Boy Genius !

Years ago, footage emerged from a remote village in India. The video shows a young girl receiving surgery to separate her fingers, which were badly burned and fused together. Why did this operation make headlines around the world? The surgery was performed by a 7-year-old boy named Akrit Jaswal.

Akrit Jaswal is a young Indian who has been called “the world’s smartest boy” and it’s easy to see why - Now 13 years old, Akrit has an IQ of 146 and is considered the smartest person his age in India—a country of more than a billion people. Before Akrit could even speak, his parents say they knew he was special. In person Akrit doesn’t look like your typical boy genius. He doesn’t have the big goggles, the jacket with a row of Biros in the top pocket and the boy-wonder bow tie. He has the typical jeans-and-trainers look of a 12-year-old. He is anxious to present himself as just an ordinary boy, but one with an extraordinary brain. “I’m just like any other kid, except when it comes to talking about science.” He even boasts he’s no “bookworm” or a “boffin”. “No, I don’t spend all my time reading and studying,” he tells me. “I was given a copy of Stephen Hawking’s book, but I’ve never read it.”

"He learned very fast," says Raksha, Akrit's mother. "After learning the alphabet, we started to teach him joining of words, and he started writing as well. He was two." At an age when most children are learning their ABCs, Akrit was reading Shakespeare and assembling a library of medical textbooks. When he was 5 years old, he enrolled in school. One year later, Akrit was teaching English and math classes. Akrit developed a passion for science and anatomy at an early age. Doctors at local hospitals took notice and started allowing him to observe surgeries when he was 6 years old. Inspired by what he saw, Akrit read everything he could on the topic. When an impoverished family heard about his amazing abilities, they asked if he would operate on their daughter for free. Her surgery was a success. After the surgery, Akrit was hailed as a medical genius in India. Neighbors and strangers flocked to him for advice and treatment. At age 11, Akrit was admitted to Punjab University. He's the youngest student ever to attend an Indian university. That same year, he was also invited to London's famed Imperial College to exchange ideas with scientists on the cutting edge of medical research.

When asked how he managed to carry out the procedure for surgery; wasn’t he nervous? He answered, “No, I wasn’t. I have read many medical books and attended many operations. I think I did a better job than most surgeons. They would have opted for plastic surgery, but I didn’t need to.” The fact that carrying out such a procedure is illegal doesn’t worry him. “Yes, it was illegal. But it does no harm. It’s good for mankind. So what if it goes against dead old medical ethics?” Akrit’s interest in science began at the age of four. “It was then that I read Gray’s Anatomy and books on chemistry. I studied physics up to A-level standard. I was fascinated by science because it could answer all the questions I had about life — how we got here and why we are here. But now I’m older I have to find new answers.” One answer he is confident of finding is a cure for cancer. It’s this claim that has brought him worldwide media attention, admiration . . . and derision. So how does a 12-year-old with no medical training and no lab experience discover a cure for cancer? He says “I actually made my discovery when I was eight. I did it by reading books on cancer and getting information from the internet. My cure aims at the modification of malformed genes that cause cancer and their successful repair either by the activation of enzymes or direct modification of genotoxic drugs.” At present, Akrit is attending university where he is doing a BSc undergraduate course in medicine. It can’t be easy being the only 12- year-old there. The question that hangs over the boy’s head is this — will he ever be able to live up to everyone’s expectations? What happens if his ideas do not in fact cure cancer? “I will be embarrassed, but I will never give up trying,” he says.

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