Scientists Peak in Their Late 30s

Education may explain phenomenon
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Feb 23, 2014 6:55 AM CST
Scientists see creative breakthroughs in their late thirties, a study finds.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Good news for struggling scientists in their mid-30s: Your big breakthrough is probably still to come. So says a new study from the National Bureau of Economics Research, which finds that great scientists and inventors see their biggest moments of genius in their late 30s, the Atlantic reports. Education may explain the phenomenon. Scientists are still studying for degrees until about the age of 30; then they need some time to "learn on the job," Olga Khazan writes. When they're older, by contrast, they may not keep such close track of the latest developments, making them less likely to strike intellectual gold.

Speaking of education, scientists these days have to learn more than they did in the past—which may explain why they peak later now than they did in earlier decades. The study wasn't peer-reviewed, notes io9, so some skepticism may be warranted; it was "circulated for discussion and comment purposes." As for the humanities, Khazan notes, age may not deplete creativity; after all, Robert Frost wrote 40% of his best poems after age 50, and Paul Cezanne painted his priciest pieces the year he died. (Read more scientists stories.)

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