The Secret IQ Diaries : They Were Guinea Pigs in the Longest-Running Psychological Study Ever, Their Identities Largely Kept a Mystery. Now in Their 80s, the ‘Children’ of Lewis Terman Are Still Defining What It Really Means to Be A Genius.
The boy who would grow up to direct “The Caine Mutiny” was a 13-year-old student at Lockwood Street School on the fringes of Hollywood when he was discovered by Lewis M. Terman, the inventor of the modern-day IQ test. It was 1922, and the Stanford University professor had dispersed a small flock of assistants to test children around the state.
Even now, nearly three-quarters of a century later, 86-year-old Edward Dmytryk can sit in his Encino home, encircled by the memorabilia of his movie career, and evoke that first milestone in his life: getting out of class, riding the Yellow Car to school district headquarters Downtown to sit in a row of desks with other kids and take the great psychologist’s newfangled test. He didn’t know what he was part of then, but he was in his element.
“The testing went on for three straight days,” he recalls. “I was excused from school. And I loved it. A lot of the things [on the test] were puzzles. They’d give you a seven-integer number and tell you to say it backward right away.”
The test was a three-day lark for Dmytryk, a respite from a brutal father who sometimes shredded his schoolbooks. For Terman it was proof that here was another “gifted child"--a phrase he coined--and he added the youngster to the long list for his landmark research group. In newspaper stories across Depression-era America, they would be known as the “1,000 Gifted Children.” To these kids--actually 1,528 of them, mostly Californians--Terman became both surrogate father and academic spy, monitoring their progress from afar, guiding their careers and, often enough, meddling in their lives. Neither he nor the children realized then that Terman would be part of their lives for decades, longer in some cases than jobs, parents, spouses.
For more than seven decades, as they grew from prodigies to octogenarians, and even after Terman’s death, they have been guinea pigs in the longest-running psychological study ever conducted. Known now as the “Termites,” these students have helped shape the modern understanding of genius. “Practically everything we know today about gifted children and their development came from this one study,” said the late Robert Sears, himself a Termite, who was a Stanford psychology professor and headed the study after Terman’s death.
Almost from the beginning, Terman’s work deflated the long-held stereotype of gifted children as nerdy, four-eyed weaklings who would degenerate early in life into mediocrity or insanity. Rather, the study has shown that gifted children tend to be healthier, stronger and more successful, and maintain their intellects into old age. It also contradicted one of Terman’s expectations, that IQ had more to do with heredity than with parents’ encouragement and expectations.
Terman and Dmytryk would never meet, but they corresponded for decades. To have sought him out in person, says Dmytryk now, would be “like looking for your parents if you’re an adopted child. It’s a waste of time.” The professor kept watch over Dmytryk as the youngster ran away from home, got a job as a movie studio messenger and worked his way through high school; the professor applauded as Dmytryk became a film editor and an award-winning movie director. When Dmytryk was blacklisted and imprisoned as one of the Hollywood Ten, Terman was disheartened. When Dmytryk revived his career, making noted films that included “The Caine Mutiny” with Humphrey Bogart and “Raintree County” with Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift, Terman congratulated him like a proud father.
Terman is long dead, but his successors at Stanford still keep tabs on the movie director, who writes books and teaches film courses at USC, as well as some 500 other survivors among the “little geniuses.” Researchers intend to track the Termites until the last one dies--most likely around the year 2010--amassing a database that is a treasure trove for researchers. This spring, Stanford published the study’s fifth volume. The data is still being tapped to discern the answers Terman sought: What makes someone smart? Do brains guarantee success? Does brilliance last a lifetime?
But in the 1990s, the findings are less compelling than the personalities of Terman and his gifted children. The confidential files, opened to The Times for this story, are a window into the tumultuous times of Californians whose lives spanned most of the century. Over the years, the names of only about 30 Termites have emerged publicly; at Stanford’s request, the others remain anonymous.
The confidential files show that Terman was proud of them all: the Life magazine war correspondent captured by the Japanese; the scientist who discovered the link between cholesterol and heart disease; the nuclear physicist who helped make the atom bomb; the Hollywood scriptwriter who created “I Love Lucy.” (He was equally fond of his non-starters--the potter committed to a mental hospital, the owner of the greasy spoon, the short-story writer who cleaned swimming pools.)
The professor himself comes to life in the records as a kindly, considerate scholar who thought of his gifted test subjects as proteges. In turn, he was a strong and steady presence in their lives--a benevolent godfather, accepting, encouraging and advising.
Terman, who died in 1956 at 79, was one of the great psychologists of his era. He helped establish his field as a legitimate social science and, more than anyone, made “IQ,” intelligence quotient, a household term. The debate over the worth of such testing in evaluating potential did not come until much later. And by today’s standards, his pioneering research would never have survived peer review. This was no double-blind study. There was no control group. He thought of his test subjects as his children; indeed, two of them were his own children.
He assured every child and every parent anonymity, but he frequently divulged their gifted status in the bragging letters he wrote on their behalf, the files reveal. They also show that even though he knew he was skewing his results, Terman helped them get into Stanford, arranged scholarships for them anonymously, touted them for jobs and tried to keep them out of trouble. The professor’s intervention may well have saved Dmytryk from hardship: He ran away from an abusive home the year after he was classed as a genius. Terman heard the news secondhand, and--presaging the years he would play blocking guard for his kids--he contacted Los Angeles juvenile authorities. Dmytryk was a promising subject in his study of gifted children, he explained; “It would be better, I think,” he wrote, “not to mention to the boy or to any of his people that I have written you concerning the case, as it might lead to a misunderstanding of our motives.”
Soon afterward, Dmytryk found himself in a good foster home. He had no hint of Terman’s intervention until a reporter told him, seven decades later. “I never got any intimation of that from anybody,” the film director said in some surprise. “If he were still alive, I would thank him.”
Fresh from the acclaim of using early IQ tests to assign World War I recruits according to intelligence, Terman set out in 1921 to systematically find 1,000 gifted children and follow them into adulthood. The 44-year-old professor, with funding from Stanford, dispatched his assistants to find test subjects in public schools across California. Each teacher was asked to select the three smartest students and point out the youngest. At a time when skipping grades was common, it turned out that being the youngest child in the class was a better indicator of high IQ than being the teacher’s choice, the study’s records show. The project grew into the first and longest life-cycle study ever conducted.
Predisposed to believe that gifted children were less likely to be found among the disadvantaged, Terman’s assistants skipped schools for juvenile delinquents and did little testing in poor neighborhoods. And so Terman ended up with a group that looked much like himself: The vast majority were middle class and of northern European ancestry; two-thirds were of British stock. One was black, two were of Mexican heritage. The only Asian Americans in the group were nine Japanese Americans. More than 10% were Jewish.
Terman first set the IQ bar at 140 for his gifted kids, but dropped it to 135 to enlist enough children. He continued adding subjects, often siblings of the first picks, until 1928, when he decided that the 1,528 were enough for his purposes. Their median IQ was 147, with some above 190. Among them were descendants of John Alden, Benjamin Franklin, Ethan Allen, John and John Quincy Adams, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, P.T. Barnum, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ulysses S. Grant and Mark Twain.
For the study to work, the kids had to know they were part of it. They were told they were smart, but Terman tried to make sure none knew their IQ scores, the files reveal. Still, for many, simply knowing they were in the genius study changed the way they saw themselves. Some became confident to a fault; for others, it was a lifelong boost to their self-esteem. “Being selected as a Termite is one of the things that continually gave me self-confidence,” a top aeronautical engineer wrote in 1991 in the most recent of the confidential questionnaires sent out every five to 10 years to the study subjects.
The study proved that Terman’s Stanford-Binet IQ test could ferret out budding intellectuals, but it also showed that an IQ score doesn’t necessarily strike the spark of creative genius. “These people were remarkably successful given the times, but it clearly did not come out that these people were gigantically creative,” says Albert H. Hastorf, psychology professor emeritus and a former Stanford provost who now heads the Terman study. “There wasn’t a Nobel laureate. There wasn’t a Pulitzer Prize. We didn’t have a Picasso. It’s my guess that Terman was a little bit disappointed.”
Terman also did not live long enough to learn that two California schoolchildren who did not make his IQ cutoff went on to win Nobel prizes, writes Joel N. Shurkin in his 1992 book, “Terman’s Kids.” One was the late William Shockley, who shared the 1956 physics prize for helping invent the transistor. Shockley later stirred up controversy by contending that genetics determine intelligence and that blacks are genetically inferior to whites. The other was the late Luis W. Alvarez, who won the 1968 physics prize for his work that proved the existence of some subatomic particles. Like Shockley, he went beyond his field of early research and created controversy, theorizing well before it was considered plausible that dinosaurs became extinct after an asteroid collided with the earth.
In measurable ways, then, the Termites were not so different from the rest of their generation: They got divorced, committed suicide, were alcoholics or homosexuals at about the same rate as the general public. They survived the Great Depression and fought in World War II. Many were doctors and lawyers, housewives and business executives, actors and writers, clergymen and public officials, farmers, professors, teachers, scientists and engineers. More than two-thirds graduated from college--far above average--and many earned advanced degrees. Terman was especially tickled to point out that they made far more money than most Americans.
But brilliance was no guarantor of success. Some lacked drive and others never emerged from their parents’ domination, the files show. Two of the 1,528 collected welfare checks. Others tended bar, drove trucks, worked as lab technicians, accountants, clerks, police officers and firefighters. Terman didn’t picture his kids driving trucks; he saw them inventing transit systems. He did not judge them. But in the 1950s, when he made a few names public, it was the doctors and professors, not the clerks and firemen. And that, of course, made his IQ test look good.
From behind the shield of case-study anonymity, Terman also was prone to exaggerate. “Terman really cared a lot about his subjects, and anything nice he could find out about them he added a bit,” said one Termite who knew him well. In Dmytryk’s case, Terman and study co-author Melita Oden cited the director anonymously in the 1950s but could not help overstating his achievements. Among his accomplishments, they wrote, were “several Oscar awards by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences won either by his pictures or by actors under his direction.” In fact, although three of his films, “The Caine Mutiny,” “Crossfire” and “Raintree County,” received nominations, neither Dmytryk nor his pictures ever won an Oscar.
While they would not win Nobel prizes or emerge as artistic legends, two of Terman’s kids did become well-known figures of their generation.
Physiologist Ancel Keys, the only Termite to land on the covers of Life and Time magazines, discovered the link between cholesterol and heart disease and became an advocate of a low-fat diet. But before then, his name became famous for something else, although it was not always flatteringly evoked by soldiers. During World War II, he created a nutritious, if bland, portable meal named after him--the K-ration.
Keys, who worked for a time as a management trainee at Woolworth’s in Sacramento, thinks much of Terman’s work was not particularly scientific and that the study was “overblown.” Now 91, he has obligingly completed the study’s periodic questionnaires as they come to his home overlooking the sea, on the slope of Monte della Stella in Italy. It was his parents, he points out, who signed him up while he was a student at Berkeley High School. “I was involuntarily involved,” he says.
He rejects Terman’s hereditarian bias; personal will, he thinks, is a greater factor in success than inherited intelligence. “I think Terman made more of [IQ] than it was worth. Some of us picked the right thing to do and worked hard at it.” Keys has created his own famous, and more scientifically rigorous, longitudinal study: a 40-year examination of diet and mortality in 12,000 men in seven nations that was begun in 1957.
The name of Terman’s other well-known kid floats by on a TV screen every half-hour somewhere in the world. Jess Oppenheimer, who died in 1988, created one of the most beloved comedy series ever made--"I Love Lucy.” But when Terman’s assistants first interviewed the teen-age Oppenheimer, they were not impressed. One even recorded in his file: “I could detect no sign of a sense of humor.”
Out of high school, Oppenheimer sold ladies’ fur coats until Terman helped get him accepted into Stanford. After his college career fizzled, he headed south, to Hollywood, once again bearing a letter of introduction from Terman. But this time, he didn’t need the professor’s help. Waiting for an interview as a radio writer, he overheard two writers talking about why their scripts had been rejected. Oppenheimer left, rented an apartment, began typing and returned that afternoon with a completed script. He was hired on the spot for the Fred Astaire radio show for $125 a week.
For all that, and his genius-level IQ, Oppenheimer labored under an astounding handicap that went undiscovered until he joined the Coast Guard: his eyes didn’t focus on the same spot. Until he was 29 years old, he saw two of everything. It made for inexplicable childhood headaches and social difficulties, but it was those same problems that he said made him a great comedy writer. When Lucille Ball asked him to create a new TV program for her in 1951, he handed her “I Love Lucy.” “I hit upon the idea of a middle-class working stiff who works very hard at his job and who likes nothing better than coming home at night and relaxing with his wife, who doesn’t like staying home and wants a career of her own,” Oppenheimer once told The Times.
The files show that, in 1953, when all of America was stopping for a half-hour every week to watch the Ricardos, Terman wrote Oppenheimer that he was “thrilled” by his success, adding, “You have certainly reached the top of the heap.” But Oppenheimer liked tinkering in his workshop better than watching TV and came up with more than 20 patents, one of them for a forerunner of the TelePrompTer device, and another a live-performance laugh track system. It was not TV Guide but Popular Mechanics that once called Oppenheimer “a bona fide genius.”
Lucille Ball called him “The Brains.”
When Frederick Emmons Terman and his sister, Helen, were little, their father administered his IQ test to them. He found that both children met his definition of gifted and he added them to his study of little geniuses.
Fred Terman lived up to his father’s expectations, eventually even overshadowing him in the Stanford community. With an awkwardness around people but a gift for engineering, the younger Terman became an assistant professor at age 27 and wrote a handbook on radio engineering that is considered the bible of its field.
After the war, Fred Terman became Stanford’s dean of engineering and, a decade later, provost. He recruited top faculty from around the nation and built up Stanford’s reputation as a premier university. Perhaps his greatest achievement was inspiring the creation of the Silicon Valley. By leasing some of Stanford’s vast acreage to the fledgling electronics industry in the 1960s, Terman tapped into a cash cow for Stanford and created a market for its bright new graduates. At his death in 1982 at the age of 82, he had helped found several new electronics firms; he created corporate lightning in 1937 when he brought together two of his students, William Hewlett and David Packard, to start a company in a garage. He even suggested their first project--an oscilloscope--and scrounged up the first $500 to get them started.
Helen Terman also lived up to her father’s expectations, and how different his expectations were says much about Terman’s dealings with the women in his study. While her father and brother held great sway on campus, she got a job as a switchboard operator in a Stanford dormitory, eventually becoming a campus administrative assistant. Ironically, the man who wrote reams of advice to kids he never met gave his own daughter little encouragement. While Fred’s file is stuffed with newspaper clippings and letters, hers is nearly empty. She died in 1973 at the age of 70.
In fact, from his wife and daughter to his female graduate students, the eminent psychologist appeared not to understand women nearly as well as men. “Lewis Terman was baffled by the women in his study,” wrote Shurkin. Men outnumbered women in the study 856 to 672. “While he seemed to feel he knew how to measure the success of his men . . . he admitted he could not figure out how to assess the lives of his women subjects.” It took studies by Terman’s successors to conclude that the women in the study, while constrained by the male-dominated culture, were ahead of their time: like women in the 1990s, more of Terman’s women had careers, more waited longer to have children and more remained childless than the general population.
One Termite who balanced career and motherhood was Shelley Smith Mydans, whose father was the chairman of the Stanford journalism department. Shelley, her brother and her sister were all included in the study. But the knowledge that they were gifted somehow made the Smith kids believe success would come without hard work. “It took my brother five years to get through high school,” recalled Mydans, the youngest of the trio. “It gave us the impression we did not have to do another thing. It was conducive to laziness.”
Shelley flunked seventh grade but later made it into Stanford, then dropped out and moved to New York and joined a dance company. Barely able to support herself, she took a job as a researcher at a new magazine called Life. As war broke out in Europe, she married Life photographer Carl Mydans and the pair were sent to cover the conflict, first in Europe and then following the war to Asia. As the Japanese invaded the Philippines in 1941, the Mydanses were captured and imprisoned for 21 months. Half the world away at Stanford, Terman recorded the events for Shelley’s file: “They had a chance to escape imprisonment by taking the last boat that left, but felt that they shouldn’t do so because it would deprive others of the opportunity. They also could have joined the [U.S.] army on Corregidor, but they refused that also because it would have meant taking food that should have gone to the army.” After eight months, the Japanese shipped the Mydanses to Shanghai, where they were freed in a 1943 prisoner exchange.
Shelley, who lost sight in one eye, returned to her family home at Stanford and wrote a novel on her prison camp years. Then it was back to Asia with Carl, who arrived in time to take the famous picture of Gen. Douglas MacArthur wading ashore on his return to the Philippines, a scene re-enacted by the general because no photographer was there the first time. A GI newspaper found her newsworthy: “Shelley Smith Mydans, the Pacific’s first gorgeous war correspondent, is here . . . She’s an able newspaperwoman who has been more places than a globe-trotter, has had more adventures than a soldier of fortune, knows more about the [Japanese] than most military commanders, and, at twenty-nine, is better to look at than 75 percent of the movie stars.” Shelley, now 80, and Carl, 87, will soon publish a book in Japan--a 50th anniversary history of the American occupation.
Even Terman admitted his feelings for her were more subjective than scientific. “Ratings possibly biased, as she is one of my most favorite subjects,” he noted in her file in 1950. Shelley, however, regrets being a Termite and found Terman’s standards “very surface. I lost my temper and wrote [the researchers] about it.” For herself, “I was so lucky the places I happened to be. I don’t think that has anything to do with intelligence. Dr. Terman was a wonderful man, but he was studying this very small area.”
Like so many Termites, she gives more credit to hard work and good fortune than to inherited intelligence. In this, she is in sync with modern thinking. Terman’s theory of a single intelligence has come under assault from the likes of Harvard’s Howard Gardner, who believes there are multiple intelligences that govern different abilities. He argues for seven: mathematical-logical, linguistic, spatial, bodily kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal and intrapersonal. Terman’s IQ test, Shelley says, “tests a very narrow range of intelligence, if you want to call it that. It tests how quick you are to make connections--not ambition, memory, creativity, energy. Another part of intelligence is handling human relations, and that wasn’t tested at all.”
The war did much to shape the destinies of Terman’s brilliant children, but it also unleashed demons that would later claim two of its more famous members.
Douglas McGlashan Kelley became a psychiatrist and was assigned by the Army to examine Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg. Among them were Rudolf Hess and Hermann Goring, who cheated his executioners by swallowing cyanide when they came to take him to the gallows. Kelley wrote a book about his experience and, with Terman’s backing, became a professor of criminology at UC Berkeley. A pioneer in the use of so-called “truth drugs” akin to sodium pentothal and in the psychological screening of police officers, he and Terman talked about why his gifteds were committing suicide. Then on the first day of 1958, Kelley swallowed poison in his study, walked out to tell his wife what he had done, collapsed and died. The poison was cyanide, a Nazi souvenir he had brought back from Nuremberg. He was 45.
Norris Bradbury, a graduate of Hollywood High School, received his Ph.D. from UC Berkeley at 23, and by the start of the war he had been recruited for the Manhattan Project, helping to build the atomic bomb. Afterward, he spent a quarter-century--much of the Cold War--as director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory. He was credited with keeping the United States ahead in the arms race. He also was the man who ordered two dozen nuclear tests in the South Pacific that laid waste to the Bikini Atoll, rendering it uninhabitable until recently. He was in charge of more than 120 aboveground nuclear tests in the United States that created an enduring environmental disaster: clouds of radioactive fallout across Nevada, Utah and Arizona.
Victims, who call themselves “downwinders,” say 60,000 people were exposed to this radiation, and at least 1,200 have developed cancer because of it. Now 86, Bradbury does not want to talk about the atomic tests or the Terman study. The official line at Bradbury’s lab during the 1950s was that the tests were harmless. The government gave no warning to people who lived in the area. But at the time, Bradbury knew of the danger and secretly warned his pregnant daughter-in-law to move her family from their home in southern Utah.
“I understood that it was quite unusual and important that he would have broken this . . . kind of code and said this to me,” his former daughter-in-law told the ABC show “Turning Point” last year. “He didn’t want anything to go wrong with one of his grandchildren.”
Perhaps Terman’s most far-reaching findings came when he tried to figure out why some geniuses do better than others. About 30 years into the study, he chose the 100 most successful Termites, whom he labeled A’s, and the 100 least successful, the C’s. He and assistant Melita Oden plotted their data and found that three qualities set the A’s apart: perseverance, self-confidence and the ability to set goals and achieve them.
Where did these qualities come from? While Terman had believed early on that heredity largely determined intelligence, this study-within-a-study somewhat countered that. The parents of the A’s were better educated, had better jobs, fewer divorces and more books than the parents of the C’s. The A’s parents stressed education far more than C parents, and had high expectations for their children. More A’s than C’s admired their parents and wanted to be like them.
Between them, the Dmytryk brothers managed to confirm and explode some of Terman’s theories. Edward Dmytryk and his late brother, Arthur, shared much besides their genes: a mother who died when they were young, a violent father and a place in Terman’s study. But Edward’s achievements were matched by Arthur’s failure.
Their father, a Ukrainian immigrant, lashed out angrily and unpredictably. He was so powerful that he once felled a horse by striking it in the head. It was a temper he extended to his middle sons. “It wasn’t so much planned brutality. It’s just if he found something I was doing he didn’t approve of, he’d whack me over the head or pick up a two-by-four and hit me.” Dmytryk vividly remembers walking down a road when a tremendous blow from behind sent him sprawling. When he protested that he had done nothing wrong, his father accused him of walking with his toes pointing in instead of out.
Reading was their escape. “I used to go to the public library, and I would take home three or four books, and I would go back three or four days later and pick up another three or four books. My brother did the same thing: read, read, read, read, read.” Even then, sometimes his father “would get so angry because I was reading, he would pick up the book, even if it was a library book, and tear it up.”
All that reading, and almost nothing else, is why the Dmytryk boys scored well on Terman’s tests, Edward Dmytryk believes today. “That’s what you needed to pass those tests. You need a hell of a lot of general information. They don’t determine intelligence. They determine education. I think that’s where the tests are unfair.” Translating education into accomplishment was another matter. Unlike Arthur, plagued by a lack of confidence, Edward Dmytryk never had any doubts about who he was. “I didn’t know what the hell I was going to do in life, but I was always very secure in my ability. I knew if I tried something, I could do it. From the very beginning, I learned you really didn’t have to know very much to be top dog.”
In one early Terman survey, Dmytryk wrote that he wanted to be a cameraman. One of Terman’s assistants sniffed that this offered little opportunity for advancement. But at the Famous Players-Lasky studio--soon to be Paramount Pictures--Dmytryk quickly rose from messenger to projectionist to assistant cutter to film editor to director. In 1936, when Dmytryk was 28, Terman wrote him, “I am very happy indeed to know that you are getting along so well and that your future in the film industry looks bright.” And Terman returned to his constant yardstick for success: “Your salary, by the way, is far above the average of the boys of the group who are near your age. Now that you have done so well, I expect great things of you.” Later, Terman would take a more paternal delight in Dmytryk’s success, sending him a letter of congratulations after his movie, “Murder, My Sweet,” won an award from the Mystery Writers of America. “I am always proud of the honors that come to my ‘children’ and especially so in this case,” he wrote.
In 1947, Dmytryk was one of the “Hollywood Ten,” prominent writers, directors and producers called before the House Un-American Activities Committee to answer questions about the Communist Party’s influence in Hollywood. Dmytryk had belonged to the Communist Party for about 18 months in the mid-1940s, quitting when he became disillusioned. But he joined with the other nine and refused to testify, citing the constitutional right of free speech.
The Ten were cited for contempt of Congress and quickly blacklisted. Dmytryk and his new wife, actress Jean Porter, went to England and made movies while U.S. court and publicity battles raged. In these, Dmytryk’s darkest hours, Terman wrote a memo expressing confidence in Dmytryk’s integrity, concern about his future and sympathy for him and his “fellow victims.”
Dmytryk was sentenced in 1950 to six months in prison and served 4 1/2 months. Feeling betrayed by former friends and angry at the Communist Party’s attempts to manipulate him, Dmytryk decided to clear his name. Soon after his release, he went before Congress, told his story and named names--without regret. “I was the only one who had the guts to come out against it openly,” he says now. “The only way you could break with them was to do it openly. Otherwise, everybody considered me a Communist, whether I liked it or not.” After his rehabilitation, the director went on to make dozens of movies with stars the caliber of Spencer Tracy, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, Richard Burton, Kirk Douglas and Gregory Peck.
What became of Arthur showed his brother just how little a high IQ can matter. He, too, ran away from home, but at age 12. He, too, was put in foster homes, but he kept running away. He stole a car and was sentenced to reform school. Terman and his assistants fretted that this would turn Arthur into a hardened criminal, but this time letters from the professor had no effect. By his mid-20s, Arthur tried to pull himself together, taking college classes. Terman promised to help. “I am going to do all I can for your brother,” the professor wrote Edward Dmytryk in 1936. “There is no reason why lack of money should keep him from realizing his present ambition to complete his college education. I shall hope to keep in touch with him constantly.” But Arthur never finished college. His short stories showed potential, but nothing sold. So he drifted from odd job to odd job until he died in 1978. He was 67.
“He knew he was bright, of course,” his brother says today, “but he didn’t respect himself as much as he should have. He wound up cleaning swimming pools. With all that high IQ, he never did anything with it.”