, placing them between pasta dishes and salads on a large oblong table.

The room resembled a dorm party in which someone had transported all of the sleep-starved, pizza-munching adolescents to Oliver Warbucks’s penthouse. There was Riley Ennis, a lanky 2013 alum, standing in front of a floor-to-ceiling wall of glass that looked out over the bay. Ennis, 22, had recently landed an investment led by Andreessen Horowitz for his third startup, a genomics company called Freenome that screens blood for early cancer detection. There was Megan Grassell, 20, who had flown in from New York, where she runs a tween bra company. Leimgruber was there. And there, off to the left, was Thiel, hair cropped short, aquiline nose, dressed in light blue jeans and a plaid button-down, chatting with Abraham.

None of the fellows had yet approached Thiel, so I went over to say hello. I asked him how he felt about the fellowship, and he said it had accomplished one of his primary goals: promoting entrepreneurship as a viable alternative to college. Today, there are university-oriented venture funds (like the Dorm Room Fund), college entrepreneurship programs, and hackathon conferences for teens. Thiel takes some credit for this. “Entrepreneurship has become a line you put on your resume,” he said. But it’s also a reason the fellowship has doubled down on more advanced entrepreneurs in recent years. Thiel never likes to do what everyone else is doing.

Thiel is a busy guy, and the fellowship is not his first priority. Apart from parties like this, he doesn’t interact with the fellows too much. For one, he is conscious of the optics of the relationship between the Thiel Fellowship and the Founders Fund. He says he wants to avoid any suggestion that he is creating a training program for his own investments, which is why he almost never invests in current fellows. But he also has a laundry list of obligations. Chief among them, now that Donald Trump has become the United States president elect, is that Thiel is advising him. While he has said that he doesn’t intend to take a formal role in the new administration, Thiel is helping Trump to build up tech policy advisors. Add that to his other obligations, which include his commitment to Founders Fund and his personal fund, Thiel Capital; his foundation’s program to fund early-stage scientific research called Breakout Labs; and the board seats he holds on Palantir Technologies, and Facebook. The fellowship certainly holds his name, and arguably, his interest—but that’s about it.

The day-to-day responsibility for the fellowship falls to Abraham along with Blake Masters, who is president of the Thiel Foundation and also a principal with Thiel Capital. Both guys do a slew of other things at the same time. Both have been rumored to be people Thiel has tapped to share ideas with Trump’s transition team. They both have experience at startups. Abraham dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania to run Milo, which sold to eBay by the time he was 25. Masters cofounded a legal startup called Judicata, and he was employee number 31 at Box, where’d he’d often spend the night in his office (he kept a George Foreman grill and a blow-up mattress there). But he also has a law degree; he got to know Thiel after he took Thiel’s Stanford law class. Masters’s notes on the class became the viral success that led to Zero to One, the startup handbook that he cowrote with Thiel.

The first time I stopped by the foundation, in August, Abraham was on the road in Europe somewhere, fundraising for his new company. I followed Masters past a counter holding a copy of a book with Donald Trump’s image, and into his office, which had a glass door that slid shut at the press of a button, straight out of Star Trek. There was a couch and a chair, but no desk. Instead, a bookshelf stretched from floor to ceiling, holding titles like The Power Broker and Immortality.

Masters and Abraham assumed control of the fellowship about 15 months ago, and they’re responsible for its current direction. They did away with large annual summits that had grown to include fellows but also hundreds of other entrepreneurial hopefuls, because they felt these summits were too mainstream. They’d become a stop on the party circuit for entrepreneurial youth. “I remember we had to coordinate with Major League Hacks, which is the organization for all the hackathon stuff, to make sure it wasn’t on the same weekend,” says Masters. Instead, the fellowship now holds occasional smaller events for finalists.

In the early years, fellows needed more structure and guidance; they often lived together, and their attendance was expected at more frequent events. Because they were younger, and their projects were nascent and sometimes unwieldy, they needed more support with the basics. In addition to helping with tips on fundraising or hiring practices, the fellowship’s former directors also lent dating advice, advised on table manners, and generally played a more parental role. Now that the fellows are further along on their entrepreneurial endeavors from the outstart, their needs are different, and often fewer; a central draw for the most accomplished fellows — people like Leimgruber whose schedules are tight already — is that the fellowship won’t be work; it will help.

The central tenet to the contemporary version of the fellowship is that there are no real requirements. Masters and Abraham make themselves available to advise founders. Abraham keeps a rigid schedule and carves out set office hours to meet. Masters tends to be more fluid; fellows can text him, and he usually manages to get back to them within the day. “I have babies that wake up and yell in the night. So I am around to do email at 2 a.m.,” he said. Fellows receive books — and payments — in the mail each month, and the fellowship connects with them to see how things are going. The fellowship also holds regular informal dinners in San Francisco, and sometimes New York. But the fellows don’t have to come.

Masters and Abraham also instituted some changes in the selection process. They added three years to the age limit so they could access stronger candidates. These days, they accept new fellows on a rolling basis, allowing the foundation to add a couple each month, and announce the full year’s fellows— now as many as 30 — each June. Early on, the application was onerous, including essays and test scores. “We’ve changed the application five times,” says Masters. “Each time, we decided it was really long, and cumbersome, and we weren’t getting the information we wanted.”

They got about 6,000 applications for this year’s fellowship, but 60 percent of the current crop of fellows didn’t apply. Instead, Masters and Abraham have tapped their networks for referrals, and recruited them. One such example is Boyan Slat, a long-haired European who founded The Ocean Cleanup at age 17 and became the youngest recipient ever to receive the UN’s highest environmental award. Slat presides over a team of more than 40 people at a Dutch foundation he started to develop technology to clean up the massive plastic garbage dump that rests atop the Pacific Ocean, between California and Hawaii. Masters met him last year when he came by the foundation to request a grant. Slat, now 22, seemed older than his years. Thiel’s team passed on the opportunity to fund him, but Masters remembered him. Earlier this year, when Slat was in San Francisco for a fundraising trip, they met up again. “I wasn’t expecting much but I took the meeting because of whoever introduced us,” says Masters. “Immediately, he was impressive.”

Masters asked him if he would like to be a fellow. “He was a little bit like, ‘I didn’t apply. What’s going on?’” Masters remembers. But he accepted the fellowship, and the $100,000 grant became a donation to his foundation. (I reached out to Slat to learn more, and a spokesperson responded that he was too busy for an interview.)

Jack Abraham is the executive director of the Thiel Fellowship. Abraham is photographed at the Thiel Foundation on Oct. 4, 2016.

Thiel’s dinner party concluded abruptly at 9 p.m. He didn’t kick anyone out. But the food stopped coming out of the kitchen, and when I looked up, Thiel had absented himself. We continued to mill around for awhile. I saw Leimgruber, and edged my way over to say hello. He introduced me to Kieran O’Reilly, who’d left Harvard in 2014 to run his GIF-making company, and John Backus, a ’15 fellow who’d been one of Leimgruber’s Stanford roommates during his epic sophomore year, and now is a cofounder at the software identity company Blockscore.

By then, I’d known Leimgruber for a few weeks, and we’d discussed many facets of the fellowship. “C’mon, aren’t you going to ask about dropping out of school?” said Leimgruber. I took the bait.

“Do people ask you guys that a lot?” I said. All three nodded.

“It’s really the worst when school comes up,” Backus said. “It’s offensive, the way people ask about it.” Backus was a tall, highly likable guy with a slightly lopsided face and the hint of a lisp. He explained that none of the successful dropouts ever went back to school. Bill Gates didn’t go back. Mark Zuckerberg didn’t go back. To go back would imply personal failure. Why would he ever do that? He had his network started already, and clearly the opportunities came through the network.

Sure, I conceded, but what if his company failed?

There was a look he shot me then, a look I’d come to recognize. It was the look that said, you don’t get it. Maybe his idea wouldn’t work, he said, and his company would fail. That happened. But there would be a half-dozen more ideas that he’d reach for, and after that, a half-dozen more. Each idea was just practice for realizing the next idea. And thanks to Thiel, he’d know the people — funders, engineers, advisors — that could best help him translate those ideas into companies. Yes, he could go back to Stanford any time. But why would he ever turn away from the thing that he’d started to build, which was not a company, but a network — and start all over again? This network, he contended, was far more valuable than any he could build in college — even at Stanford.

Thiel set out to disrupt the existing educational institutions. He suggested he could do a better job at training a small cohort of gifted individuals, and that once free of the shackles of a conformist degree-making institution, these fellows would be capable of jumpstarting human progress. Fellows have not yet spurred the type of innovation that has led to flying cars. Or even, yet, 140 characters. Instead, Thiel has manufactured a pedigree that is starting to look, in many ways, as elite as the one he endeavored to replace. For a select group of already successful entrepreneurs, it’s the ultimate credential.

Vaccines Produce Homosexuality, Says Italian Scientist Gian Paolo Vanoli

An Italian scientist is arguing that vaccinations produce homosexuality.

Gian Paolo Vanoli, a 70-year-old scientist, journalist and opponent of vaccinations, says that vaccines make people gay.

Vanoli, who’s a proponent of alternative medicine, recently spoke with Vice Italy’s Matteo Lenardon about his ideals.

Via a Huffington Post translation of the Vice interview:

The vaccine is introduced into the child, the child then grows and tries to find its own personality, and if this is inhibited by mercury or other substances present in the vaccine which enter the brain, the child becomes gay. The problem will especially be present in the next generations, because when gays have children, the children will carry along with them the DNA of their parent’s illness. Because homosexuality is a disease, even though the WHO has decided that it is not. Who cares! The reality is that it is so. Each vaccination produces homosexuality, because it prevents the formation of one’s personality. It is a microform of autism, if you will. You will see how many gays there will be in the next generation, it will be a disaster.

Despite these views, Vanoli insists he supports same-sex marriage and gay adoption. He doesn’t “blame” gay people for their “illness,” just as he wouldn’t blame someone who “suffers from cancer or a heart attack,” he told GayStarNews.

“But we have to say that it’s an illness, something that does not respect the order of life,” he told the outlet. “One of the main causes is represented by vaccines, which go against life, disturbing our mind and our spirit. The proof of that is the big increase in the number of homosexuals. Since mass vaccination began, this is the result.”

Some of Vanoli’s arguments, however, have been disputed for more than 30 years.

In 1975, for example, the American Psychological Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders, citing that “research has found no inherent association between any of these sexual orientations and psychopathology.” The APA goes on to say that “no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors.”

Gay rights in Italy continue to lag. Same-sex marriage is not legal in the country, and at least one top politician has publicly likened it to supporting pedophilia.

Chougule: Why the Kennedy-De Niro Vaccine Challenge Matters

Why the Kennedy-De Niro Vaccine Challenge Matters

A presidential commission led by Robert Kennedy Jr. could raise uncomfortable questions about the incentives driving vaccination recommendations.

Towers: The Outsiders

This article is from The Prometheus Society’s Journal, Gift of Fire Issue No. 22, April  1987. It was re-issued in #72 March 95.

This was provided by Robert Dick who says “The Outsiders” is his favorite Gift of Fire article. As the [former] Prometheus Society Membership Officer, he recommends “The Outsiders” as a good view of the high-IQ condition.


by Grady M. Towers

His name was William James Sidis, and his IQ was estimated at between 250 and 300 [8, p. 283]. At eighteen months he could read The New York Times, at two he taught himself Latin, at three he learned Greek. By the time he was an adult he could speak more than forty languages and dialects. He gained entrance to Harvard at eleven, and gave a lecture on four-dimensional bodies to the Harvard Mathematical Club his first year. He graduated cum laude at sixteen, and became the youngest professor in history. He deduced the possibility of black holes more than twenty years before Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar published An Introduction to the Study of Stellar Structure. His life held possibilities for achievement that few people can imagine. Of all the prodigies for which there are records, his was probably the most powerful intellect of all. And yet it all came to nothing. He soon gave up his position as a professor, and for the rest of his life wandered from one menial job to another. His experiences as a child prodigy had proven so painful that he decided for the rest of his life to shun public exposure at all costs. Henceforth, he denied his gifts, refused to think about mathematics, and above all refused to perform as he had been made to do as a child. Instead, he devoted his intellect almost exclusively to the collection of streetcar transfers, and to the study of the history of his native Boston. He worked hard at becoming a normal human being, but never entirely succeeded. He found the concept of beauty, for example, to be completely incomprehensible, and the idea of sex repelled him. At fifteen he took a vow of celibacy, which he apparently kept for the remainder of his life, dying a virgin at the age of 46. He wore a vest summer and winter, and never learned to bathe regularly. A comment that Aldous Huxley once made about Sir Isaac Newton might equally have been said of Sidis.

For the price Newton had to pay for being a supreme intellect was that he was incapable of friendship, love, fatherhood, and many other desirable things. As a man he was a failure; as a monster he was superb [5, p. 2222].

There was a time when all precocious children were thought to burn out the same way that Sidis did. The man most responsible for changing this belief was Lewis M. Terman. Between 1900 and 1920 he was able to carry out a study of about a hundred gifted children, and his observations convinced him that many of the traditional beliefs about the gifted were little more than superstitions. To confirm these observations, he obtained a grant from the Commonwealth Fund in 1922, and used it to sift a population of more than a quarter of a million children, selecting out all those with IQs above 140 for further study. That group has been monitored continuously ever since. Many of the previously held beliefs about the gifted did indeed turn out to be false. The gifted are not weak or sickly, and although the incidence of myopia is greater among them, they are generally thought to be better looking than their contemporaries: They are not nerds.

Nevertheless, in his rush to dispel the erroneous beliefs about the gifted, Terman sometimes made claims not supported by his own data. In fact, in some cases, the data suggests that exactly the opposite conclusion should have been drawn. Terman’s own data shows that there is a definite connection between measured intelligence and mental and social maladjustment. The consequences of misinterpreting these data are so grave that it will pay to re-examine them in some detail.

Terman’s longitudinal research on the gifted included a constant assessment of mental health and social adjustment. Subjects were classified into three categories: satisfactory adjustment, some maladjustment, and serious maladjustment. Terman defined these categories in the following way.

1. Satisfactory. Subjects classified in this category were essentially normal; i.e., their “desires, emotions, and interests were compatible with the social standards and pressures” of their group. Everyone, of course, has adjustment problems of one kind or another. Satisfactory adjustment as here defined does not mean perfect contentment and complete absence of problems, but rather the ability to cope adequately with difficulties in the personal make-up or in the subject’s environment. Worry and anxiety when warranted by the circumstances, or a tendency to be somewhat high strung or nervous–provided such a tendency did not constitute a definite personality problem–were allowed in this category. 2. Some maladjustment. Classified here were subjects with excessive feelings of inadequacy or inferiority, nervous fatigue, mild anxiety neurosis, and the like. The emotional conflicts, nervous tendencies and social maladjustments of these individuals, while they presented definite problems, were not beyond the ability of the individual to handle, and there was no marked interference with social or personal life or with achievement. Subjects whose behavior was noticeably odd or freakish, but without evidence of serious neurotic tendencies, were also classified in this category. 3. Serious maladjustment. a.) Classified as 3a were subjects who had shown marked symptoms of anxiety, mental depression, personality maladjustment, or psychopathic personality. This classification also includes subjects who had suffered a “nervous breakdown,” provided the condition was not severe enough to constitute a psychosis. Subjects with a previous history of serious maladjustment or nervous breakdown (without psychosis) were included here even though their adjustment at the time of rating may have been entirely satisfactory. b.) Classified as 3b were those subjects who had at any time suffered a complete mental breakdown requiring hospitalization, whatever their condition at the time of rating. In the majority of cases the subjects were restored to reasonably good mental health after a brief period of hospital care [6, pp. 99-101].

In 1940, when the group was about 29 years of age, a large scale examination was carried out. Included in that examination was a high level test of verbal intelligence, designated at that time the Concept Mastery, but later re-named the Concept Mastery test form A. Terman found the following relationship between adjustment and verbal intelligence. (These are raw scores, not IQs.)

CMT-A [6, p. 115]

Men Women


Mean S.D. N Mean S.D.
Satisfactory adjustment 407 95.2 30.9 344 92.4 28.7
Some maladjustment 91 108.0 31.2 59 98.6 25.4
Serious maladjustment 18 119.5 23.6 17 108.6 27.1

The data show three things. First, that there is a definite trend for the maladjusted to make higher scores on the Concept Mastery test. Second, that women show symptoms of maladjustment at lower scores than men. And third, that 21 percent of the men and 18 percent of the women showed at least some form of maladjustment.

During 1950-52, when the group was approximately 41 years old, another examination was made using a new test, the Concept Mastery test form T. Test scores were again compared to assessments of adjustment. (CMT-T scores are not interchangeable with CMT-A scores. They have different means and standard deviations.)

CMT-T [7, p. 50]

Men Women


Mean S.D. N Mean S.D.
Satisfactory adjustment 391 136.4 26.2 303 130.8 27.7
Some maladjustment 120 145.6 26.1 117 138.1 26.4
Serious maladjustment 40 152.8 23.8 33 140.0 29.6

Similar conclusions can be drawn from these data as well. Again, there is a definite trend shown for the maladjusted to make higher scores than the satisfactorily adjusted. Again, women show symptoms of maladjustment at lower scores than men. But the most alarming thing of all is that the percentage of maladjustment shown for both sexes rose in the 12 years since the previous examination. The percentage of men showing maladjustment having risen from 21 percent to 29 percent, and the figure for women having risen from 18 percent to 33 percent! Nearly double what it was before!

How did Terman interpret these data? Terman states:

Although severe mental maladjustment is in general somewhat more common among subjects who score high on the Concept Mastery test, many of the most successful men of the entire group also scored high on this test [7, p. 50].

In other words, Terman deliberately tried to give the impression that the relationship between verbal intelligence and mental and social maladjustment was weak and unreliable. He did this by misdirection. He gave a truthful answer to an irrelevant question. Terman failed to realize that a small difference in means between two or more distributions can have a dramatic effect on the percentage of each group found at the tails of the distribution. The relevant questions should have been “what is the percentage of maladjustment found at different levels of ability, and does this show a trend?” Terman’s data can be used to find answers to these questions.

The method used to solve this problem is a relatively simple one but tedious in detail. (See appendix.) The results, however, are easy to understand. Using CMT-T scores for men as an illustration, and pooling the data for some maladjustment and serious maladjustment, the following percentages can be obtained.





< 97.8


97.8 – 117.1


117.1 – 136.4


136.4 – 155.7


155.7 – 175


> 175



By comparison, the Triple Nine Society averages 155.16 on the CMT-T, and the average score for Prometheus Society members is 169.95 [1, 2]. The implications are staggering, especially when it is realized that these percentages do not include women, who show more maladjustment at lower CMT-T scores than men do. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why super high IQ societies suffer so much from schisms and a tendency towards disintegration. In any event, one thing is certain. The currently accepted belief that verbal intelligence is unrelated to maladjustment is clearly a myth.

Nevertheless, while Terman’s data do provide a prima facie case for a connection between verbal intelligence and maladjustment, they fail to explain the causal mechanism involved. To obtain such insight requires close observation by a gifted observer. Fortunately, those insights are available to us in Leta S. Hollingworth’s book, Children above 180 IQ. Hollingworth not only observed her subjects as children, she also continued to maintain some contact with them after they had reached maturity. So although her book is ostensibly about children, it is in fact laced throughout by her observations on exceptionally gifted adults as well.

Before examining Hollingworth’s findings, however, it is necessary to explain how childhood IQs are related to adult mental ability. As a child ages, his IQ tends to regress to the mean of the population of which he is a member. This is partly due to the imperfect reliability of the test, and partly due to the uneven rate of maturation. The earlier the IQ is obtained, and the higher the score, the more the IQ can be expected to regress by the time the child becomes an adult. So although Hollingworth’s children were all selected to have IQs above 180, their adult status was not nearly so high. In fact, as adults, there’s good reason to believe that their abilities averaged only slightly above that of the average Triple Nine member. Evidence for this conjecture comes from the Terman research data. Terman observed the following relationship between childhood IQs on the Stanford-Binet and adult status on the Concept Mastery test form T.


135-139 41 114.2
140-149 344 131.8
150-159 200 136.5
160-169 70 146.2
> 170 48 155.8

The average childhood IQ score for those with childhood IQs above 170 was 177.7 for men, and 177.6 for women. That’s quite close to the 180 cutoff used by Leta Hollingworth in selecting her subjects. Note that Terman’s subjects who scored above 170 IQ as children averaged 155.8 on the CMT-T at age 41, a score quite close to the 155.16 made by the average Triple Nine member. Such a close match makes it reasonable to generalize Hollingworth’s findings to members of both the Triple Nine Society and the Prometheus Society.

Hollingworth identified a number of adjustment problems caused by school acceleration. As this is rarely practiced in today’s educational system, these are no longer problems and will not be discussed. There still remain, however, four adjustment problems that continue to perplex the gifted throughout their lives, two applying to all levels of giftedness, and two applying almost exclusively to the exceptionally gifted–i.e. those with childhood IQs above 170, or adult Concept Mastery test (T) scores above 155.

One of the problems faced by all gifted persons is learning to focus their efforts for prolonged periods of time. Since so much comes easily to them, they may never acquire the self-discipline necessary to use their gifts to the fullest. Hollingworth describes how the habit begins.

Where the gifted child drifts in the school unrecognized, working chronically below his capacity (even though young for his grade), he receives daily practice in habits of idleness and daydreaming. His abilities never receive the stimulus of genuine challenge, and the situation tends to form in him the expectation of an effortless existence [3, p. 258].

But if the “average” gifted child tends to acquire bad adjustment habits in the ordinary schoolroom, the exceptionally gifted have even more problems. Hollingworth continues:

Children with IQs up to 150 get along in the ordinary course of school life quite well, achieving excellent marks without serious effort. But children above this mental status become almost intolerably bored with school work if kept in lockstep with unselected pupils of their own age. Children who rise above 170 IQ are liable to regard school with indifference or with positive dislike, for they find nothing in the work to absorb their interest. This condition of affairs, coupled with the supervision of unseeing and unsympathetic teachers, has sometimes led even to truancy on the part of gifted children [3, p. 258].

A second adjustment problem faced by all gifted persons is due to their uncommon versatility. Hollingworth says:

Another problem of development with reference to occupation grows out of the versatility of these children. So far from being one-sided in ability and interest, they are typically capable of so many different kinds of success that they may have difficulty in confining themselves to a reasonable number of enterprises. Some of them are lost to usefulness through spreading their available time and energy over such a wide array of projects that nothing can be finished or done perfectly. After all, time and space are limited for the gifted as for others, and the life-span is probably not much longer for them than for others. A choice must be made among the numerous possibilities, since modern life calls for specialization [3, p. 259].

A third problem faced by the gifted is learning to suffer fools gladly. Hollingworth notes:

A lesson which many gifted persons never learn as long as they live is that human beings in general are inherently very different from themselves in thought, in action, in general intention, and in interests. Many a reformer has died at the hands of a mob which he was trying to improve in the belief that other human beings can and should enjoy what he enjoys. This is one of the most painful and difficult lessons that each gifted child must learn, if personal development is to proceed successfully. It is more necessary that this be learned than that any school subject be mastered. Failure to learn how to tolerate in a reasonable fashion the foolishness of others leads to bitterness, disillusionment, and misanthropy [3, p. 259].

The single greatest adjustment problem faced by the gifted, however, is their tendency to become isolated from the rest of humanity. This problem is especially acute among the exceptionally gifted. Hollingworth says:

This tendency to become isolated is one of the most important factors to be considered in guiding the development of personality in highly intelligent children, but it does not become a serious problem except at the very extreme degrees of intelligence. The majority of children between 130 and 150 find fairly easy adjustment, because neighborhoods and schools are selective, so that like-minded children tend to be located in the same schools and districts. Furthermore, the gifted child, being large and strong for his age, is acceptable to playmates a year or two older. Great difficulty arises only when a young child is above 160 IQ. At the extremely high levels of 180 or 190 IQ, the problem of friendships is difficult indeed, and the younger the person the more difficult it is. The trouble decreases with age because as persons become adult, they naturally seek and find on their own initiative groups who are like-minded, such as learned societies [3, p. 264].

Hollingworth points out that the exceptionally gifted do not deliberately choose isolation, but are forced into it against their wills.

These superior children are not unfriendly or ungregarious by nature. Typically they strive to play with others but their efforts are defeated by the difficulties of the case… Other children do not share their interests, their vocabulary, or their desire to organize activities. They try to reform their contemporaries but finally give up the struggle and play alone, since older children regard them as “babies,” and adults seldom play during hours when children are awake. As a result, forms of solitary play develop, and these, becoming fixed as habits, may explain the fact that many highly intellectual adults are shy, ungregarious, and unmindful of human relationships, or even misanthropic and uncomfortable in ordinary social intercourse [3, p. 262].

But if the exceptionally gifted is isolated from his contemporaries, the gulf between him and the adult authorities in his life is even deeper.

The very gifted child or adolescent, perceiving the illogical conduct of those in charge of his affairs, may turn rebellious against all authority and fall into a condition of negative suggestibility–a most unfortunate trend of personality, since the person is then unable to take a cooperative attitude toward authority. A person who is highly suggestible in a negative direction is as much in bondage to others around him as is the person who is positively suggestible. The social value of the person is seriously impaired in either case. The gifted are not likely to fall victims to positive suggestion but many of them develop negativism to a conspicuous degree [3, p 260].

Anyone reading the super high IQ journals is aware of the truth of this statement. Negative individuals abound in every high IQ society.

Hollingworth distilled her observations into two ideas that are among the most important ever discovered for the understanding of gifted behavior. The first is the concept of an optimum adjustment range. She says:

All things considered, the psychologist who has observed the development of gifted children over a long period of time from early childhood to maturity, evolves the idea that there is a certain restricted portion of the total range of intelligence which is most favorable to the development of successful and well-rounded personality in the world as it now exists. This limited range appears to be somewhere between 125 and 155 IQ. Children and adolescents in this area are enough more intelligent than the average to win the confidence of large numbers of their fellows, which brings about leadership, and to manage their own lives with superior efficiency. Moreover, there are enough of them to afford mutual esteem and understanding. But those of 170 IQ and beyond are too intelligent to be understood by the general run of persons with whom they make contact. They are too infrequent to find congenial companions. They have to contend with loneliness and personal isolation from their contemporaries throughout the period of their immaturity. To what extent these patterns become fixed, we cannot yet tell [3, p. 264].

Hollingworth’s second seminal idea is that of a “communication range.” She does not state this explicitly, but it can be inferred from some of her comments on leadership.

Observation shows that there is a direct ratio between the intelligence of the leader and that of the led. To be a leader of his contemporaries a child must be more intelligent but not too much more intelligent than those to be led… But generally speaking, a leadership pattern will not form–or it will break up–when a discrepancy of more than about 30 points of IQ comes to exist between leader and led [3, p. 287].

The implication is that there is a limit beyond which genuine communication between different levels of intelligence becomes impossible. To say that a child or an adult is intellectually isolated from his contemporaries is to say that everyone in his environment has an IQ at least 30 points different from his own. Knowing only a person’s IQ, then, is not enough to tell how well he’s likely to cope with his environment. Some knowledge of the intellectual level of his environment is also necessary.

If the optimum range of intelligence lies between 125 and 155 IQ, as Hollingworth suggests, then it follows that 155 can be thought of as a threshold separating an optimum adjustment zone below it from a suboptimum range above it. Other psychologists have also noticed how this score tends to divide people into two naturally occurring categories. Among these is one of the doyens of psychometrics, David Wechsler. He comments:

The topics of genius and degeneration are only special cases of the more general problem involved in the evaluation of human capacities, namely the quantitative versus qualitative. There are those who insist that all differences are qualitative, and those who with equal conviction maintain that they are exclusively quantitative. The true answer is that they are both. General intelligence, for example, is undoubtedly quantitative in the sense that it consists of varying amounts of the same basic stuff (e.g., mental energy) which can be expressed by continuous numerical measures like intelligence Quotients or Mental-Age scores, and these are as real as any physical measurements are. But it is equally certain that our description of the difference between a genius and an average person by a statement to the effect that he has an IQ greater by this or that amount, does not describe the difference between them as completely or in the same way as when we say that a mile is much longer than an inch. The genius (as regards intellectual ability) not only has an IQ of say 50 points more than the average person, but in virtue of this difference acquires seemingly new aspects (potentialities) or characteristics. These seemingly new aspects or characteristics, in their totality, are what go to make up the “qualitative” difference between them [9, p. 134].

Wechsler is saying quite plainly that those with IQs above 150 are different in kind from those below that level. He is saying that they are a different kind of mind, a different kind of human being.

This subjective impression of a difference in kind also appears to be fairly common among members of the super high IQ societies themselves. When Prometheus and Triple Nine members were asked if they perceived a categorical difference between those above this level and others, most said that they did, although they also said that they were reluctant to call the difference genius. When asked what it should be called, they produced a number of suggestions, sometimes esoteric, sometimes witty, and often remarkably vulgar. But one term was suggested independently again and again. Many thought that the most appropriate term for people like themselves was Outsider.

The feeling of estrangement, or at least detachment, from society at large is not merely subjective illusion. Society is not geared to deal effectively with the exceptionally gifted adult because almost nothing objective is known about him. It is a commonplace observation that no psychometric instrument can be validly used to evaluate a person unless others like him were included in the test’s norming sample. Yet those with IQs above 150 are so rare that few if any were ever included in the norming sample of any of the most commonly used tests, tests like the Strong-Campbell Interest Inventory, the Kuder Vocational Preference Record, the MMPI and so on. As a consequence, objective self-knowledge for the exceptionally gifted is nearly impossible to obtain. What he most needs to know is not how he differs from ordinary people–he is acutely aware of that–but how he is both like and unlike those of his own kind. The most commonly used tests can’t provide that knowledge, so he is forced to find out in more roundabout ways. It is his attempts to find answers to these questions that may explain the emergence of the super high IQ societies. Where else can he find peers against which to measure himself?

There appear to be three sorts of childhoods and three sorts of adult social adaptations made by the gifted. The first of these may be called the committed strategy. These individuals were born into upper middle class families, with gifted and well educated parents, and often with gifted siblings. They sometimes even had famous relatives. They attended prestigious colleges, became doctors, lawyers, professors, or joined some other prestigious occupation, and have friends with similar histories. They are the optimally adjusted. They are also the ones most likely to disbelieve that the exceptionally gifted can have serious adjustment problems.

The second kind of social adaptation may be called the marginal strategy. These individuals were typically born into a lower socio-economic class, without gifted parents, gifted siblings, or gifted friends. Often they did not go to college at all, but instead went right to work immediately after high school, or even before. And although they may superficially appear to have made a good adjustment to their work and friends, neither work nor friends can completely engage their attention. They hunger for more intellectual challenge and more real companionship than their social environment can supply. So they resort to leading a double life. They compartmentalize their life into a public sphere and a private sphere. In public they go through the motions of fulfilling their social roles, whatever they are, but in private they pursue goals of their own. They are often omnivorous readers, and sometimes unusually expert amateurs in specialized subjects. The double life strategy might even be called the genius ploy, as many geniuses in history have worked at menial tasks in order to free themselves for more important work. Socrates, you will remember was a stone mason, Spinoza was a lens grinder, and even Jesus was a carpenter. The exceptionally gifted adult who works as a parking lot attendant while creating new mathematics has adopted an honored way of life and deserves respect for his courage, not criticism for failing to live up to his abilities. Those conformists who adopt the committed strategy may be pillars of their community and make the world go around, but historically, those with truly original minds have more often adopted the double life tactic. They are ones among the gifted who are most likely to make the world go forward.

And finally there are the dropouts. These sometimes bizarre individuals were often born into families in which one or more of the parents were not only exceptionally gifted, but exceptionally maladjusted themselves. This is the worst possible social environment that a gifted child can be thrust into. His parents, often driven by egocentric ambitions of their own, may use him to gratify their own needs for accomplishment. He is, to all intents and purposes, not a living human being to them, but a performing animal, or even an experiment. That is what happened to Sidis, and may be the explanation for all those gifted who “burn out” as he did. (Readers familiar with the Terman study will recognize the committed strategy and the marginal strategy as roughly similar to the adjustment patterns of Terman’s A and C groups.)

If the exceptionally gifted adult with an IQ of 150, or 160, or 170 has problems in adapting to his world, what must it have been like for William James Sidis, whose IQ was 250 or more?

Aldous Huxley once wrote:

Perhaps men of genius are the only true men. In all the history of the race there have been only a few thousand real men. And the rest of us–what are we? Teachable animals. Without the help of the real man, we should have found out almost nothing at all. Almost all the ideas with which we are familiar could never have occurred to minds like ours. Plant the seeds there and they will grow; but our minds could never spontaneously have generated them [4, p. 2242].

And so we see that the explanation for the Sidis tragedy is simple. Sidis was a feral child; a true man born into a world filled with animals–a world filled with us.

Some of those reading this paper may find the portrait painted here to be completely incredible. Their own experiences were nothing at all like those described, nor were those of most of their gifted friends. But the point of this article is not that there’s some special hazard in having an exceptional IQ: There’s not. The point is that the danger lies in having an exceptional IQ in an environment completely lacking in intellectual peers. It’s the isolation that does the damage, not the IQ itself.

It is the belief of this author that the super high IQ societies were created primarily by those who have adopted the marginal strategy, and by rights ought to be aimed at fulfilling the needs of this subdivision of the exceptionally gifted. It’s obvious from reading the journals that those who have followed the committed strategy rarely participate in society affairs, rarely write for the various journals, and indeed have little need to belong to such a group. They have far more productive outlets for their talents. It’s the exceptionally gifted adult who feels stifled that stands most in need of a high IQ society. The tragedy is that none of the super high IQ societies created thus far have been able to meet those needs, and the reason for this is simple. None of these groups is willing to acknowledge or come to terms with the fact that much of their membership belong to the psychological walking wounded. This alone is enough to explain the constant schisms that develop, the frequent vendettas, and the mediocre level of their publications. But those are not immutable facts; they can be changed. And the first step in doing so is to see ourselves as we are.


  • Six classes of ability were defined with a class size of 19.3. Class limits in terms of normalized scores were calculated for all three levels of adjustment.
  • Class Limits Satisfactory Some maladjustment Serious maladjustment 97.8 -1.47 -1.83 -2.31 117.1 -0.74 -1.09 -1.5 136.4 0 -0.35 -0.69 155.7 0.74 0.39 0.12 175 1.47 1.13 0.93
  • The proportion expected at six levels of ability was calculated using the normal tables.
  • Classes Satisfactory Some maladjustment Serious maladjustment < 97.8 0.07 0.03 0.01 97.8 – 117.1 0.16 0.10 0.05 117.1 – 136.4 0.27 0.23 0.18 136.4 – 155.7 0.27 0.29 0.30 155.7 – 175 0.16 0.22 0.28 > 175 0.07 0.13 0.18
  • The number expected at each level of ability was calculated by multiplying the proportion expected by the sample size.
  • Classes Satisfactory Some maladjustment Serious maladjustment < 97.8 27.37 3.6 0.4 97.8 – 117.1 62.56 12.0 2.0 117.1 – 136.4 105.57 27.6 7.2 136.4 – 155.7 105.57 34.8 12.0 155.7 – 175 62.56 26.4 11.2 > 175 27.37 15.6 7.2
  • The expected number of some maladjustment was combined with the expected number of serious maladjustment.
  • Classes Satisfactory Total maladjustment < 97.8 27.37 4.0 97.8 – 117.1 62.56 14.0 117.1 – 136.4 105.57 34.8 136.4 – 155.7 105.57 46.8 155.7 – 175 62.56 37.6 > 175 27.37 22.8
  • Finally, the percentage of maladjustment found at each level of ability was calculated and rounded (the notation “ap=” should be read as “approximately equal to”).
  • Classes Percent Maladjusted < 97.8 ( 4.0 / ( 4.0 + 27.37)) x 100 ap= 13 97.8 – 117.1 (14.0 / (14.0 + 62.56)) x 100 ap= 18 117.1 – 136.4 (34.8 / (34.8 + 105.57)) x 100 ap= 25 136.4 – 155.7 (46.8 / (46.8 + 105.57)) x 100 ap= 31 155.7 – 175 (37.6 / (37.6 + 62.56)) x 100 ap= 38 > 175 (22.8 / (22.8 + 27.37)) x 100 ap= 45


  • 1. Hoeflin, R.K. “CMT Results,” Vidya, XXXIII (February 1982), pp. 12-13. (Journal of the Triple Nine Society)
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