Why Does Genius Peak in Your Late 30s?

In: Culture Science

12 Mar 2014

One theory is the it’s because it takes a while to absorb the knowledge of your predecessors.

Scientists spend ages 5 through 18 in school, and then ages 18 through 30ish getting their academic degrees. Then a few years of learning on the job, and presto! . Meanwhile, scientific breakthroughs tend to be less common in old age because we invest less in learning as we get older, and our skills gradually become less relevant.

Personally, I’m not sure I buy the explanation of the drop-off.


And the age continued to get older over the 20th century.


6 Responses to Why Does Genius Peak in Your Late 30s?


Will Reinhardt

March 12th, 2014 at 12:33 pm

I would argue that there’s also a stigma against accepting younger minds as well. Even if you are a genius at 22 years old, the 44 year old may not be willing to recognize you until you’ve paid your dues.


Danny Navarro

March 13th, 2014 at 10:18 am

This assumes the definition of a genius is winning the Nobel prize. I think this also reflects the (political) changes in the criteria about giving the prize. I’m sure it’s not the same criteria now than 50 years ago.



March 13th, 2014 at 11:44 am

You can’t get the funding needed to do the type of science now that would win you a Nobel until you are older and have already established a decade+ track record of accomplishments.



March 14th, 2014 at 8:33 pm

In raw mental ability people hit a peak around 28 years old, and gradually go downhill from there. Sure, people tend to get smarter past that age, but that is more from education and experience than pure brain power. That might be part of the explanation.


Steven Zalesch

March 17th, 2014 at 11:51 am

As long as the Nobel Committee remains uncertain as to whether someone deserves a prize for the discovery of relativity, I suspect that the Nobel Prize is not determined completely objectively.


Richard Doherty

April 15th, 2014 at 9:43 am

Ridiculous premise and summary! Nobel prizes have a decades-delayed reaction time. Einstein never really peaked. Courage is also part of exclaimed genius, to back your discoveries and positions with passion and verve… FORMAL education tends to slow in early 20s. Geniuses continue learning until their last breaths…

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