"Struck by Genius" by Jason Padgett

Review by Borodutch

"Struck by Genius" is the story of Jason Padgett. He got hit in the head and acquired savant syndrome and synesthesia (mixing of the senses — like seeing sounds or tasting colors). With it, he gained (or unlocked) intuitive knowledge of mathematics and geometry. Jason's story is fascinating and vivid, especially about his personality changes and side effects of acquired conditions like OCD. However, I'm more fascinated by the area of synesthesia, which I severely underestimated before the book.

I haven't checked the references, but the author claims that:

  • A significant percent of the population is synesthetic
  • All children may be synesthetic until their brain learns not to mix the signals
  • A lot of scientists who are responsible for breakthroughs were synesthetic

Synesthesia allowed Jason to see Pi, for instance. Like, geometrically. He could draw complex representations of Pi and describe them more straightforwardly to laypeople! So, instead of thinking that Pi is 3.14-something, they can derive Pi from common geometrical principles.

The whole area seems extraordinarily fascinating, and I will explore it further. As for the book — read it; a biography can rarely be so different from everything else yet so easy to digest!