Outliers

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Chris Langan Character Analysis

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 His work goes unpublished however, and he has never been able to earn a college degree. Gladwell argues that Langan’s genius didn’t guarantee him success, and that other factors (like his childhood and background) made it difficult for him to achieve his full potential.

Chris Langan Quotes in Outliers

The Outliers quotes below are all either spoken by Chris Langan or refer to Chris Langan. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Back Bay Books edition of Outliers published in 2011.
Chapter 4 Quotes

[Oppenheimer] possessed the kind of savvy that allowed him to get what he wanted from the world.

Related Characters: Chris Langan, Robert Oppenheimer
Page Number: 100
Explanation and Analysis:

Gladwell contrasts two figures: Chris Langan and Robert Oppenheimer. Langan was a highly talented young man who rose from poverty to study at Reed College, among other places. Oppenheimer was raised in a middle-class family, and studied at elite institutions, including Harvard and Cambridge. But Langan eventually dropped out of college because of various minor disagreements with his administrators. Oppenheimer was briefly put on probation while working on his Ph.D thesis. The reason Oppenheimer was put on probation was that he tried to poison his adviser--a serious crime.

The point Gladwell is getting at is that Oppenheimer managed to stay in a high-level academic program by using his negotiating and arguing skills, while Langan dropped out because he was too quick to take "no" for an answer. Gladwell uses the differences between Oppenheimer and Langan to clarify one of his key points: intelligence is not enough; drive and determination, as well as a social skills and luck, are also necessary to understand why certain people succeed. 

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Chris Langan Character Timeline in Outliers

The timeline below shows where the character Chris Langan appears in Outliers. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3: The Trouble with Geniuses, Part 1
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1. Gladwell begins the third chapter with the story of Chris Langan. Langan’s IQ is 195 (that’s thirty percent higher than Albert Einstein’s). He is a “celebrity... (full context)
Chapter 4: The Trouble with Geniuses, Part 2
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This chapter delves more deeply into the rather tragic life of Chris Langan. He grew up very poor; his father was an alcoholic and for the most part... (full context)
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2. Gladwell points out that, though heartbreaking, Langan’s account of his life story is a little strange. He lost a scholarship because of... (full context)
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Gladwell tells us that Langan’s story makes him think of Robert Oppenheimer, a physicist who famously led the American effort... (full context)
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Langan was kicked out of school for forgetting to file a form, where Oppenheimer received probation... (full context)
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4. This is perhaps where we can locate the most important difference between Oppenheimer and Langan. Oppenheimer’s parents (an artist and a successful businessman) fostered his passions, made him join clubs,... (full context)