The Savant Syndrome

The Savant Syndrome

The Savant Syndrome


Christophe Pillault

Christophe Pillault Olivet France was born in Iran in 1.982.

An autistic savant, he is unable to talk, walk or feed himself.

He discovered painting, using his hands though unable to use his fingers functionally.

He began painting in 1.993.

His capacities were discovered by his special education teacher and then encouraged by his mother.

Christophe does not talk but expresses himself through his paintings.

A singular figure in art, he paints with his hands and uses acrylic on paper, canvas and cardboard.

His artwork was introduced to the United States by Dr. Becker in April, 1.988 at the Mills Pond House Gallery in Smithtown, Long Island, New York.

His paintings are striking due to the imagery, fascinating, improbable, and sometimes mystic characters represented.

It appears often that he is painting ethereal beings.
It is a strange world in which we can penetrate with the renewed wonder of childhood.

Christophe has exhibited throughout France, Italy, Japan and the U.S.

He is a member of several artist societies. One of his paintings is featured on the cover of the 2.003 DAN (Defeat Autism Now) Conference Program.

His art is also included in Art of the mind, the permanent art collection of the M.I.N.D. Institute in California.

Ben Pridmore


Pridmore is the 2.009 World Memory Champion, a title he also won in 2.004 and 2.008. 

From Derby in the United Kingdom,Pridmore achieved this by winning a 10-discipline competition, the World Memory Championship, which has taken place every year since 1.991.

He held the official world record for memorizing the order of a randomly shuffled 52-card deck, and has memorised a pack in a time of 24.68 seconds on television.

This record was beaten in 2.010 by German memory athlete and lawyer Simon Reinhard. 

He is ranked number four in the world ranking list for Memory Sports.

Pridmore's victory at the 2.009 World Championship was his eighth consecutive memory competition win since coming second at the 2.007 World Championship.

Besides memory sports he is famous for his mental calculation skills and took part in the Mental Calculation World Cup in 2.004, 2.006 and 2.010.

He has also won several medals at the Mind Sports Olympiad including becoming the 2.001 World Champion at the ten disciplined mind sport competition the decamentathlon.

He was prominently featured in the music video for DJ Shadow's single "Scale It Back".


Like most memory experts, he creates a mental story, comprises a sequence of images that he has permanently memorised as representing number groups, playing card pairs etc. 

Pridmore often envisages a story around his old school, Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Horncastle as the framework for these memory sequences.

Magnus Carlsen

Birth: 30 November 1990 (21 years)
Nationality: Norwegian
Occupation: Chess Player

Sven Magnus Carlsen Øen (November 30, 1.990, Bærum, Akershus, Norway) is a norwegian International chess Grandmaster.

In the year 2.010 he reached the top of world rankings of the International Chess Federation.

He was the youngest player to surpass the 2800 ELO points, and achieving the position of world number one to get at the age of 19 years and one month.

It should be noted further that today (12/06/2012) has 2835 Elo points as shown in the FIDE rating.

On 26 April 2004 Carlsen became a Grandmaster at the age of 13 years, 4 months and 27 days, at the time the youngest in the world. Carlsen is the third youngest grandmaster in getting the title in the history of the game after Sergei Karjakin and Negi Parimarjan.

Carlsen live in Lommedalen, near the Norwegian capital, Oslo.

At eight he played his first tournament, was trained at the Sports Gymnasium led by Norway's best player, Grandmaster Simen Agdestein. Featured Victories: Magnus has beaten the likes of Nigel Short (former world runner), Kramnik, Ivan Sokolov, Dolmatov, Ernst and Karpov.

It has come to draw with Kasparov.

Magnus received from the 2,002 support from the Norwegian computer company Artic Securities and is currently sponsored by Microsoft.

Danish Grandmaster Peter Heine Nielsen has trained, but from 2009 became known the news that former world champion Garry Kasparov had trained in secret since January of that year.

Carlsen was the youngest player to participate in the FIDE World Chess Championship 2004, but was eliminated in the first round by Levon Aronian.

In the year 2002 was proclaimed world runner at U-12.

He drew international attention by winning the Group C of Corus Chess Tournament in January 2004, with 10.5 points of 13 possible.

Two years later he won the Group B of the tournament.

In the Norwegian Championship Chess, 2005, Carlsen ended in a shared first place, this time with his mentor Simen Agdestein.

2006 Olympic chess player

Magnus scored 6/8 at the 37th Chess Olympiad in 2006 against opponents averaging 2627 Elo.

One of his notable wins was against the English grandmaster Michael Adams.

But in the last Olympics in 2010, Michael Adams took his revenge, defeating it.

Results of 2,007

In the Corus Chess Tournament in the Netherlands was ranked 13 th, achieving 4.5 points of 13 possible, with 9 boards and 4 losses.

Runners-up in Linares, 2007.

In March 2007, the International Chess tournament Morelia-Linares, Carlsen was ranked in 2nd place with 7.5 points in 14 games, with a score of (-3 +4 = 7) being first Viswanathan Anand.

Gausdal Victoria, 2007.

In April 2007, Carlsen won the tournament Gausdal Chess Classics, held in Norway, achieving September 7 points, ahead by 1.5 points to runners, Rozentalis (2nd), Portisch (3rd) and Kramsenkow (4th) of a total list of 10 chess.

Victoria in Biel, 2007

Carlsen won the 40th International Chess Festival in Biel, Switzerland from July 21 to August 3, 2007, 10 chess players, all against all.

After leading the tournament for several days, was ahead in the standings by two players, yet the victory in the last round against Teymur Rəcəbov allowed him to tie for first place with Onischuk.

In the tiebreaker, having won 4 games tables in the last game, earning this prestigious tournament.

Confirming once again that is a chess genius.

Corus Tournament Champion, 2.008

Magnus won, tied on points with Aronian, Corus Chess Tournament 2008, held in Holland, making 8 of 13 possible points.

Runner-up for the second time in Linares, 2.008.

In March 2008, the International Chess tournament Morelia-Linares, Carlsen was classified as in 2007, in 2nd place with 8 points in 14 games, with a score of (-3 +5 = 6) being first Anand place.

Runners-up in Melody Amber, 2,008.

Carlsen was the tournament runner-up, after the winner Aronian, level on points for 2nd place with Kramnik, Leko and Topalov, all at 2, 5 points behind the winner.

Carlsen won by 5-3 points in Leko rapid chess match played on 28 May to 1 June 2008 in Miskolc, Hungary, to the best of 8 games.

2 games played each day of play at a pace of 25 minutes and 5 seconds per move.

Play the Grand Slam Final Chess, 2.008

Carlsen, participated in Grand Slam Final Chess, from 2 to 14 September 2008 in Bilbao, Spain.

The classification is obtained, at the invitation of the organization, being co-winner of the Corus Chess Tournament, 2008 as well as being runner-up in Linares, 2008.

2.009 results

Blitz world champion in Moscow.

Carlsen blitz world champion by winning the final, held in Moscow from 16 to 18 November 2009.

There were 22 players, playing 42 games each, with double round robin, a time of 3 minutes + 2 seconds per move

The classification was as follows:

1 º. - Carlsen 31 points
2 nd. - Anand 28 points
3 º. - Karjakin 25 points
4 °. - Kramnik 24.5 points

Tal Memorial

Shortly before the World Championship held in blitz, from 5 to 14 super tournament took place this Category XXI with the participation of 10 of the 13 best players in the world, in which Carlsen was second behind Kramnik and tied with Ivanchuk.

London Chess Center Classic

Carlsen started the tournament as the best placed in a tournament involving Kramnik, Hikaru Nakamura, Michael Adams, Nigel Short, Ni Hua, Luke McShane and David Howell. Kramnik beat heading into the first round to win the tournament with 13/21 (otorgándose 3 points for a win, and 1 tie) and a performance rating of 2,844, a point ahead of Kramnik.

This victory secured first place in the FIDE rating list, overtaking Veselin Topalov by 5 points.

The average FIDE rating Carlsen July 2009 to January 2010 allowed him to qualify for the Candidates Tournament Cycle World Championship 2011.

2,010 Results

Corus Tournament Champion, 2.010

Magnus won the Corus Chess Tournament, 2.010, held in the Netherlands, from 16 to 31 January 13 achieved 8.5 points possible.

2nd place Kramnik, Shirov 3 rd of 14 participants.

Champion Melody Amber Chess Tournament, 2010

Magnus won, tied with Ivanchuk, this tournament held in Nice, France, 13 to March 25 of 22 scores of 14.5 points possible.

2,011 Results

Champion Grand Slam Final Chess, 2011 (São Paulo and Bilbao).

Magnus won, tied with Ivanchuk and untied by two games to 5 minutes.

Christopher Taylor

There’s a book by Smith & Tsimpli from 1.995 called “The Mind of a Savant : Language Learning and Modularity.” 

This excerpt is from the textbook “Introduction to Language” seventh edition, by Fromkin, Rodman, and Hyams. 

His last name is not given in the textbook, though, but it sounds like him. 

Christopher has a nonverbal IQ between 60 and 70 and must live in an institution because he is unable to take care of himself. 

The tasks of buttoning a shirt, cutting his fingernails, or vacuuming the carpet are too difficult for him. 

However, linguists find that his “linguistic competence in his first language is as rich and sophisticated as that of any native speaker.” 

Furthermore, when given written texts in some fifteen to twenty languages, he translates them quickly, with few errors, into English. 

The languages include Germanic languages such as Danish, Dutch, and German; Romance languages such as French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish; as well as Polish, Finnish, Greek, Hindi, Turkish, and Welsh. 

He learned these languages from native speakers who used them in his presence, or from grammar books. 

Christopher loves to study and learn languages. 

Little else is of interest to him. 

His situation strongly suggests that his linguistic ability is independent of his general intellectual ability.    

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
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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