Not many people enjoy mathematics. Can you blame them? It sometimes feels overly complicated, pointless, and just plain boring. Yet, there’s more to math than you can possibly fathom. All the laws of our universe are governed by mathematics. And it plays a huge role in our day to day lives, even if we don’t acknowledge it much. The understanding of math and how it works can turn your life upside down, and it has changed the lives of many. However, is being good at math a matter of genetics –– basically pure luck –– or do hard work and practice play into it? Well, sometimes it can be a hit on the head that turns things around.
Jason Padgett wasn’t what you’d call a savant at a young age. In fact, he quite often struggled as a student. As an adult by the age of 41, he spent most of his time working in his father’s furniture shop. According to Padgett himself, he was very bad at algebra and cheated at school to pass. It was a brutal mugging that happened outside a karaoke bar in 2002 that changed everything for him. The incident left him with a concussion, and that wasn’t the worst part of it. Coincidentally, that very same night his stepfather died of cancer and two weeks later his only brother disappeared. Padgett suffered from severe post-traumatic stress disorder and he decided to be a recluse for some years. But the injury also changed something in how his mind works. It turned him into a mathematical genius who sees everything through the lens of geometry and numbers.
Padgett suffers from an acquired savant syndrome, in which a person acquires miraculous skills due to an injury or a disease. Most have those newly acquired skills manifest as musical or artistic genius, but very few have them manifest as mathematical prowess as with Padgett. He discovered he could see intricate shapes and mathematical structures in his head and that he could draw them. Being a math doer changed everything for him. Then, things started changing for him. He started drawing complex shapes, but he didn’t have the training to understand them. Eventually his drawings were caught by a physicist who caught him drawing in a mall, and pointed him in the direction of college and urged him to pursue further studies. He’s currently studying mathematics and is a lecturer, not to mention artist as well.
Struck by Genius
In 2014, Padgett published a book titled “Struck by Genius” explaining his accident and how it made him a mathematical genius and discussing his savant abilities. The book garnered massive success and is even set to become a movie starring Channing Tatum.
Padgett’s story is story unbelievable because it’s extremely rare for a person to have an acquired savant syndrome, not to mention manifesting itself in mathematical genius. His mind was the subject of interest of many scientists trying to explain the phenomenon. Many of them believe there is a savant in each of us; there are dormant parts of the brain that are every bit as genius. They’re just not active. Lucky for Padgett, the hit on his hid activated those dormant parts and turned him into a genius. Can math change your life? Well, it certainly did for him.