15-year-old Jacob Barnett: One of the world's most promising physicists
Christina Commisso, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, October 1, 2013 10:29PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, October 1, 2013 11:42PM EDT
At eight years old, Jacob Barnett began auditing physics classes at Indiana University.
At age nine, while playing with shapes, he built a series of mathematical models that expanded Einstein's field of relativity, which was described by a Princeton University professor as ground-breaking.
At age 12, Jacob enrolled in university full-time, and it was around then that he published his first physics paper.
Now, at 15, he’s the youngest researcher to ever be accepted to Waterloo, Ont.’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.
He’s considered one of the world’s most promising physicists -- and considering that as a toddler Jacob stopped speaking for a year-and-a-half and was diagnosed with moderate-to-severe autism, his accomplishments are nothing short of amazing.
Jacob, however, remains modest about his achievements.
“There are a lot of people that appear to be amazed by my story, but in my opinion I’m just a 15-year-old who’s very motivated about his subject and got started early and I know what I want to do,” Jacob told CTV News from his new home in Waterloo.
For the next year, Jacob will study in a highly competitive master’s degree program at the Perimeter Institute, where he’ll work alongside some of the top students in the world -- most of them quite a few years older.
The program accepts 30 students a year from about 350 applicants.
“I probably have been interested in physics for as long as I can remember,” Jacob said.
His mother, Kristine, chronicled her son’s incredible life in the recently published book “The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius.”
“In Jacob’s life there were quite a few people who had given up on him,” Kristine said.
“The school came up to me and told me that he would never need his alphabet cards because he would never learn to read.”
It was then that Kristine decided it was best to home-school her son.
Having recently relocated her family from Indiana to Waterloo, Kristine said she’s used to making “unconventional” choices to foster her son’s abilities.
“The key to me is to make sure he’s doing what he loves,” she said. “Everything else just sort of follows.”
Meanwhile, the child prodigy is quickly making a name for himself.
In an inspiring TEDx talk, Barnett urges others to “stop learning and start thinking.” The video has close to two millions views on YouTube.
Perimeter Institute Director Neil Turok said he wasn’t surprised that Barnett chose to attend the school.
“We have been deliberately designing Perimeter as the most attractive place in the world for the brightest young people” he said, adding that the great breakthroughs of the future will be made by “unusual people with unusual abilities.”
“I was looking out for people like Jacob before he found us,” Turok said.
“He walked in the door and said, ‘This is where I want to be.’”