Daniel Tammet

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Daniel Paul Tammet

Daniel Tammet speaking at Reykjavík University
Born January 31, 1979 (1979-01-31) (age 30)
Flag of the United Kingdom London, England, UK

Daniel Paul Tammet (born 31 January 1979) is a British high-functioning autistic savant gifted with a facility for mathematical and natural language learning. He was born Daniel Corney (later deciding to change his surname to Tammet), the first of nine children, to working-class parents in London.[1] In his memoir, Born on a Blue Day, he talks about how having epilepsy, synaesthesia, and Asperger Syndrome all deeply affected his childhood.


[edit] Biography

[edit] Synaesthesia

Experiencing numbers as colours or sensations is a well-documented form of synaesthesia, but the detail and specificity of Tammet's mental imagery of numbers is unusual. In his mind, he says, each 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. 6 apparently has no distinct image.[1][2] Tammet has described 25 as energetic and the "kind of number you would invite to a party".[3] Tammet not only verbally describes these visions, but has also created artwork: including a watercolour painting of Pi.

Tammet was the subject of a documentary in the UK entitled The Boy With The Incredible Brain, which was first broadcast on the British television channel Four on 23 May 2005.[4] The documentary showed his meeting with Kim Peek, a world famous savant. Peek is shown hugging Tammet telling him that "Some day you will be as great as I am", to which Tammet replies "That was a wonderful compliment, what an aspiration to have!"

[edit] Pi

Tammet holds the European record for reciting pi from memory to 22,514 digits in five hours and nine minutes.[5] This sponsored charity challenge was held in aid of the National Society for Epilepsy (NSE) on “Pi Day”, 14 March 2004, at the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, UK.[6] The NSE was chosen to benefit from this event because of Tammet's experience with epilepsy as a young child. Professor Allan Snyder at the Australian National University 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'."[7]

[edit] Language abilities

Tammet claims to speak eleven languages including English, French, Finnish, German, Spanish, Lithuanian, Romanian, Estonian, Icelandic, Welsh, and Esperanto.

He particularly likes Estonian, because it is rich in vowels. Tammet (the surname is Estonian) is creating a new language called Mänti. Mänti has many features related to Finnish and Estonian, both of which are Finno-Ugric languages. Some sources credit Tammet as creating the Uusisuom and Lapsi languages as well.[8]

Tammet can learn new languages very quickly. To prove this for a Channel Four documentary, Tammet was challenged to learn Icelandic in one week. Seven days later he appeared on Icelandic television conversing in Icelandic, with his Icelandic language instructor saying it was "not human" and "genius!". Segments of the interview showing Tammet responding to questions in Icelandic were televised on the 28 January 2007 edition of the CBS news magazine, 60 Minutes.[2]

[edit] Born on a Blue Day

In 2006, Tammet traveled to the United States to promote his memoir, Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant.[1] Tammet was born on a Wednesday, a day he perceives as the colour blue. While on his U.S. book tour, he appeared on several television and radio talk shows and specials, including 60 Minutes and David Letterman's Late Show.[1] In February 2007 Born on a Blue Day was serialised as BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week in the United Kingdom. He describes his meeting with Kim Peek, upon whom Rain Man was based, as one of the happiest moments of his life. They connected when they asked each other date calculations based on their birth dates, and got the answers correct instantly.

Tammet's new book Embracing the Wide Sky[9], attempts to shed light on the mystery of savants' mental abilities. Tammet argues that the differences between savant and non-savant minds have been exaggerated.

[edit] Personal life

Tammet met his first partner, software engineer Neil Mitchell, in 2000. They lived together in Kent, where they had a quiet regimented life at home with their cats, preparing meals from their garden.[10][11] Tammet and Mitchell operated the online e-learning company Optimnem, where they created and published language courses. Tammet was open about his relationship with Mitchell, whom he described as "the love of his life."[12] [13]

Tammet however now lives with a new partner, Jerome, 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"[clarification needed] asserts, he believes that we ought to seek to liberate our brains - a belief reflected in his new life;[14]

"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 2007 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."[15]

Jerome, a 29-year-old photographer, was one of the thousands of people who wrote to Tammet after his first book.

[edit] Mänti

Mänti (likely pronounced "men-tee") is a language that Tammet has created.[16] The word 'Mänti' comes from the Finnish word for 'pine tree' (mänty). Mänti uses vocabulary and grammar from the languages of Scandinavia. Some sample words include:

  • buss (bus)
  • kuppi (cup)
  • kellokült (lateness, tardiness; literally "clock-debt")
  • nööt (night)[16]
  • haaben(to have)

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c d Tammet, Daniel (2006). Born on a Blue Day. London: Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0340899748. 
  2. ^ a b Morely Safer (28 January 2007). "Brain Man". CBS News. http://cbsnews.com/stories/2007/01/26/60minutes/main2401846.shtml. Retrieved on 2007-02-02. 
  3. ^ http://www.cbc.ca/thehour/videos.html?id=999589223
  4. ^ Daniel Tammet; Kim Peek; Shai Azoulai; VS Ramachandran. (2006). Extraordinary People - The Boy with the incredible Brain (.SWF) [Video]. four.tv. Retrieved on 2007-02-28. Event occurs at (inclusive) 43 min.
  5. ^ "Pi memory feat". Oxford University. 15 March 2004. http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/po/news/2003-04/mar/15.shtml. Retrieved on 2007-02-02. 
  6. ^ "Pi in the Sky - New European Record Set". Pi World Ranking List. 15 March 2004. http://www.pi-world-ranking-list.com/lists/details/tammet.html. Retrieved on 2007-02-02. 
  7. ^ Richard Johnson (12 February 2005). "A genius explains". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/print/0,,5123945-103425,00.html. Retrieved on 2007-03-10. 
  8. ^ "Uusisuom". Langmaker. http://www.langmaker.com/db/mdl_uusisuom.htm. Retrieved on 2007-02-02. 
  9. ^ Tammet, Daniel (2009). Embracing the Wide Sky. London: Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 0340961325. 
  10. ^ Sarah Lyall (15 February 2007). "Brainman, at Rest in His Oasis". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/15/garden/15savant.html?pagewanted=1&ei=5124&en=3d3b2a9871935a79&ex=1329368400&partner=digg&exprod=digg. Retrieved on 2007-04-30. 
  11. ^ Caroline Scott (13 August 2006). "Daniel Tammet Life and Style Times Online". The Times. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/article603097.ece. Retrieved on 2007-05-26. 
  12. ^ Fred Bernstein (2007-06-19). "The Smartest Man in the World is Gay". The Advocate: pp. 44-53. http://www.mywire.com/a/TheAdvocate/smartest-man-world-is-gay/3836269. Retrieved on 2007-05-25. 
  13. ^ Rachel Dowd (2007-06-19). "His Beautiful Mind: Inside the brain of an autistic savant lies a parallel universe". The Advocate: pp. 50-53. http://www.advocate.com/currentstory1_w.asp?id=45247. Retrieved on 2007-05-25. 
  14. ^ ((Sunday Times 25th January 2009))
  15. ^ http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,,24986084-26040,00.html
  16. ^ a b "Mänti". http://www.optimnem.co.uk/blog/2006/07/mnti.html. Retrieved on 2008-12-15. 

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