The Savant Syndrome

The Savant Syndrome

The Savant Syndrome


Orlando Serrell

Orlando L. Serrell (born 1.968) is an "acquired savant" someone who exhibits savant skills after CNS injury or disease, as opposed a person born with autistic disorder or other developmental disability.

Orlando Serrell did not possess any special skills until he was struck by a baseball on the left side of his head on January 15, 1.979 when he was ten years old. 

The making of a genius.
What makes a genius? 

Do we all possess genius and fantastic mental abilities? 

Are those abilities laying dormant, trapped inside our brains? 

How can we tap into the genius caged in our minds? 

The answer to these questions may lay inside the mind of Orlando Serrell.
Orlando Serrell is what is known as an acquired savant (prodigious savant). 

There are two types of savants: acquired savants and autistic savants. 

An acquired savant is a person with a rare condition with various developmental disabilities, including autistic disorder and an astonishing ability for brilliance.

In 1.979, Orlando was the typical 10 year old boy. 

And like most children of that age, he enjoyed various sports including baseball. 

But, one baseball game would alter him for the rest of his life. 

August 17, 1.979, Orlando was engrossed in playing a baseball game with his friends. 

As Orlando made a frantic dash to first base, the baseball struck him on the left side of his head.

Orlando fell to the ground and stayed there for a while. 

Moments later, he got up and continued to play baseball. 

“I didn't tell my parents, therefore, I had no medical treatment for the accident,” says Orlando. 

But, his head continued to hurt for a long while.

Eventually, the headache ended, but Orlando soon noticed an uncanny ability to perform calendrical calculations of baffling complexity. 

In addition, he can recall the weather, where he was, and what he was doing for every day since the accident.

Soon, the media became interested in this “calendar-brain” and he began to appear in various local newspapers. 

On June the 17th, 2.002, he received a telephone call from NBC News (Dateline). 

They invited Orlando to visit the University of Columbia in New York to perform a functional MRI testing on his brain. 

During the procedure, the news staff video taped Orlando undergoing the MRI which would be used to compare his brain functions to that of other people who are not savant or at the genius level of brain functionality. 

On January 13th, 2.003, NBC News televised a documentary on “savants” on the Discovery Channel and included Orlando in the program.

What makes Orlando Serrell so unique is that he may indeed hold the key that unlocks the genius in us all. 

Orlando Serrell did not possess any special skills until he was struck in the head by a baseball when he was 10. 

And his extraordinary gifts seem to be his only side effect. 

Could this mean once a key hemisphere in the brain is stimulated, we can all attain the level of genius Orlando posses and beyond? 

Only time and research will tell. 

Until then we will do well to keep our eyes on Orlando and learn what we can from his experience.

Anthony Torrone

Anthony Torrone (born circa 1.955) is an American Christian author who is developmentally disabled. 

A savant, Torrone's 2.011 book, Anthony's Prayers was inspired by his time and the abuse that he experienced as a resident of the former Willowbrook State School which was a New York State mental hospital for children. 

Torrone has been a resident of Grand Rapids, Michigan since the 1.970s.

Anthony's Prayers was inspired by his time and the abuse that he experienced as a resident of the former Willowbrook State School which was a New York State mental hospital for children. 

Henriett Seth F.

Born : Fajcsák Henrietta
27 October 1.980 in Eger, Hungary
Occupation : Autistic savant artist
Literary movement : Autistic art


She is a Hungarian autistic savant poet, writer and artist became world famous with one book title Autizmussal önmagamba zárva ("Closed into myself with autism") and her one sentence on many cubes from her book made one monodrama, title Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek ("Notanobodycreature"), before the age of 30 worldwide and internally having regard to her childhood autism and heart disorders as mitral valve prolapse, three eye disorders as nearsightedness, astigmatism, strabismus, orthopedic diseases and other physical disorders. 

She gave up creative music career altogether at the age of 13, creative writing altogether at the age of 25 and she also gave up creative painting altogether before the age of 27. 

Her organization was attacked by cancer in 2.009. Henriett Seth F.' s life and arts can be compared Arthur Rimbaud' s life and arts after her "Little Wassily Kandinsky" 's early childhood savant syndrome years. 

Henriett universal effect of all that was what we now call autism and savant syndrome, see Darold Treffert, University of Wisconsin Medical School, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, U.S.A.: Henriett Seth F. - Rain Girl and National Talents Support Council, Particular Educational Talents Support Council, Budapest, Hungary: Henriett Seth F. - The Rain Girl Artist.


Henriett did not make eye contact in her early childhood. 

In 1.987 all the primary schools in her town refused her admission application because of her communication problems; she also did not make eye contact. 

She was placed in a music and art class, but she never sang songs so in 1.989 sent mentally handicapped primary school by two teachers, but she remained music and art class.

She played flute at age 8 and played contrabass at the age of 10-12, and until the age of 13 she was in many concerts in the Garrison and Soldiers of Club (in Hungarian: Helyorsegi Klub). 

She gave up creative music career altogether at the age of 13.

She was also found to have echolalia, communications problems and repetitive behaviors, see Henriett as a young girl - on the first digitized videos of childhood autism and savant syndrome on Hungary - on investigations and language development with her photos of paintings by Hungarian Autism Research Group, Budapest, 2.002. 

She was diagnosed with childhood autism by Hungarian Autism Research Group (Autizmus Alapítvány és Kutatócsoport) and two psychiatries of Eger.

Henriett had a long history of visual art, poetry and writing in her childhood; beginning at age nine and at age thirteen. 

Henriett universal effect of all that was what we now call autism and savant syndrome, she painted autistic art paintings to the House of Arts, Eger, and Hotel Stadion of Budapest in the East-European Autism Conference, 2.004.

She won the Géza Gárdonyi Prize at the age of 18 for her art and literature. 

Henriett went to Eszterhazy College at the age of 18 to the Psychology Institution but her communication and her behavior problems pensioned with a diagnosis of childhood autism in 2.002. 

She has Raven IQ above 140 and Mawi IQ above 120 with part some under IQ 90, so she was considered handicapped genius, a perfect example of childhood autism and savant syndrome, see disability support.

In 2.005, she wrote a book, Autizmussal önmagamba zárva ("Closed into myself with autism"), that was published by the Hungarian Autism Research Group and Ministry for National Cultural Heritage.

Henriett was invited to the Friderikusz Sándor's documentary film, to Szólás Szabadsága ("Freedom of Speech"), in 2.005, that was seen by 700,000 people. 

This documentary film was entitled Esőlány ("Rain Girl"). 

In 2.006 Henriett wrote one novel, Autizmus - Egy másik világ ("Autism - Another World"). 

That work was published by University of Pécs, in the New Galaxy anthology. 

Henriett won the 6th-place prize in the International Literature Competition in 2.000, at the age of 19. 

She came in first in 2.001, at the age of 20 (by International Alliance of Hungarian Writers). 

Henriett wrote novels and poems during her childhood, as well as in college life to the periodical Esőember ("Rain Man"), 2.006.

She showed her last art work in Brody Sandor Public Library in June, 2.007.

She gave up creative writing altogether at the age of 25 and she also gave up creative painting altogether before the age of 27. 

She did not sold work of childhood and teen age literature and visual art her mother's advice but her own room transformed childhood autism and savant syndrome memorial room at age 30, see Henriett's high-definition video.

She also had three autoimmune disorders and now living with childhood autism, heart disorders as mitral valve prolapse, three eye disorders as nearsightedness, astigmatism, strabismus, orthopedic diseases and other physical disorders. 

Her organization was attacked by cancer in 2.009.

In 2.010, Orlai Produkciós Iroda made a monodrama, Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek ("Notanobodycreature"), from book of Henriett Seth F. 

The text book contains details of Donna Williams' s Nobody Nowhere : The extraordinary Autobiography of an Autistic Girl few lines, Birger Sellin' s Don't want to Be Inside Me Anymore: Messages from Autistic Mind few lines and a few lines by Mark Haddon' s: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. 

That played in Esztergom, Budapest, Pécs, Tatabánya, Székesfehérvár and Eger theatres and made from it TV documentary in Hungarian Television, 2.010, and Budapest, Gyöngyös theatres in 2.011. 

Henriett Seth F.' s life and arts can be compared Arthur Rimbaud' s life and arts after her "Little Wassily Kandinsky" 's early childhood savant syndrome years.

Henriett universal effect of all that was what we now call autism and savant syndrome, see Darold Treffert, University of Wisconsin Medical School, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, U.S.A.: Henriett Seth F. - Rain Girl and National Talents Support Council, Particular Educational Talents Support Council, Budapest, Hungary: Henriett Seth F. - The Rain Girl Artist.

Works in Hungarian

Henriett Seth F.' s unpublished poems from her childhood and teen years before the age 25 with title It may be...; Autumn; Well, don't speak this child; Something easy to write and sweet; There in the distance; Silently; Somewhere; A dream in a cage; Liberation from the slavery of the soul and Poem to the patron, on title 2th: Existence, infinity, and the world years between (1.989–2.005).

Winner of the XIIth and XIIIth International Literature Competition(2000–2001) International Alliance of Hungarian Writers.
Novels to the periodical New Face, (2.001)

Autizmussal önmagamba zárva ("Closed into myself with autism") by Henriett Seth F. to Hungarian Autism Research Group and Ministry for the National Cultural Heritage (2.005)
Autizmus – Egy másik világ ("Autism - Another World") by Henriett Seth F. to University of Pécs (2.006) 
Novel to the periodical Esőember ("Rain Man") (2.006) by Henriett Seth F. from her kindergarten's, primary school's and Eszterhazy College's life.


Henriett Seth F.' s paintings and galleries in House of Arts and Brody Sandor Public Library, Eger, 1.993-2.007

TV Documentaries

Henriett Seth F. on the first digitized videos of childhood autism and savant syndrome on Hungary on investigations and language development with her photos of paintings by Hungarian Autism Research Group, 2.002.

Friderikusz Sándor.: "Seth F. Henriett: Esőlány", ("The Rain Girl") - Freedom of Speech, Hungarian Television, 2.005.
Monodrama from book of Henriett Seth F.: Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek.


Monodrama from book of Henriett Seth F., text book contains details of Donna Williams, Birger Sellin and Mark Haddon: Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek ("Notanobodycreature") in Esztergom' s Theatre by Orlai Produkciós Iroda, 2.010.

Monodrama from book of Henriett Seth F., text book contains details of Donna Williams, Birger Sellin and Mark Haddon: Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek ("Notanobodycreature") in Budapest Trafó House of Contemporary Arts by Orlai Produkciós Iroda, 2.010, 2.011.

Monodrama from book of Henriett Seth F., text book contains details of Donna Williams, Birger Sellin and Mark Haddon: Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek ("Notanobodycreature") in Pécs' s Harmadik Theatre by Orlai Produkciós Iroda, 2.010.

Monodrama from book of Henriett Seth F., text book contains details of Donna Williams, Birger Sellin and Mark Haddon: Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek ("Notanobodycreature") in Tatabánya' s Jászai Mari Theatre by Orlai Produkciós Iroda, 2.010.

Monodrama from book of Henriett Seth F., text book contains details of Donna Williams, Birger Sellin and Mark Haddon: Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek ("Notanobodycreature") in Székesfehérvár' s Vörösmarty Theatre by Orlai Produkciós Iroda, 2.010.

Monodrama from book of Henriett Seth F., text book contains details of Donna Williams, Birger Sellin and Mark Haddon: Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek ("Notanobodycreature") in Eger' s Gárdonyi Géza Theatre by Orlai Produkciós Iroda, 2.010.

Monodrama from book of Henriett Seth F., text book contains details of Donna Williams, Birger Sellin and Mark Haddon: Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek ("Notanobodycreature") in Budapest' s Radnóti Színház by Orlai Produkciós Iroda, 2.011.

Monodrama from book of Henriett Seth F., text book contains details of Donna Williams, Birger Sellin and Mark Haddon: Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek ("Notanobodycreature") in Gyöngyös' s Mátra Művelődési Központ by Orlai Produkciós Iroda, 2.011.

External links in English and Hungarian

Henriett Seth F.'s web site – Contains this autistic savant woman's biography, paintings/galleries/books/novels/prizes/theatres/tv documentaries of Henriett, multiple gifted autistic savant.

Article (Rain Girl) from Henriett Seth F. – Contains biography of Henriett, paintings and photos by Dr. Darold Treffert.

Documentary film from Henriett Seth F. – Contains autism and savant syndrome from Henriett, title with Esőlány ("The Rain Girl") - Freedom of Speech in Hungarian Television by Friderikusz Sandor, 2.005.

Monodrama from book of Henriett Seth F. – Contains book (Autizmussal onmagamba zarva) of Henriett Seth F., title with Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek ("Notanobodycreature"), by Orlai Produkciós Iroda, RTL Klub, ATV, Port, 2.010.

Henriett Seth F.' s international influences: Arts in Difference; – Contains Arts in Difference: Henriett Seth F., Nemsenkilény, monológ nemmindegyembereknek "Notanobodycreature", 2.010.


Criticism from Henriett Seth F.'s book of Autizmussal önmagamba zárva ("Closed into myself with autism") by Alliance Safeguarding for Hungarian Autistic Children and Adults.

Criticism from Henriett Seth F.'s book of Autizmussal önmagamba zárva ("Closed into myself with autism") and Henriett Seth F. by Börcsök Enikő, title with Megoszthatatlan belső magány ("Indivisible internal solitude").

Criticism from Henriett Seth F.'s book of Autizmus - Egy másik világ ("Autism - Another World") by Magazine Solaria Science Fiction.

George Widener

George Widener is an autistic savant with the ability to perform incredibly complex calendar calculations in mere seconds. 

He can almost instantly determine the day of the week for any date in history or far in the future and has incredibly detailed knowledge historical events.

After a troubled and lonely childhood, George was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and he found a release for the constant swarm of numbers in his head through art.

George now shows his richly detailed calendar art in galleries around the world. 

Cutting edge Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging is helping neurologists see how George's brain processes information differently than neurotypical brains.

Give George Widener any date in history and he can, within seconds, tell you what day of the week it was.

At his home in Asheville, North Carolina, George works into the night drawing elaborate calendars.

Before bed he reads, not a novel but, printed sheets of population figures.

Numbers follow George wherever he goes, he finds comfort in them, he considers them his friends.

George says no one ever taught him to calculate calendars. In fact, he insists he's not calculating at all.

George's skill is phenomenal, but it comes at a cost.

He suffers from a form of autism, a brain disorder that leads to awkwardness and social isolation.

As a child, school was a place of fear and dread, but a chance encounter at his grandmother's house when he was seven changed his life.

He met another child who was fascinated with his grandmother's calendar.

Today, George is perhaps the world's greatest calendar calculator, but he is not unique.

He belongs to a select group of people known as savants.

Tommy McHugh

One of 12 kids in a large Irish family… Boxing… Prison… 

A thriving building firm… Junkie… Wives… Children… Friendships bitter and sweet… 

Being visited by Death, getting a headache and telling it to fuck off…

And then

A swirl, a fugue of events and experiences spiralling back and forward in time all meeting at one big bang moment when something split at a quantum level and Tommy the artist was born another life slipping anchor and heading to god knows where and when.

It’s not a life story I want to touch on here. 

Just my impression of Tom and his work. 

Tom as an artist and how, as an artist myself, I see us all fitting into this...


It’s all about the face, the face as representative of identity and loss of it. 

You see each of them fighting for attention in his busiest, more heated work—when he’s in that fever and they all peek their noses out to be seen. 

A mass of them but no confusion. I imagine it’s how a particularly harassed medium must feel all of those presences vying for attention as the séance is about to begin. 

But somehow, some way, out of the hustle bustle, there’s coherence of multiple identity… 

Then the single faces, the portraits he paints where one identity has grabbed him for that few moments it takes him to put the paint down. 

Peering out of the fog, lit up by sunlight, hiding but wanting to be seen.

And all these faces—is it just me or do I see Tommy’s high cheek bones in them? Self portraits of all the other quantum selves that flash through the perpetual motion machine that is Tommy’s creativity.

Alien landscapes

Over coffee recently Tommy told me it sometimes felt like he was walking through this life as if it's a constanty changing alien landscape. 

And that's part of the artistic experience I suppose. Always observing, always mystical and anthropological looking at the inner and the outer play of consciousness and actions coming and going and making of them what you will. 

I experience this to some degree. But with Tommy and his scuffle with death and the unleashing of his creative genie, unarbitered and free with Tommy this experience is intense and frighteningly out of control. I don't know how he copes. 

But he does as long as there's a brush and paint to magic the intensity away, or a lump of stone to carve...


I first met Tommy some time ago, not too long after his double annoyance and the bursting of the dam.

I was just another person in an office and he'd come along for some help, some advice. 

Though he seemed to be doing OK without my help as a hindrance organising exhibitions of himself all over the Wirral. 

And it was only when I came to work at Neurosupport in Liverpool that our paths crossed again and now Tom's paintings hang in the atrium of the Neurosupport building and draw amazement and comment from everyone who sees them. 

Now, with documentaries about him, journalists and sundry seekers after the bizarre and remarkable interviewing him Tommy is something of celebrity, a one-man painting machine with one thing in his mind. 

To dispel a few myths, and open more than a few eyes...

Witch Doctors

I know that Tommy has sometimes felt more of a lab rat than an individual with a fascinating experience to relate. It seems the individual gets lost in the mechanistic world view of most 'specialists' and probers. 

Only Dr Alice W Flaherty of Harvard University (and author of the remarkable 'The Midnight Disease') has the insight and empathy to see what is happening: a chrysalis opened and a beautiful winged creativity emerged and changed one man's life in a miraculous way.


I know Tommy doesn't dwell too much on the future he's far too busy creating and imagining in the present. 

But I hope this website gives us a glimpse into a future where the mystery of creation opens up before us and we see ourselves reflected back. 

Is there a Tommy McHugh in all of us? I hope so...

Dane Bottino

Dane Bottino is a self-taught artist.

He started drawing when he was two years of age. 

He is autistic and lost his beginning language about the same age. 

He instead spent every waking moment drawing to express his emotions, desires and thoughts. 

Surprisingly, even at three years of age, he could draw with correct perspective and correct spelling, etc. 

He would give grocery lists of intricate and correct images of whatever he wanted. He has always been very obsessive and compulsive about his drawing.

For example, when he was young he would draw on whatever he could get his hands on: books, newspapers and telephone books. 

He would have a picture on every page, front and back. He would stay up all night until a series of pictures was complete. 

For example, early pictures were drawn over and over until he was pleased with the image and then he would not draw that subject again. 

Sometimes this process would include thousands of drawings on the same theme.

He has gone through periods on Dr. Seuss, imaginary animals, realistic animals, cartoons, etc. 

At fifteen years old he has basic functional language, yet he still chooses to communicate through art instead of common language.

Dane is very right brained and this rules the way he sees the world. 

Lately, he has done a series on the history of art, interpreting the following: cave art, Greek, Medieval, Renaissance, Impressionism, Van Gogh, Picasso, Warhol, etc. 

Additionally, he has become interested in graphic arts and would like to create a web page to sell his art.

He has also shown a talent in music and has been found to have a perfect pitch. He can sing language and this might be an avenue for future expression. 

He can easily adjust his styles and seems to be expanding his creativity and horizons.

Dane has been on TV numerous times and has been filmed by the Discovery channel and the BBC. 

If you are interested in contacting him, you can email him. 

He is located in Southern California and exhibits on a regular basis. 

He sells his work and will have a recent piece in the UC Davis Mind Institute Gallery collection. 

He hopes to hear from you.

Video Dane Bottino
Ver galeria de cuadros

Robert Gagno

Robert Gagno is an autistic young man who may never live independently from his parents, but he has an incredible talent : he's one of the top-ranked pinball players in the world.

Robert's brain seems hard-wired for pinball wizardry: intense concentration and focus, the ability to almost instantly recognize the impetus, trajectory and velocity of the ball, and an incredible memory that allows him to memorize shot patterns and rack up huge scores.

Robert and his father head to the Mayo Clinic to meet with a leading neurologist to see what makes Robert's brain unique. 

However, it's a visual processing test that presents the biggest clue as to why Robert is such a gifted pinball player.

Robert is tall and rail-thin, with tousled brown curls, oval-framed glasses, and great big sapphires for eyes. 

When he's playing pinball, which is most of the time, those eyes bug out in a state of twitchy hyper-alertness. 

At other moments, like when he has to meet a stranger, they quickly make for the ground.

Robert is also autistic, which helps explain the lack of eye contact and why he wouldn't have offered his hand for a shake had he not been reminded to do so by his mother and father, Kathy and Maurizio, who, as both parents and pinball competitors, are usually right by his side. 

Moreover, Robert is a savant, which helps to explain why at 22 he's the top-ranked player in the league. 

He's also tops in a league in his hometown of Vancouver, B.C. In a sport where the elite have been playing for decades, Robert is something of a prodigy.

Just two years ago, on a whim, Maurizio signed up Robert for the Canadian World Championships, his son's first competitive tournament. 

"I had to go to Toronto for business anyway," Maurizio says. "So I figured 'What the heck?'"

"What the heck" turned into a 12th-place finish. 

Shortly thereafter, the people responsible for ranking pinballers decreed that this impressive debut meant that there were only 3,722 players in the whole world better at pinball than Robert. 

Today there are 22.

So is the secret to Robert's meteoric rise just practice? 

Talent? Or, as some have suggested, something beyond his control? 

Whatever it is, it'll have to wait, because shortly after the handshake, Robert spins on his heels and marches back into the house with a slightly herky-jerky gait that will soon become familiar.

Robert delicately nudges a button so that a ball jumps from one flipper to the other, an advanced technique known as an alley pass. 

Now he's not just playing pinball, he's juggling too. 

The look on Robert's face is something between a smile and "Oh my God, they're removing my fingernail without anesthetic!" 

As he plays, three guys stride up. 

One of them has a clipboard. "Aw, man, he's still going," he says. 

A few minutes later the last ball goes down.

"Is that a good score?" asks Kathy.

"Yes," answers Robert, one arm flung up and behind his head as if he were patting himself on the back.

"But you used to hate this game."

Daniel Tammet

Born : 31 January 1979 (age 33) - London, England

Occupation : Writer, educator

Daniel Tammet (born on 31 January 1.979) is a British writer. 

His best selling 2.006 memoir, Born On A Blue Day, about his life with high-functioning autism and savant syndrome, was named a "Best Book for Young Adults" in 2.008 by the American Library Association.

Tammet's second book, Embracing the Wide Sky, was named one of France's best selling books of 2.009 by L'Express magazine in its March 2.010 edition.

Tammet's books have been published in 20 languages.


Early life

Tammet was born Daniel Paul Corney and raised in East London, England, the eldest of nine children. 

He suffered epileptic seizures as a young child, which he subsequently outgrew following medical treatment. 

At age twenty-five, he would eventually be diagnosed with Asperger syndrome by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen of the Autism (Spectrum) Research Centre at Cambridge University.

Tammet is one of fewer than a hundred "prodigious savants" according to Dr. Darold Treffert, the world's leading researcher in the study of savant syndrome. 

Tammet finished school with nine GCSEs (an 'A*' in History, 'A' grades in English, English Literature, French, and German, two 'B' grades in the Sciences, a 'B' in Maths, having obtained an 'A' in his preliminary Maths exam, and a 'C' in Woodwork) and three A-Levels in History, French and German, all at grade 'B'.

Preferring travel to university, Tammet taught English for a year in Lithuania.

Tammet twice participated (in 1.999, and 2.000) under his birth name in the World Memory Championships in London. 

Placing 12th in 1.999, and 4th in 2.000, behind a trio of present and future 'World Memory Champions'.

He changed his birth name by deed poll because "it didn't fit with the way he saw himself."

In 2.002 Tammet launched his website, Optimnem.

The site offers language courses (currently French and Spanish) and has been an approved member of the U.K.'s National Grid for Learning since 2.006.


Tammet's memory, mathematical and linguistic abilities have been studied by some of the world's leading neuroscientists at California's Center for Brain Studies and the UK's Cambridge Autism Research Centre  and have been the subject of several peer-reviewed scientific papers.

Professor Allan Snyder at the Australian National University has said of Tammet: "Savants can't usually tell us how they do what they do. 

It just comes to them. Daniel can describe what he sees in his head. 

That's why he's exciting. He could be the 'Rosetta Stone'."

Tammet's unusually vivid and complex synesthesia has been widely reported. 

In his mind, he says, each positive integer up to 10,000 has its own unique shape, colour, texture and feel. 

He can intuitively "see" results of calculations as synaesthetic landscapes without using conscious mental effort and can "sense" whether a number is prime or composite. 

He has described his visual image of 289 as particularly ugly, 333 as particularly attractive, and pi as beautiful. The number 6 apparently has no distinct image yet what he describes as an almost small nothingness, opposite to the number 9 which he calls large and towering.

Tammet has described 25 as energetic and the "kind of number you would invite to a party".

Tammet not only verbally describes these visions, but has also created artwork, including a watercolour painting of pi.

Tammet holds the European record for reciting pi from memory to 22,514 digits in five hours and nine minutes on 14 March 2004.

Tammet's record currently ranks 6th in the world.

Tammet states in Born On A Blue Day that he speaks ten languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Finnish, Lithuanian, Romanian, Icelandic, Welsh, and Esperanto. 

He learned conversational Icelandic in one week, which he demonstrated in a live television interview conducted entirely in the language.

Segments of the interview showing Tammet responding to questions in Icelandic were shown in a documentary film entitled (in the UK) The Boy with the Incredible Brain, first broadcast on the British television station Channel Five on 23 May 2.005.

Segments of the interview were also televised on 28th January 2.007 edition of the CBS news magazine, 60 Minutes.

The British documentary showed Tammet meeting Kim Peek, a world famous savant. 

Peek was shown hugging Tammet telling him that "Some day you will be as great as I am," to which Tammet replied, "That was a wonderful compliment; what an aspiration to have!".


Born On A Blue Day, Tammet's memoir of a life with Asperger's syndrome, received international media attention and critical praise. 

Booklist's Ray Olson stated that Tammet's autobiography was "as fascinating as Benjamin Franklin's and John Stuart Mill's" and that Tammet wrote "some of the clearest prose this side of Hemingway". 

Kirkus stated that the book "transcends the disability memoir genre". 

Other reviewers praised Tammet for his "elegant," "eloquent," and "engaging" style.

For his U.S. book tour, he appeared on several television and radio talk shows and specials, including 60 Minutes and Late Show with David Letterman.

In February 2.007 Born on a Blue Day was serialised as BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week in the United Kingdom.

Tammet's second book, Embracing the Wide Sky, was published in 2.009. 

Professor Allan Snyder, director of Sydney University's Centre for the Mind, called the work 'an extraordinary and monumental achievement'.

Tammet argues that savant abilities should not be seen as "supernatural" or computer-like but as "an outgrowth" of normal brain functioning and "natural, instinctive ways of thinking about numbers and words", which suggests that affected brains might be at least partially retrained and that normal brains might be taught to develop or retain some savant abilities.

In other people blue is connected with sadness for example, but when you think about it sadness is an abstract concept so why is it blue, why not green or yellow?

It makes no more logical sense for sadness to be blue than for four to be blue. 

So there are certain connections, certain concepts in everyone's brain that are connected that way and mine just takes it to a whole other level.

Tammet was among the invited speakers at the TED2.011 'Rediscovery of Wonder' conference in Long Beach, California.

Scientific study

Tammet's abilities have been examined in several scientific investigations.

After the World Memory Championships, Tammet participated in a group study of several superior memorisers later published in the New Year 2.003 edition of Nature Neuroscience.

The researchers investigated the reasons for the memorisers' superior performance. 

They reported that the superior memorisers used "strategies for encoding information with the sole purpose of making it more memorable", and concluded that superior memory was not driven by exceptional intellectual ability or differences in brain structure.

In another study, Simon Baron-Cohen and others at the Autism Research Centre at the University of Cambridge tested Tammet's abilities in around 2.005.

He was found to have synaesthesia according to the "Test of Genuineness-Revised" which tests the subjects' consistency in reporting descriptions of their synaesthesia. 

He performed well on tests of short term memory (with a digit span of 11.5, where 6.5 is typical). 

Conversely, test results showed his memory for faces appeared to be impaired, and he scored at the level expected of a 6-8 year old child in this task. 

The authors speculated that Tammet's savant memory could be a result of synaesthesia combined with Asperger syndrome, while noting that mnemonic strategies (such as the method of loci) could also explain savant memory abilities.

Baron-Cohen, Bor and Billington investigated whether his synaesthesia and Aspergers syndrome explained his savant memory abilities in a further study published in Neurocase in 2.008. 

The authors state that the memory training used by other experts does not explain his abilities, as he had not had explicit training. 

They concluded that his abilities might be explained by hyperactivity in one brain region (the left prefrontal cortex), which results from his Aspergers syndrome and synaesthesia.

On the Navon task, relative to non-autistic controls, Tammet was found to be faster at finding a target at the local level and to be less distracted by interference from the global level.

In an fMRI scan, Tammet did not activate extra-striate regions of the brain "normally associated with synaesthesia", suggesting that he has an "unusual and more abstract and conceptual form of synaesthesia". 

Published in Cerebral Cortex (2.011), another fmRI study by Professor Jean-Michel Hupé and others at the Centre de Recherche Cerveau and Cognition at the University of Toulouse observed no activation of color areas in ten synaesthetes.

Hupé suggests that synaesthetic color experience lies not in the brain's color system, but instead results from "a complex construction of meaning in the brain, involving not only perception, but language, memory and emotion".

In his book Moonwalking with Einstein (2.011), former US Memory Champion Joshua Foer speculates that study of conventional mnemonic approaches has played a role in Tammet's feats of memory, while accepting that Tammet meets the standard definition of a prodigious savant.

In a review of his book for The New York Times, psychologist Alexandra Horowitz described Foer's speculation as among the book's few "missteps" and his decision to devote space to the case of a "renowned savant" such as Tammet "inexplicable," questioning whether it would matter if he had used such strategies or not.

Personal life

Tammet met his first partner, software engineer Neil Mitchell, in 2.000. 

Tammet lived with him in Kent, where they had a quiet regimented life at home with their cats, preparing meals from their garden.

Tammet and Mitchell operated the online e-learning company Optimnem, where they created and published language courses.

Tammet now lives with a new partner, Jérôme Tabet, a French photographer whom he met while promoting his autobiography. 

Although he has said that he did not think he would be here if it were not for the love and support of Mitchell, more recently he noted that he used to live a rigid existence aimed at calming his many anxieties .

"I was very happy, but it was a small happiness" whereas now, as the subtitle of Embracing the Wide Sky  : A tour across the horizons of the mind asserts, he believes that we ought to seek to liberate our brains a belief reflected in his new life :

My life used to be very simple and regimented but since then I have travelled constantly and given lots of lectures and it just changed me...

It made me much more open, much more interested in, I guess, the full potential of what my mind could do... 

Because of that change I grew and in a sense I grew apart from my long-term partner, so we parted amicably in 2.007, and a short while later I met my current partner, who is from France so I decided to go and live with him in Avignon.


Mänti is a constructed language that Tammet has created.

The word 'Mänti' comes from the Finnish word for 'pine tree' (mänty). 

Mänti uses vocabulary and grammar from the Finnic languages. 

Some sample words include :

Mänti English Estonian Finnish Notes
buss bus buss bussi
kuppi cup kruus,kapp kuppi
kellokült lateness, tardiness viitsimatus, hilinemine myöhästyneisyys Literally "clock-debt". In Finnish kello = a clock / a bell
puhukello telephone telefon puhelin Literally "speak-bell". In Finnish puhua = to speak
tontöö music muusika musiikki Literally "tone-art". In Estonian töö = work
nööt night öö
koet saapat footwear jalanõud jalkineet In Finnish saappaat = boots. In Estonian saapad = boots.
hamma tooth hammas hammas
rât wire traat johto
râatio radio raadio radio



Born On A Blue Day (2.006)
Embracing The Wide Sky (2.009)
Non-fiction, Other
What It Feels Like To Be A Savant, in "Esquire", August 2.005
Open Letter to Barack Obama, in "The Advocate", December 2.008
Islands of Genius (2.010), foreword to book by Dr. Darold A. Treffert


American Library Association's Best Book for Young Adults
Booklist Editors Choice 
Sunday Times Top Choice's Best Books of 2.006 
Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads 2.012 Selection 


Richard Wawro

Richard Wawro was a remarkable Scottish artist who earned widespread acclaim for his detailed drawings created with the unusual medium of wax oil crayons. 

With these he produced exceedingly detailed, dramatic images of intense depth and colour.

Richard died on February 22nd, 2.006 after a brave fight against cancer. 

Richard developed his art well beyond the constrictions of his autism and physical disability. 

The drawings of Richard Wawro have a popular appeal which is not confined to traditional artistic circles. 

His work is admired and owned by people who would not consider themselves art collectors. 

Notable owners of Richard Wawro originals are Lady Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II. 

Richard was born in 1.952. 

When he was three years old his parents were told that he was moderately to severely retarded. 

He also showed considerable autistic behavior with the characteristic obsession for sameness, withdrawal, walking in circles, spinning objects endlessly, and a preoccupation with the piano striking a single key for hours at a time. 

He did not have useful language until the age of 11. 

He required surgery for cataracts on both eyes during childhood.

Richard began drawing on a chalkboard at about age 3. 

He immediately covered the tiny chalkboard with numerous images. 

At age 6 he entered a Children's Center where he was introduced to drawing with crayons where his immense talent was immediately apparent. 

When Richard was 12 years old, Professor Marian Bohusz-Szyszko of the Polish School of Art in London viewed Richard's drawings and was "thunderstruck"; he described his works as an "incredible phenomenon rendered with the precision of a mechanic and the vision of a poet."

Like other savants Richard had a phenomenal memory. 

He remembered where he drew each picture and had each of them precisely dated in his mind. 

He used no models for his drawings, but drew from images seen only once, on television or in a book at one of the bookshops he loved to visit. 

He had perfect recall but often added his own touches, interpretations or improvisation to the images. 

He seemed especially fascinated, and facile, with light its sources and its dispersion and the tones he uses to capture lights and shadows are masterful.

For Richard art was his life and his love. 

He took pride in his talent and loved to share it. 

At the completion of each picture Richard would take it to his father for approval and then received appropriate and deserved compliments, followed by a mini-celebration in which he and his father raised joined hands in a sort of present-day high-five. 

He and his father shared an unmistakeable enthusiasm and appreciation for each other. Richard's mother, who also loved and appreciated him unconditionally, died in 1.979 but in spite of their closeness, Richard's work did not stop. Richard's father died in 2.002.

Richard had his first exhibition in Edinburgh when he was 17 years old. 

Now he is known worldwide and has sold over 1000 pictures in over 100 exhibitions. 

One of his exhibitions was opened by Margaret Thatcher when she was Minister of Education. 

She owns several of his pictures as did the late Pope John Paul II. 

A very impressive and moving documentary about Richard called "With Eyes Wide Open" had its world premiere in 1.983 and has won numerous awards in many countries. 

Dr. Laurence Becker who produced that film states "it enables the viewer to experience Richard Wawro as a highly gifted artist and as a person. 

It reveals the nurturing environments that enabled Richard's spirit and talent to grow and develop. 

It is as though deep within him that 'spirit was clamoring to be free' and for himself and for each viewer or his art, his drawing sets it free. 

This remarkable artist's life and his art provide abundant evidence of the quality and persistence of the human, creative spirit."

A videotape entitled A Real Rainman, Portrait of an Autistic Savant was also produced by Dr. Becker and is now available. 

Tony DeBlois

Anthony Thomas "Tony" DeBlois is a blind US autistic savant and musician.


Tony DeBlois was born blind on January 22, 1.974. 

He began to play piano at the age of two. At first DeBlois studied in the Perkins School for the Blind but in 1.989 was awarded a summer scholarship at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. 

Later he was admitted as a full-time student and graduated magna cum laude in 1.996.

DeBlois specializes in jazz but can play just about any other type of music as well. 

A savant, he plays 20 musical instruments and has held concerts worldwide but also has his own band, Goodnuf. 

He can play about 8,000 pieces from memory.

Tony DeBlois is a musical savant I first met in 1.989 when he was awarded a summer scholarship at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. 

Tony so impressed the staff at Berklee that summer that he was admitted there as a full time student and graduated magna cum laude in 1.996, a astriking achievement for someone both blind and autistic. 

Tony is a tremendous jazz musician and improvises freely, and impressively. 

He, and his mother Janice, were featured in a 1.991.

Today Show and also have been on CBS Sunday Morning. 

There have been many other frequent television and media appearances since that time. 

Tony is autistic and blind with striking musical ability, which, while including spectacular jazz ability, extends to many other musical styles ranging from country to classic. 

He plays 14 musical instruments, 12 of them proficiently. 

Like many other musical savants, his ability surfaced at an astounding level when his mother bought him a chord organ at a garage sale when Tony was 2 years old. 

His story, and that of his dedicated proud mother was told in a CBS Movie of the Week, Journey to the Heart, which was broadcast nationally on March 2, 1.997. 

Tony's mother, Janice DeBlois, describes his remarkable story this way :

"Born weighing 1 lb. 3/4 oz. was only the first obstacle that Tony DeBlois had to overcome. 

This 29-year-old pianist from Randolph, MA is blind, autistic and has Savant Syndrome. 

He has been playing the piano since age 2. 

He was the subject of the 1.997 CBS made for TV Movie of the week 'Journey of the Heart,' which was inspired by actual events in Tony's life. 

Additionally, he has appeared on 2 Catholic Global Showcase Specials (2.001), The Learning Channel's 'Uncommon Genius', Strange Science 'Unusual People', and 'Understanding the Mysteries of Memory'. 

He is the recipient of numerous awards, among them are Chou, Ta-Kuan Cultural and Educational Foundations Global 'Love of Life Award' (2.002), the Faith and Family Foundation first Outstanding Achievement Award, the coveted Reynolds Society Achievement Award (1.996), the Foundation for Exceptional Children's prestigious 'Yes, I can' Award for 1.993 and the Panasonic Sponsored, VSAarts Itzhak Perlman Award (1.992). 

As Tony's 'Let me do it independently' attitude inspires many people who meet him, his talents are being noticed internationally, hence his returning concerts to both Singapore and Taiwan and upcoming performances in Dublin and Limerick, Ireland. 

Stories about him have been broadcast on National Public Radio (NPR), Voice of America Radio and Talk America. 

Spots about him aired in documentaries in Rome, London, Japan and Australia. 

Tony is the inspiration for the book 'Fred's Prayer Machine' (Ambassador Book 5/02) and he will be appearing in two Psychology textbooks referencing autism. 

All this fame has not daunted Tony's excitement about learning. 

His studies at Perkins School for the Blind earned him a Certificate of Achievement but, his hard work at Berklee College of Music paid off; he graduated magna cum laude on Mother's Day 1.996. 

When not on tour, Tony enjoys singing with St. Mary's Choir, performing with his band 'Goodnuf' and spending time with his girlfriend. 

Besides piano, Tony enjoys playing the organ, harmonica, guitar, harpsichord, English handbells, violin, banjo, drums and trumpet, and is now learning saxophone, clarinet, ukulele, mandolin and flute. 

When not playing musical instruments, Tony enjoys swimming, exercise equipment, the computer, Mystery Tours and has just learned to ballroom dance. 

For Tony there are no 'roadblocks' but mere obstacles to be cast aside or skirted. 

His favorite phrase seems to be 'I haven't learned that yet.'"

Tony's new, third CD, was recently released. It is titled "Beyond Words" and is an instumental jazz work in which Tony teams up with what the Boston Globe terms "Boston's House Band" with Bo Winiker on trumpet and flugehorn, Tommy Petrakis on bass and Bill Winiker on drums.