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By Anthony Esolen, Crisis Magazine, February 24, 2020
Anthony Esolen, a contributing editor at Crisis, is a professor and writer-in-residence at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts. Dr Esolen has authored several books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization (Regnery Press, 2008), Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (ISI Books, 2010) and Reflections on the Christian Life (Sophia Institute Press, 2013).
When he was 13 years old, a mere boy was effectively the American ambassador to Russia, in Saint Petersburg. This was because the lad was fluent in French while his nominal superior, the ambassador himself, was not. The boy had already, at his father’s instruction, translated works of Plutarch from Greek and poems by Horace from Latin. His name was John Quincy Adams.
When Gian Carlo Menotti was 11 years old, he wrote his first opera, both the libretto and the music: The Death of Pierrot. You may know him for his popular opera Amahl and the Night Visitors. His first formal training in music came when he entered the Milan Conservatory, at age 12.
When he was 14 years old, Srinivasa Ramanujan discovered the general solution to quadratic equations (those of the form ax^4 + bx^3 + cx^2 + dx + e = 0), which had evaded mankind until 1540. Without formal instruction, the boy had already mastered college level mathematics. In this respect, as in his deeply religious sensibility, he was like Pascal—who, according to his sister, played with conic sections when he was a small child. ….