Monday Monday-What is a Savant?

American Heritage Dictionary: sa·vant

(să-vänt’) n.

  1. A learned person; a scholar.
  2. An idiot savant.

[French, learned, savant, from Old French, present participle of savoir, to know, from Vulgar Latin sapēre, from Latin sapere, to be wise.]

Being considered a Savant in a particular area gives the individual recognition as the subject matter expert who is above and beyond his respective peers. A Savant is someone possessing exceptional skill in a particular area, such as art, literature and mathematics. They are a rare breed; only 100 individuals recognized as Savants are alive today. But what is most interesting, is that half of all Savants are autistic, and the other half have some other type of mental disability, such as a brain injury or retardation.

It is perplexing to think that a disorder can cause a person to excel in a particular subject. But just as a blind person’s other senses are considered sharper than someone who can see, medical experts believe Savant’s disorders rewire the brain’s memory and data processing to an unimaginable level. Thus allowing the person to excel in a particular subject, but with shortcomings in other basic functions.

Some of the most brilliant minds in history are considered Savants. Individuals such as Thomas Jefferson, Albert Einstein, Michelangelo, Charles Darwin, Hans Christian Anderson, Arthur Conan Doyle, Ludwig van Beethoven, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Andy Warhol, Vincent van Gogh, Isaac Newton and Socrates, among many others.

Would we have the Declaration of Independence, the Theory of Evolution, the Theory of Relativity, the brilliant symphonies of Mozart and Beethoven if it were not for mental disorders?

Even with today’s medical progress’, the brain is still a great mystery. Defective wiring of the brain or a traumatic head injury caused a select few individuals to significantly advance our knowledge in art, music, literature and mathematics.

Some in the medical community explain Savant’s brain wiring as not being able to filter what we normally find as unimportant or forgettable. A Savant retains everything they see or hear. They retain everything that interests them and are able to recall it from memory without errors.

Savants are a rare breed, and here is a snapshot of five Savant geniuses alive today.

  • Daniel Tammet (b. 31 January 1979): Tammet has the ability to “see” numbers and feel their texture. He has the ability to recite the pi from memory up to the 22,514 digit. Tammet learned the Icelandic language in one week and even invented a language.
  • Matt Savage (b. 5 July 1992): Taught himself piano at age 6. Now an accomplished musician and composer.
  • Stephen Wiltshire (born April 24, 1974): An autistic mute and accomplished artist who is able to draw what he has seen from memory in the finest of details. After viewing Rome on a helicopter ride, he drew the entire city on a 15ft mural.
  • Alonzo Clemons: Suffering from a traumatic brain injury at an early age, Clemons has an IQ of 40 to 50. His sculptures of animals are in the finest of detail and have sold for over $45,000.
  • Tony DeBlois (b. 22January 1974): An accomplished musician. Learned to play piano by age 2 and currently plays 20 instruments. He prefers Jazz, but can play any type of music.

Historical Mystries ©.2012

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About Phoebe Leggett

Phoebe Leggett is an author, poet, and free-lance writer whose articles, stories, and poetry have enhanced the lives of many. In 2007 she received two awards for her work at the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference in Ridgecrest, North Carolina. Her articles, stories, and poetry have been published in adult and children’s Christian literature as well as online. Her books are available on under her name.
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