Essay:Greatest achievements of human history

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This essay is an original work by several authors. Please comment only on the talk page.

Andrew Schlafly has several times stated that most - if not all - of the greatest achievements of human history have been made by teenagers[1] ("...like my students"[2]). To back this up, he has provided one specific example: The Gospel of John (which was probably not written by a teen, though he has a baseless theory that it was). To examine this claim more carefully, we shall try to examine achievements that could be reasonably called the greatest ever, and see how many of those were made by teenagers. To be more than fair to Schlafly, we will at times try to gear this towards accomplishments he is more likely to favor, specifically those tied to Christianity and America. Furthermore these examples are generally confined to "classics", using an almost stereotypical interpretation of the term, in order to deflect claims of revisionism and liberal bias. Particular Schlafly favorites are footnoted thusly:[3], while entries he has not specifically expressed admiration for, but should be right up his alley, are footnoted thusly:[4] (Click "edit lead section" for instructions on how to add this footnote to items)

Not included in this list are groundbreaking achievements which occurred prior to recorded history, such as the wheel, domestication of crops and animals, controlled use of fire, writing, etc. as these cannot begin to be attributed[5].

Ages, where listed, will often be approximate. In those few cases in which the age in question is near the teenage years, we will attempt to be more specific.

Contents

[edit] Architecture

  • St. Peter's Basilica[4]
  • Notre Dame[4]
  • Sacre Coeur[4]
  • Eiffel Tower
    • Alexandre Gustaf Eiffel, 55 when construction started
  • Statue of Liberty[4]
  • Empire State Building
  • Pyramids of Giza
  • Himeji CastleWikipedia's W.svg
    • While we are at it, Azuchi CastleWikipedia's W.svg, Osaka CastleWikipedia's W.svg and Odawara CastleWikipedia's W.svg are all designed by owners who happened to be 40+ years old at the beginning of construction of each
  • Colosseum
  • Taj Mahal
  • Forbidden City
  • Versailles
  • Hagia Sophia
  • Sagrada Familia
  • Angkor Wat
  • Fallingwater (among many others)
    • Frank Lloyd Wright's best works were all done in the third phase of his career.

Summary: while some teenagers undoubtedly had a hand in the construction of some or all of these, they were designed by adults.

[edit] Art

Salvador Dali and his ocelot.
  • Leonardo Da Vinci
    • Mona Lisa (circa age 51)
    • The Last Supper (circa age 43)[4]
    • Vitruvian Man (circa age 35)
  • Michaelangelo
    • Pieta (age 24)[4]
    • Sistine Chapel (age 29)[4]
    • David (started at age 33)[4]
  • Rembrandt
    • Night Watch (completed at age 36)
  • Pablo Picasso
    • Three Musicians (age 40)
    • Guernica (age 56)
  • Salvador Dali
    • The Persistence of Memory (age 27)
  • Van Gogh
    • Sunflowers (age 35)
    • Starry Night (age 36)
  • Monet
    • Impression, Sunrise (painted around the age of 32)
  • Vermeer
    • Various paintings (earliest made when he was 22, most highly regarded came later)

Summary: No contributions from teenagers in this field, based on generally accepted masterpieces.

[edit] Engineering

  • Indoor plumbing
  • Great Wall of China
  • Beijing-Hangzhou Grand CanalWikipedia's W.svg
  • Dōtonbori canalWikipedia's W.svg
  • Suez Canal
  • Panama Canal
  • Large Hadron Collider
  • Channel tunnel
  • Millau ViaductWikipedia's W.svg
  • Golden Gate Bridge
  • Brooklyn Bridge
  • Mount Rushmore[4]
  • Hoover Dam[4]
  • Sputnik 1Wikipedia's W.svg
  • The Apollo missions, culminating in the July 1969 moon landing
  • Both Voyager Probes
  • JPL's 'Spirit' and 'Opportunity' Mars Rovers
  • The International Space Station
  • Cheyenne Mountain Complex
  • Orion Drive (in development currently)
  • USS Enterprise (CVN-65)


Summary: as with architecture, teenagers were undoubtedly involved in the construction of many of these, but the engineers in all cases were older.

[edit] Exploration

  • Columbus's discovery of the New World (made at age 41)[3]
  • Lewis and Clark Expedition (29 and 33, respectively, at the start)[4]
  • Zheng HeWikipedia's W.svg's expeditions during the Ming Dynasty
  • Marco Polo's journey to China (was 17 in his earliest journey, made with his father and uncle, so this may count as an example)
  • Magellan's circumnavigation of the globe (completed by his crew)
  • Amundsen's journey to the South Pole (began at age 38)

Summary: Polo potentially could be an example, but he appears to be the only one. There were almost certainly teenage sailors on many expeditions of discovery, but as labor, not in positions of leadership.

[edit] Inventions

  • SeismoscopeWikipedia's W.svg, by Zhang HengWikipedia's W.svg (age 54)
  • Movable type
    • Bi ShengWikipedia's W.svg is credited with the Eastern incarnation of this invention. At age 50 ish.
    • Johannes Gutenberg is credited with the Western incarnation of this invention. He was more than forty years old when he completed his first successful trials.
  • Calculators (ok, we'll give you that's invented by someone at the age of 19)
  • Telephone
    • Generally credited to Alexander Graham Bell, who was 28 at the time
  • Phonograph
    • Edison's work on this was done when he was 30.
  • Steam engine
    • Long history involving many designers, none of whom were teenagers
  • Radio
    • Credited to Nikola Tesla at the age of 35
    • Marconi, another pioneer in this field, did most of his work in his 20's and later
  • Telescope
    • The first telescopes were made by men in their late 20s or 30s, and a greatly improved design was developed by Galileo when he was 45.
  • Microscope
  • Film projector
  • Transistor
    • The 1956 Nobel prize was awarded to Bardeen, Schockley, and Brattain, following their successful demonstration of a transistor in 1947. At that time, they were aged 39, 37 and 45 respectively.
  • World Wide Web[4]
    • Tim John Berners-Lee(born 8 June 1955) is an English computer scientist credited with inventing the World Wide Web. On 25 December 1990 he implemented the first successful communication between an HTTP client and server via the Internet.
  • Industrial Revolution [4]
    • In 1779, at age 29, Abraham Darby III completed the world's first cast-iron bridge. Often cited as the start of the Industrial Revolution.
  • Bessemer Process (for making steel)
  • Incandescent light bulb
    • Many contributed to this. Edison, the most well-known, was about 33 when he made his major contributions.
  • Airplane
    • Orville Wright, the younger of the two famous brothers, was 32 when they first achieved flight.
  • Cotton Gin
    • Developed by Eli Whitney at age 28 (Claim to fame: caused US Civil War, which wasn't so "civil")
  • Interchangeable parts[4]
    • Developed by Eli Whitney in the U.S., at age 33
  • Assembly line[4]
No single inventor, though the Ford Motor Company is credited with the moving assembly line. Henry Ford was around 45.
  • The Haber Process
Designed by German chemist Fritz Haber, age 41, in 1909. By producing ammonia (for fertilizer) from atmospheric nitrogen, it eliminates the greatest limitation on plant growth, and therefore the human population. One-fifth of the world population could not be fed without it.

Summary: by all appearances, none of the above appear to have been invented with the aid of teenagers.

[edit] Law/government/politics/economics

  • The Magna Carta
  • Code of Hammurabi
    • Hammurabi was about 35 when it was created
  • The United States Constitution[3]
    • Written by numerous people, none of whom were teenagers. Its "father", James Madison, was in his mid thirties.
  • The Declaration of Independence [4]
    • Jefferson was 33 when he wrote this
  • Federalist Papers[4]
    • All authors were adults
  • Justinian's codification of Roman Law
    • Accomplished in his mid 40's
  • Henry II's codification of English law
    • Henry's contributions to English law came after he became king at age 21.
  • The Wealth of Nations
    • Adam Smith was 53 at the time of publication[4]
  • The development of the common law
    • Driven by judges since the 12th century. None of them were teenagers (oddly).
  • Friedman rule, Friedman test
    • These, and all significant works of conservative economist Milton Friedman[4], were made in his 20s and later.
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights
    • No teenagers involved.
  • Geneva Convention
    • Again, no teenagers involved,
  • Democracy[4]
    • Generally considered to have begun with the introduction of the Constitution of Solon in 594 BCE; Solon was about 44 at the time.

Summary: at least since the end of ruling monarchies, teens have generally been excluded from government, so it is therefore not surprising that they would not make great accomplishments in this field; and indeed it appears they have not.

[edit] Literature

  • William Shakespeare (started writing career after age 25)
    • Hamlet
    • Romeo and Juliet
    • King Lear
    • Othello
    • A Midsummer Night's Dream
    • Macbeth
    • Richard III
    • The Sonnets
  • Dante
    • The Divine Comedy (begun at age 42)[4]
  • Goethe
    • Die Leiden des jungen Werthers (published ~25)
    • Faust: der Tragödie erster Teil (published ~59; preliminary work may have begun in his early/mid 20s)
    • Faust: der Tragödie zweiter Teil (published posthumously (died ~83); finishing his masterpiece occupied much of his later years)
    • Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (published ~50)
    • Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre (published ~72)
  • Geoffrey Chaucer
    • The Canterbury Tales (best guesstimates suggest work began in his late 40s)
  • Miguel de Cervantes
    • Don Quixote (58)
  • Charles Dickens
    • Oliver Twist (age 25-27)
    • A Christmas Carol (31)
    • David Copperfield (37)
    • Bleak House (41)
    • A Tale of Two Cities (47)
  • Herman Melville
    • Moby Dick (32) [3]
  • Harper Lee
    • To Kill a Mockingbird (written while in her 30's)
  • Jane Austen
    • Pride and Prejudice (38)
    • Sense and Sensibility (begun age 20, published age 36)
  • Sophocles
    • Oedipus Rex
  • Aeschylus
    • The Oresteia (premiered when Aeschylus was in his late-60s)
  • Homer
    • The Odyssey (age unknown, but no prevailing theories maintain that Homer was a teenager when writing this, if he existed at all)
    • The Illiad (age unknown, but no prevailing theories maintain that Homer was a teenager when writing this, if he existed at all)
  • Mark Twain
    • Tom Sawyer (40)
    • Huckleberry Finn (49)
    • Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc (Twain considered it his best work; serialization began when Twain was 60)
  • Noah Webster
    • A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language (48)
  • Samuel Johnson
    • Dictionary of the English Language (began work at age 35; published 10 years later)
  • Walt Whitman
    • Leaves of Grass (36)
  • Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    • Crime and Punishment (age 45)
    • The Idiot (age 48)
    • The Possessed (age 51)
  • The Brothers Karamazov (age 59)
  • Leo Tolstoy
    • War and Peace (Begun at age 34)
    • Anna Karenina (Serialization of the novel began when Tolstoy was 45 and ended when he was 49)
  • Henrik Ibsen
    • (Began his writing career at 22)
    • Peer Gynt (age 45)
    • A Doll's House (age 51)
    • Ghosts (age 53)
    • The Wild Duck (age 55)
  • Arthur Rimbaud
    • All major contributions to poetry done as a perverted teenager, according to some movie.
  • James Joyce
    • Ulysses (begun at age 32)
    • Finnegans Wake (begun at age 40)
  • Marcel Proust
    • À la recherche du temps perdu (Proust began work on his opus at the age of 39; even if one opts to date the beginning of composition to similar sequences in Proust's previous, unfinished novel Jean Santeuil, this would still mean that Proust began work in his mid-20s)
  • Thomas More
    • Utopia (age 38)
  • Daniel Defoe
    • Robinson Crusoe (completed in his 50's)
    • Moll Flanders (completed in his early-60's)
  • Laurence Sterne
    • The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (serialization began at age 46)
    • A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy (serialization began at age 55)
  • Joseph Conrad
    • Heart of Darkness (published ~42; drew from his experiences in the Congo in his early/mid 30s)
    • "Lord Jim" (published ~41)
  • T.S. Eliot
    • The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (published ~27; written ~22-23)
    • The Waste Land (published ~34, after several years' work)
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge
    • The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (written & published ~26)
    • Kubla Khan (published ~44; written ~25)
  • Gustave Flaubert
    • Madame Bovary (Flaubert began work at age 29)
    • Sentimental Education (Flaubert began work at age 41)
  • William Faulkner
    • The Sound and the Fury (age 32)
    • As I Lay Dying (age 33)
    • Absalom, Absalom (age 39)
  • Ernest Hemingway
    • The Sun Also Rises (begun on Hemingway's 26th birthday)
    • A Farewell to Arms (age 30)
    • For Whom the Bell Tolls (age 40)
    • The Old Man and the Sea (age 52)
  • Alexandre DumasWikipedia's W.svg
    • Les Trois Mousquetaires (The Three Musketeers) (age 42)
    • Le Comte de Monte-Cristo (The Count of Monte Cristo) (age 43)
  • Victor HugoWikipedia's W.svg
    • Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre-DameWikipedia's W.svg (age 28)
    • Les MisérablesWikipedia's W.svg (age 60)
  • Sun Wu (Sun Tzi)
    • The Art of War (between age 20-23)
  • Confucius (writing/teaching career started at about age 30)
    • Four Books and Five ClassicsWikipedia's W.svg
  • Wu Jingzi
    • The Scholars (novel)Wikipedia's W.svg, (age 50)
  • Luo Guanzhong
    • Romance of the Three Kingdoms (beyond age 36)
  • Rabindranath Tagore
    • Gitanjali (Age 49)
  • Zhou Shuren (Lu XunWikipedia's W.svg)
    • A Madman's DiaryWikipedia's W.svg (age 37)
    • Kong YijiWikipedia's W.svg (age 38)
    • The True Story of Ah QWikipedia's W.svg (age 40)
  • Murasaki ShikibuWikipedia's W.svg
    • The Tale of GenjiWikipedia's W.svg (between age 28-36)
  • Sei ShōnagonWikipedia's W.svg
    • The Pillow BookWikipedia's W.svg (between age 35-36)
  • JienWikipedia's W.svg
    • GukanshōWikipedia's W.svg (age 55)
  • Yoshida KenkōWikipedia's W.svg
    • TsurezuregusaWikipedia's W.svg (Age 47)

Summary: With the possible exception of Rimbaud (who, incidentally, is the one who is debateably a classic, if not forgotten by the rest eg. Harold "Omni-Critic" Bloom canonizes his work[6], a crazy person at the Guardian does not [7]) none of the above works were written by teens. The best Conservapedia has done is to include Frankenstein (written by Mary Shelley at 18, allegedly), which, while a classic, seldom, if ever, makes lists of greatest books of all time. Christopher Paolini's Eragon, written when he was a teenager, has also been cited, but though a commercial success, it cannot objectively be called one of humanity's great achievements by any standards. Furthermore, a scan through wikipedia's "American Literature" gives no contributions by teens[8].

[edit] Mathematics

  • 2+2=4[3]
    • The first rigorous proofs (rather than as an assumption that would be "obvious to any teenager"), Principia Mathematica (Alfred Whitehead and Bertrand Russell, 49 and 38 respectively) and Peano axioms (Giuseppe Peano, 31).
  • Pythagorean theorem
  • Bayes' Theorem
    • Thomas Bayes, at least 40, likely older than 53
  • Fermat's Last Theorem
    • Andrew Wiles, 40
  • Four Colour Theorem
    • Kenneth Appel and Wolfgang Haken, 44 and 48 respectively
  • Kepler Conjecture
    • Thomas Hales, 40
  • Poincaré conjecture
    • Grigori Perelman, 36
  • Euler's equations
    • Leonhard Euler, 50
  • Cauchy–Riemann equations
    • Augustin Cauchy and Bernhard Riemann, both 25
  • Bernhard Riemann[3]
    • Changed from theology to mathematics aged 20
    • Riemannian geometry, 28
    • On the Number of Primes Less Than a Given Magnitude, 33
  • Gödel's incompleteness theorems
    • Kurt Gödel, 25
  • Group theory
    • Major contributors to this field include Euler, Gauss, and Galois. Galois made contributions to this field while still a teen.
  • Calculus
    • Newton[3] and Leibniz share credit for this. Neither were teenagers when they made their discoveries.
  • Fundamental Theorem of Algebra
    • Gauss, 21

Summary: Whilst there is an old myth that mathematicians reach their peak before 30, few achievements are made by anyone under 20 as a university degree is required before you possess the necessary knowledge to make any breakthroughs. Even child prodigies such as Terence TaoWikipedia's W.svg didn't start making significant contributions until their early twenties. The main exception is, as mentioned above, Galois, though Gauss also made important contributions at a young age.

[edit] Medicine

  • Edward Jenner, 47 - Discovered vaccinia and the concept of vaccination.
  • Alexander Fleming, 39 - Discovered penicillin and the concept of antibiotics.
  • Jonas Salk, 41 - introduced the polio vaccine
  • Various scientists and doctors - Smallpox, arguably the most deadly disease in human history eradicated May 8, 1980.
  • C Everett Koop, 71 - As Surgeon General under Ronald Reagan, disregards the politicization of science around the then burgeoning AIDS epidemic as well as the homophobic and anti-sex tendencies of his party and delivers a report on the prevention of HIV transmission stressing sex education, barrier contraception, and voluntary and private testing
  • Luc Montagnier, 51 and Robert Gallo, 47 - Officially co-discoverers of the HIV virus, though controversy exists over Gallo's claim to the discovery.
  • Hippocrates - dubbed the father of medicine. Age at the time of his accomplishments is not known, but there is no prevailing theory of his being a teenager when they were made.
  • William Harvey - pioneered the understanding of the circulatory system. Accomplished well after his teenage years.
  • Insulin
    • Discovered by Paul LangerhansWikipedia's W.svg at the age of 21.
    • Extraction/isolation by Frederick BantingWikipedia's W.svg (age 29) and Charles Herbert BestWikipedia's W.svg (age 21)

Summary - Given the amount of research, clinical understanding, and practical experience necessary to be a medical researcher or practicing physician, the overwhelming majority of achievements in the field of medicine are not the result of Doogie Howser, MD.

[edit] Military

Battles:

  • Marathon
  • Philippi
  • Tours[4]
  • Norman Conquest
  • Agincourt
  • Orleans[4]
  • Defeat of the Spanish Armada
  • Trafalgar
  • Waterloo
  • Saratoga[4]
  • Yorktown[4]
  • New Orleans
  • Antietam
  • Gettysburg
  • Battle of Britain
  • Midway
  • Stalingrad
  • Normandy Invasion[4]
  • The Bulge[4]
  • Berlin
  • Okinawa
  • Philipine Sea
  • Leyte Gulf
  • Iwo Jima
  • Cannae

Summary: while teens certainly fought in all the battles above, with the exception of Joan of Arc at Orleans (and the main strategist was Jean de Dunois, aged ~27) the leaders and strategists were adults. Alexander the Great, the archetypical young commander, was 20 by the time he gained control of his armies. Since battles are won by soldiers, not generals, one can attribute some of the achievement to teenagers in this category. However, they would still be in the minority.

[edit] Music

  • Handel
    • Messiah (composed at the age of 56)[4]
  • Bach
    • The Brandenburg Concerti
    • Cantatas[4]
    • The Well-Tempered Clavier
    • The Art of the Fugue
    • Mass in B Minor
    • The Passions
    • Goldberg Variations
    • Hundreds of chorals
    • And more or less everything else he wrote. Even his earliest works were probably written after he finished his education and became court musician in Weimar in 1703, at the age of 18.
  • Haydn
    • The twelve London-symphonies (age 59-63)
    • Trumpet Concerto (age 64)
    • Gott Erhalte Franz dem Keiser, whose melody later became the German national anthem (age 65)
    • The Creation (age 66)
  • Mozart
    • The Marriage of Figaro (begun around the age of 30)
    • Don Giovanni (begun around the age of 31)
    • Eine kleine Nachtmusik (begun around the age of 31)
    • Requiem (begun around the age of 35)
  • Beethoven[3]
    • Symphony #5 (begun around the age of 34)
    • Symphony #9 (begun around the age of 47)
    • "Moonlight" sonata
  • Rachmaninoff
    • Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor (28)
  • Schubert
    • 10 symphonies (5 by the age of 19, his most renowned (#8 and #9) written in his 20's)
    • many lieder (some of the best including the Erlkönig (1815), Gretchen am Spinnerade (1814) and Die Forelle (1817) by the age of 20)
    • "Death and the Maiden" string quartet (age 26)
  • Wagner
    • The Ring of the Nibelungen (written over a period of many years starting when he was about 35)
  • Johannes Brahms
    • A German Requiem (age 32)
    • 4 symphonies (age 43, 44, 50 and 51)
  • Vivaldi
    • The Four Seasons (age 45)
  • Stravinsky
    • Rite of Spring (premiered at age 31)
  • John Coltrane
    • Giant Steps (age 31)
    • A Love Supreme (age 38)
  • Duke Ellington
    • Black, Brown and Beige (early 40s)
    • Such Sweet Thunder (age 58)
  • Elvis Presley
    • "That's All Right (Mama)" / "Blue Moon of Kentucky" (recorded at age 19; "That's All Right" was written by Arthur Crudup, probably when he was around 40))
  • The Beatles (earliest work done as teenagers, but most of their work that is widely deemed their best was done in their 20's)
    • Paul McCartney wrote "When I'm Sixty Four" when he was sixteen, although how much of the sophistication evident in its final recording (when he was in his late twenties) was in the original is unknown. Much of the credit for the "sound" of the Beatles is due to George Martin, who was 37 when he began working with them as a producer and arranger.
  • Bob Dylan
    • "Blowin' in the Wind" (22)
    • Blonde on Blonde (25)
  • Sonny Curtis
    • "I Fought the Law"[3] Recorded at age 22.
  • Pink Floyd
    • "Dark Side Of The Moon". Roger waters (the chief songwriter) was 30

Summary: There are quite a few composers who are known for the skills aquired in their teenage (and even pre-teen years). What they all have in common is that their early works haven't found their way into the standard repertoire of classical musicians, or listeners. The sole exception is Felix Mendelssohn, who wrote the overture to A Midsummer Night's Dream (featuring the famous wedding march) at the age of 17. By the way, Mendelssohn was a child prodigy who would have left young Mozart in the dust, so I think we can freely admit that one of the most gifted individuals in western history wrote a worthwhile piece of art music in his teens. In the rock and roll era, some notable works came from people while they were teenagers, for example the early works of Elvis and the Beatles. However, it is difficult to equate the three chord, simple melody of "Love Me Do" with the genius it took a completely deaf Beethoven to compose his final symphony. (Also, why do they have to grow their hair so long these days? You can't hardly tell the boys from the girls anymore. Of course, the Beatles went on to create incredible works in their mid-twenties. Elvis wore pantsuits in Vegas and killed himself with drugs.)

[edit] Philosophy

  • Confucius (teaching career starts in his 30's)
  • Immanuel Kant
    • Critique of Pure Reason (published at 57)
  • Martin Heidegger
    • Being and Time (published at 38)
  • David Hume
    • An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (published at 37)
    • Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (began work at age 48, continued work until death at age 65)
  • Arthur Schopenhauer
    • The World as Will and Representation (published at 31)
  • Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
    • Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences (published at 46)
  • Ludwig Wittgenstein
    • Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (age 32)
    • Philosophical Investigations (published posthumously, written late in life, well after his teenage years)
  • Karl Wilhelm Friedrich Schlegel (first work published at age 35)
  • Friedrich Nietzsche (first book published at age 28, most significant accomplishments came after this)
  • Socrates (his ideas come to us through the writing of Plato, who never presented him as a teenager when he was teaching philosophy)
  • John Stuart Mill
    • Principles of Political Economy (age 42)
    • On Liberty (age 53)
    • Utilitarianism (age 55)
  • Plato
    • The Republic (seemingly written sometime in his 40's)
  • Aristotle
    • Numerous treatises (all appear to have been written during adulthood)
  • Thomas Hobbes
    • De Cive (age 44)
    • Leviathan (age 63)
  • René Descartes
    • Discourse on Method (age 41)
    • Meditations (age 45)
    • Principles of Philosophy (age 49)
  • Baruch de Spinoza
    • Ethics (published posthumously, written after his teenage years)
    • Theologico-Political Treatise (age 38)
  • John Locke
    • A Letter Concerning Toleration (age 57)
    • Two Treatises of Government (age 57)
    • An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (age 58)
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau
    • The Social Contract (published at 50)
    • Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality Among Men (published at 44)
  • Søren Kierkegaard (most significant accomplishments made during his early 30s)
    • Either/Or (age 29)
    • Concluding Unscientific Postscript (age 33)
  • Voltaire
    • Philosophical Dictionary (age 70)
  • Thales, Leucippus, and Democritus - collectively responsible for the first attempts to explain the natural world without myth or superstition.

Summary: none of the major achievements in the field of philosophy seem to have been made by teenagers.

[edit] Political/social movements

  • Abolitionism
  • Civil Rights
  • American Independence[3] and the other Atlantic Revolutions
  • Indian non-violent resistance
  • The Great Enlightenment

Summary: while all these movements undoubtedly had teenaged adherents, the leaders were all older (e.g. William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, the Founding Fathers, Gandhi, etc.)

[edit] Religion

  • Old Testament[3]
    • Written by numerous people; allegedly God (not a teen)[9] and Moses (also not a teen) were major contributors
  • New Testament[3]
    • Various authors. St. Paul, a major one, was probably in his early 30's when he was converted on the road to Damascus; all his contributions followed. Even if we accept that John was a teen when he followed Jesus (unlikely), that he was the same John who wrote the Gospel of John (almost certainly not the case), and that he wrote it while still in his teenage years (unlikely to the extreme) this is still just one of 27 books of the New Testament
  • The Koran
    • Mohammad allegedly saw his first visions at 40
  • The Nicene Creed
  • Luther's 95 Theses
    • Written at 34
  • Achievements in the Bible (assuming they are literally true):
    • Old Testament:
      • Noah's construction of the ark (Noah had adult children and he is five hundreds years old according to the bible)
      • Abraham's submission to God's order to sacrifice Isaac (Substantially older than a teen, over 100 according to the bible)
      • Joseph's exploits (sold into slavery at 17, his major accomplishments came thereafter, may have been a teen for some of them)
      • Moses leading his people out of Egypt (occurred in his adult life)
      • Joshua at the battle of Jericho (after spending 40 years in the wilderness, he was certainly not a teenager)
      • Samson's exploits (mostly appear to take place in adulthood)
      • Construction of the Temple
      • David slaying Goliath (probably a teen)
    • New Testament
      • Teachings of Jesus[3] (his ministry was from age 30 - 33)
  • Gautama BuddhaWikipedia's W.svg
    • Spent 29 years as a prince before the ascetic life and enlightenment that lead to founding of Buddhism.
  • Confucius
    • Starts teachings around the age of 30

Summary: being very generous and allowing John to be counted as a teenage author of The Gospel of John, we have two accomplishments by teenagers, one of which is likely mythological (David vs. Goliath). Disregarding their spurious nature, they are still dwarfed by the accomplishments of adults.

[edit] Science

  • Archimedes discovery of water displacement (details unknown, but it is pretty clear he was not a teenager)
  • Heliocentric theory of Copernicus
  • Galileo's observation of the moons of Jupiter
  • Newton[3]
    • Laws of gravity and physics in general
  • Kepler's laws of planetary motion
  • Confirmation of atoms
    • Study of radioactive nuclei by Marie and Pierre Curie and Henri Becquerel
    • Study of Brownian motion by Einstein
  • Periodic table of the elements
    • Mendeleev was in his 30's when compiling this
  • Einstein (Definitely not a Schlafly favorite)
    • Special theory of relativity (aged 26)
    • General theory of relativity (aged 37)
  • Darwin's theory of Evolution
    • Clearly not a Schlafly favorite, but undeniably one of the greatest scientific accomplishments. Darwin's first notes on evolution were made when he was 28
  • Germ Theory
    • Pasteur, Semmelweiss?
  • Identification of the DNA molecule.
    • Watson, Crick, and Russell were not teenagers anymore.
  • Haber Process
    • Fritz Haber, 40s
  • Quantum hypothesis
    • Max Planck was 42 when he developed this.

Summary: none of these appear to have been accomplished by teenagers.

[edit] Speeches/orations

  • Speech delivered by U.S. Presidents. None of the Presidents in the US is younger than 30 years old when taking office.
    • Abraham Lincoln
      • Gettysburg Address (age 54)[4]
      • Second inaugural address (age 56)[4]
    • John F. Kennedy
      • Inaugural address (age 43)
    • Ronald Reagan
      • "Tear down this wall" (age 76)[3]
      • "A Time for Choosing" (age 53)[4]
    • Dwight Eisenhower
      • Farewell address (age 70)
    • FDR
      • "Four Freedoms" speech (age 59)
  • Martin Luther King
    • "I have a dream" (age 34)
  • Cicero
    • Catiline Orations (aged approximately 43)
  • Winston Churchill
    • Numerous speeches during World War II (earliest ones made when he was 65)
  • William Jennings Bryan
    • "Cross of Gold" speech (age 36)[3]
    • Arguments at Scopes trial (age 65)[3]
  • John Winthrop
    • "A Model of Christian Charity" sermon (a.k.a. "City on a Hill" speech made at approximately the age of 43)[3]
  • Margaret Thatcher
    • Sermon on the Mound (age 62)[4]
  • Demosthenes
    • “The Third Philippic” (circa age 42)
  • William Wilberforce
    • “Abolition Speech” (age 29)[4]
  • Jonathan Edwards
    • "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" (age 37)[3]
  • Pericles
    • The Funeral Oration of Pericles


Summary: none of the speeches widely considered among the best of all time seem to have been made by teenagers.

[edit] Overall analysis

Though this list could by no means be considered definitive, it still quite soundly establishes that teenagers are not responsible for most of the greatest achievements of mankind. With well over 200 examples of the greatest achievements in numerous fields (some taken straight from the mouth of Schlafly) there are less than a dozen that can be reasonably attributed to teens. Examining Conservapedia's list of great achievements by teenagers (which does not claim to be the greatest of all time, just accomplishments by teens) we have included some here (even though they are by and large quite questionable), while most of the others can make no real claim of being among humanity's greatest accomplishments, e.g. becoming a nun, receiving the Victoria Cross, becoming a chess champion, starting a profitable company, performing with an orchestra, being gunned down by sociopaths, starting Facebook (a site Andy has specifically expressed derision for) or Napster (nor can anyone imagine he is a fan of music piracy, just image piracy at CP). There are some not included here for which a case for inclusion can be made, e.g. Frankenstein, The Diary of Anne Frank, Mozart's Mithridate, but to lower the bar to include these would necessitate the admittance of many, many other works by older people, which would only further erode Andy's assertion. As Mithridate is not one of the most renowned works of Mozart, let alone the entire genre of classical music, inclusion of it would mean inclusion of every piece of enduring classical music for the last 300 years. Likewise Frankenstein's inclusion would mean the inclusion of just about every novel that is generally regarded as a "classic", literally hundreds - or thousands - of books, almost all written by adults.

Should Andy Schlafly ever even acknowledge this list (something he would never do, given its authorship) he would, of course, immediately dismiss it as liberal biased propaganda, without offering any alternative achievements (though he would likely reiterate the Gospel of John). To combat this, we can examine lists made by others, generally each specific to one category. Of course, he would just as readily dismiss those as liberal "experts" with an agenda, but he can hardly claim that they were made specifically in response to his list. We can also examine lists done by polling the populace, or, in some cases let the invisible hand decide and base the greatest works on the highest sales. Lists abound on the internet, and we have plenty from which to choose.

[edit] Literature lists

[edit] Music lists

  • Some website's 150 greatest classical music compositions - The source here may be questionable, but they seem to basically adhere to general consensus. Still nothing evident from teenagers. Even Schubert, who we included in our list, has only compositions from his 20's listed. Chopin may have started his first Piano Concerto when he was 19, but that appears to be all.
  • Condoleezza Rice's top 10 musical works - No claims of liberal bias here. No works by teenagers are mentioned specifically, although her choice of "anything by U2" could potentially include works from their teenage years (before they achieved mainstream success). Given Schlafly's politics and those of the band, it is unlikely he would rate anything by them highly, regardless of their age.
  • Rolling Stone's 500 greatest songs of all time - There are undoubtedly some teenage contributions here, but this is a limited subset of a limited subset of human achievements, and almost entirely confined to rock (with a bit of jazz, R&B, rap, and country thrown in). Based just on heated debates on RW about a group as renowned as The Beatles, there is little consensus about achievement in this field when compared to other fields such as inventions, math, science, and even art. Given all that, even in this field dominated by youth, at quick glance teenage compositions seem to be in the minority.

[edit] Art lists

  • Someone's lists of greatest works divided into various eras - One can certainly question this guy's credentials to make this call, but he does seem to have a pretty good primer of the canon of visual art. Looking at all the works with known artists (this discounts much of the medieval and earlier work) we have nothing by teenagers. In fact, this list may have the oldest mean age of any.

[edit] Speeches lists

[edit] Writings on all subjects (not confined to literature)

[edit] Misc.

  • Author Michael Hart's ranking of history's 100 most influential people. While not all of these people's influence was necessarily positive (note, for example, Hitler's inclusion), this is basically a decent analysis of people who have made great achievements. By all appearances, none of their major accomplishments were made in their teenage years.
  • Wikipedia's article on various forms of 7 wonders throughout the world - Most of these bear the problems of the architecture and engineering categories, in that they are not the work of a single person, and teens likely helped build them all (we dismiss wonders of nature in this group), but there is no record of teens designing any of these, and it is largely the designers who deserve most of the credit.

[edit] Footnotes

  1. He didn't seem to notice that, by his own standard, he has already passed the age to do anything great.
  2. Even in case where teenagers have made significant accomplishments, they were nothing like his students.
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 3.12 3.13 3.14 3.15 3.16 3.17 3.18 Known to be personal favorites of Andrew Schlafly!
  4. 4.00 4.01 4.02 4.03 4.04 4.05 4.06 4.07 4.08 4.09 4.10 4.11 4.12 4.13 4.14 4.15 4.16 4.17 4.18 4.19 4.20 4.21 4.22 4.23 4.24 4.25 4.26 4.27 4.28 4.29 4.30 4.31 4.32 4.33 4.34 Should certainly be things Andrew Schlafly appreciates,
  5. To be fair, these might have been attributed to teenagers, as the life expectancy back then may have been less than or equal to 30.
  6. http://www.interleaves.org/~rteeter/grtbloom.html
  7. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2008/feb/11/rimbaudwasnogenius
  8. Referencing the evil wikipedia will not be accepted for grades on this test.
  9. Allegedly even a couple thousand - or a few billion - years old by then. Wait, is 14.7 billion years "teenage" in God years? Damn. (New Testament (2 Peters 3:8) gives ~40,274 years, although it may subject to further time dilation if Old Testament is used since 6 days(creation week) lasted like 4 billion years)
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