Age and Genius: Why the Late 30s Are the Best Times for Breakthroughs

Email a Friend
From and

Albert Einstein once said that "a person who has not made his great contribution to science before the age of 30 will never do so."  

Genius may have come early for Einstein, who made his first major discovery at the tender age of 26, but according to a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, most scientists don't achieve their first big breakthrough until their late thirties. 

The study examined the ages and discoveries of Nobel Prize-winning scientists and inventors, and found that while true genius requires a lot of hard work early in life, most creative achievements happen much later—and even Einstein didn't fully work out his theory of relativity until his mid-thirties.

David Shenk, author of "The Genius in All of Us: New Insights Into Genetics, Talent, and IQ," discusses the study and its implications. He says that while most major breakthroughs may happen in the "sweet spot" of our late thirties, many experts create their best work well into old age.