Sunday, June 11, 2006

William Huston, the "Brightest Boy"

Today's New York Times has an obituary on William Huston, who was chosen by Thomas Edison as the nation's "brightest boy" in 1929. Edison had bemoaned the lack of interest in math and science among youth (sound familiar?) and sponsored a nationwide scholarship contest to find the brightest young person and give him a full scholarship to college. Girls were not part of this contest; apparently Mr. Edison never considered that the brightest kid in America (if such a thing can be determined) might be female.

Anyway, William Huston won the contest and a scholarship to MIT. He died May 25 in Arizona at age 93. You can read about his life here.

For all the talk of prodigies flaming out, Huston offers a different version of this tale. Tagged at a young age as being the nation's brightest boy, he didn't let that label get to him. He did "rocket science" research for NASA, had a seemingly rewarding family life (a long marriage and six children), and basically didn't berate his children with tales of being the brightest boy (they say he never mentioned it). Given how many people constantly rehash their glory days as, say, high school football players, I found the tale pretty refreshing.

No comments: