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.

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Showing 3 of 9 comments
NSA-CIApuppet
Feb 23, 2014 10:50 PM CST
Descending to an average IQ of 129 by age 99
SPHeroid
Feb 23, 2014 3:32 PM CST
If one looks at the history of science you will find that many, if not most, of the great discoveries always involved a fair amount of serendipity.... The right person, at the right time, with the right equipment, and more than a little luck....
fractal
Feb 23, 2014 3:08 PM CST
Most scientists in their late thirties still remember the psychedelic trips they had in their late twenties. You have to flush the neural pathways every decade or so.