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Chris Langan

Often called “the smartest man in the world,” Chris Langan has an IQ of 195 and has authored many papers on theoretical physics. His work goes unpublished however, and he has never been able to… (read full character analysis)

Robert Oppenheimer

The leading physicist on the atomic bomb project (part of the Manhattan Project). Oppenheimer earned his PhD and his highly prestigious job in spite of his communist affiliations and (even more strikingly) having once been… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
Stewart Wolf
The physician who suggested in the late 1800s that the unusually good health of the people living in the small Pennsylvanian town of Roseto was due to Rosetan community and culture, and not to the physical condition of the townspeople.
Roger Barnesley
A Canadian psychologist who first drew attention to the issue of relative age and its effect on the success of Canadian hockey players.
Bill Joy
The famous computer scientist whose success Gladwell attributes not only to intelligence but also to his good fortune: he happened to go to a school that had a computer system, and he happened to have the opportunity to work on that system for many hours a day.
Bill Gates
The co-founder of Microsoft and one of the world’s wealthiest and most successful entrepreneurs and philanthropists, Gates was fortunate enough to work with computers at a very young age.
The Beatles
Perhaps the most popular rock band in history, whose opportunities to practice live shows outstripped almost all other bands of their era, and became a crucial though often overlooked factor in their success.
Joe Flom
A major New York attorney. Gladwell uses Flom’s story (he rose to wealth and fame because his timing, background, and opportunities allowed him to) to articulate how and why Jewish law firms had so much success in the late 1900s.
Dr. Terman
A Stanford professor who studied genius and the achievement of a group of specially selected child geniuses, only to find that, despite their high IQs, they did not as a group become particularly successful.
The Termites
The subjects of Dr. Terman’s study, a group of highly intelligent children who were tracked in order to study the effects of genius on success.
Mr. and Mrs. Borgenicht
An immigrant couple who came to New York City and became successful in the garment industry.
Suren Ratwatte
A veteran Sri Lankan pilot who Gladwell consults regarding the causes of airplane crashes.
A young child from a poor family who attends KIPP public school. Gladwell uses Maria’s story to illustrate what can be done to provide low-income children with the tools they need to achieve as much success as their wealthier peers.