The word “idiot” is derived from the Latin root “idiota” meaning “an ignorant person.” Currently, this word applies to a person who is mentally deficient and incapable of common reasoning. Many other words used as synonyms include: imbecile, dunce, dolt, blockhead, fool, dullard, halfwit, dope, and cretin. Whereas these words are sometimes used to replace the word “idiot,” none of them is an exact substitute of idiot. For example, an idiot is distinguished from an imbecile in its mental age. An idiot is considered as having 3 years’ mental age or an IQ less than 20, while an imbecile is considered as having 7 years of mental age with an IQ in the range of 25 to 50. In 1911, 2 French psychologists, Alfred Binet and Theodore Simon, devised the intelligence test and considered an IQ of 70 as normal, an IQ over 130 as gifted, and an IQ below 30 as an idiot. They also determined the levels of mental retardation, categorizing IQ ranges of 51-70 as a moron, 26-50 as imbecile, and 0-25 as an idiot. This classification was replaced by the currently prevalent “mild, moderate, and severe” mental retardation, idiot belonging to the last one.
1. Schlitze Surtees
Schlitze Surtees was born in the Bronx, New York on September 10, 1901 and died on September 24, 1971 at the age of 70 years. Schlitze was born with a medical condition known as microcephaly, characterized by an unusually small brain and skull, short stature, myopia, and restricted neural development. The condition indicates severe mental retardation. Schlitze could speak only monosyllabic words and a few simple phrases. His biological parentage is unknown. He was looked after by the circus owners for whom he performed in and out of the country in freak shows. A chimpanzee trainer, George Surtees adopted him while Schlitze was performing with the Tom Mix Circus in 1935. His performance in the film Freaks made him famous as it became a cult classic. The National Film Registry selected it as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”
2. Caitlin Upton
Lauren Caitlin Upton, also known as Caite Upton, is an American fashion model and beauty queen from Lexington, South Carolina. Upton became Miss South Carolina Teen USA for 2007 and achieved fourth position in the Miss Teen USA 2007 pageant. She was asked “Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can’t locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think this is?” Reflecting upon her IQ she replied “I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some people out there in our nation don’t have maps and, uh, I believe that our education like such as in South Africa and, uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and, I believe that they should, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., uh, or, uh, should help South Africa and should help the Iraq and the Asian countries, so we will be able to build up our future for our children.”
3. King Lear
Idiots appear as protagonists in some renowned literary works. In Shakespeare’s drama King Lear, the role of the king is like a simpleton. More than taking care of the state of affairs, he is interested in being known as the king. It is clear in the very beginning that Cordelia is his favorite daughter, but he prefers to be flattered publicly rather than being loved truly as Cordelia does. He is, instead, impressed by the flattery of Goneril and Regan. In the end when he comes to know of his mistakes, he cherishes Cordelia’s love over everything and behaves so humbly that he shows his intention to preferably live in prison with Cordelia rather than rule as a king.
4. Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin
Portrait of Fedor Dostoyevsky
Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote the famous novel The Idiot between 1868 and 1869, the period known as the Golden Age of Russian Literature. Prince Lev Nikolayevich Myshkin was the protagonist of The Idiot. Dostoyevsky intended to create an entirely positive character of an absolutely beautiful nature. There was no better way to do it, than creating an idiot in the form of Myshkin. Having spent many years in a Swiss sanatorium, the 26-year-old Myshkin returned to Russia. On account of his trusting nature and his naivety, he finds himself struggling with the affection of a beautiful woman and a pretty, young girl. His goodness culminates into a disaster, suggesting that the sanatorium was the only best place for him and idiots like him to live in.
5. John Thurtell
Killer John Thurtell, and his accomplices
John Thurtell was the son of the mayor of Norwich and a former Royal Marine officer. He owed a solicitor by the name of William Weare a gambling debt of £300. Thurtell thought that he had been cheated and when asked for the money killed Weare by inviting him for a weekend gambling and shooting him before he reached the destination. Focusing upon hiding the body, he did not bother about collecting his weapon left behind on the roadside. Consequently, he was traced soon afterwards and was hanged. The murder, on account of Turtle’s cruelty as well as naivety, attracted public attention. His body was dissected, and its waxwork was displayed in Madame Tussauds Museum for 150 years.
6. Franz Reichelt
Franz Reichelt, also known as the flying tailor, was born in Vienna in 1879 and died in Paris, France on February 4, 1912. He tailored a flying suit which he considered would serve as a parachute in case a pilot was constrained to eject from the plane. Having done some pilot testing with dummies, he repeatedly requested the Paris Police to perform a dummy test from the top of the Eiffel Tower. He was permitted to make a test, and on February 4, 1912 after reaching the top of the Eiffel tower, he declared that instead of a dummy he was going to jump. In spite of being asked to refrain, he jumped. The parachute did not open, and falling on the ground he died instantly on the spot.
7. Thomas Midgley, Jr.
Thomas Midgley, Jr.
Thomas Midgley, Jr. was born in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania on May 18, 1889 and died on November 2, 1944. He was an American mechanical engineer and chemist. He was an embodiment of the proverbial penny wise and pound foolish person. He saved gasoline from knocking but threw mankind into the hell of environmental pollution. He invented lead-containing TEL, tetraldehyde, and chlorofluorocarbons, CFCs. Lead is highly detrimental to mental health causing retardation while CFCs play a pivotal role in ozone depletion. According to an environmental historian, J. R. McNeill, Midgley “had more impact on the atmosphere than any other single organism in Earth’s history.” He died after being strangled in his self-devised mechanism when he suffered from poliomyelitis.
8. Paul Weir Galm
Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
Paul Weir Galm is a lawyer from Oregon. He is known for traveling around the world along with his wife, and for this purpose he took a leave of absence from his profession for one year. It may sound great, but it is not the cause of what he is most known for. On returning to the U.S., he participated in the famous television show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Many contestants lose the contest somewhere in the middle or the end of it. The distinguishing feature of Paul Weir Galm’s case is that he lost on the very first question, and this was seen by many millions of people over the TV and YouTube. This inability brought him lot of embarrassment raised questions about his IQ.
9. Spencer Pratt
Spencer Pratt is an American television personality known for his role along with his wife Heidi Montag in MTV’s The Hills. Pratt publicly stated that the 9/11 attacks were an insider’s work, and he vowed to utilize his fame to create awareness about the New World Order. He had an insatiable lust for fame, saying, “We love each other, but I’m a famewhore, and I’ll never grow out of it… I want every kind of press. She believes in bad press. There’s no way my love for fame and her love for puppies will ever work out successfully. She just wants to hike and hang out and be calmer.”
10. Natalie Suleman
Natalie Denise Suleman was born on July 11, 1975 in Fullerton, California, U.S. She attracted international attention after giving birth to eight offspring in a single delivery. Her feeble mindedness distracted people from her especially when they came to know that she had conceived via IVF, in vitro fertilization. Not only that, but she had already an additional six children all conceived through IVF. It was particularly noted that she was unemployed and was on public assistance.
It is a paradox that some genius people at one or the other stages of life had been considered as foolish while some foolish people became famous in history on some inexplicable account. Fame, whenever it wills, meets even an idiot with open arms, and when does not want to repels even a born genius.
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