Scotland teenager with roots in Kolkata: brilliant mathematician with highest IQ score

Agnijo Banerjee is a brilliant mathematician with an IQ measured by MENSA at 162, the highest IQ a human can score. Last month, the Scotland resident Agnijo won the International Mathematical Olympiad scoring a perfect 42. And he is only 17.

Born in Kolkata, Agnijo’s parents moved to Scotland when he was two. Agnijo may have been compared with great scientists of all times, but he remains shy, modest and firmly grounded.

Asked how all the attention and comparisons makes him feel, he flashes a subtly happy and proud grin and does not say much other than a mere shrug.

Now in Kolkata, Agnijo is happy spending the break in their Naktala flat. He calls his restless younger brother Aryaan in a lilting tone of endearment — bhaaai – asking him to sit next to him. “It’s a little hotter here in Kolkata compared with Dundee, but that’s not a bother when we are indoors,” he chuckles. And crowds of people anywhere and everywhere is pretty baffling, Agnijo thinks. On a holiday visiting friends and relatives in the city, Agnijo is now hooked onto the famous Kolkata biryani.

He has gone out with his parents to dine at restaurants and also for movies during their stay here. The chelo kebab at Peter Cat restaurant is certainly among his favourites. Talking about movies – a point that his father casually chips in to get the shy boy to talk more about his likes and dislikes – Agnijo says that comedies with serious themes like Three Idiots are what he really enjoys.

He is an author of a book on Mathematics at an age children struggle to cope with academic stress [Read here an excerpt from Agnijo’s book Weird Maths: At the Edge of Infinity and Beyond, published by HarperCollins – that he co-authored with David Darling]. He has steered clear of social media – no WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram for him. “I don’t find them quite useful. Everything related to work and studies can be done through e-mails,” he reasons.

When he not doing maths, Agnijo spends his time on chess, tabla and Taekwondo. And of course, solving puzzles, he insists.

Perhaps that’s why Agatha Christie and her crime thrillers are his favourite, though he isn’t an avid reader of fiction. Instead, he is busy working on his next book. Agnijo also loves watching animal and nature documentaries and is a great fan of David Attenborough.

“I have never seen him doing much apart from studying. For us, academics seemed like a compulsion, for my son it is the only fun activity he engages in. If he watches television, then it will be animal documentaries,” said his father Subhayu Banerjee.

Not just a mathematician, Agnijo is also a sensitive young man. In an English class years ago, he was asked to write a short story. “I had chosen for my protagonist a photographer who longed to take a perfect picture of nature that would earn him fame. He craved for it. However it turned out to be the picture of some men cutting down trees that earned him accolades and shot him to fame.” The mathematics genius has a natural flair for writing with sarcasm.

Talk to him about Maths and one notices an immediate change in his levels of engagement in the conversation. Very few things can get him that excited. His beloved younger brother and western classical music are his other big favourites.

Agnijo excitedly talks about how he scored well in the Romanian Mathematical Olympiad and how in the Balkan Olympiads he saw the home team performing better than his UK team in the geometry part. He also talks excitedly about his favourite scientist, Richard Feynman.

Particle physics interests him the most after pure mathematics. “I am more drawn to theoretical mathematics than applied mathematics,” he said. And he believes that it is very important for any physicist or mathematician to communicate the subject well to his audience. That’s why too Feynman is his favourite. “It is important to communicate to people the work you are doing.”

What about friends? The seventeen year old does not score too high on that point. His math training camp friends are the ones closest to him after his younger brother Aryaan. Every night, while Agnijo was out at his training camp, Aryaan would not go to sleep without talking to his brother. “I bond really well with him. I even started listening to the Beatles because of him. His favourite song now is Paperback Writer which he uses to describe me,” Agnijo adds with a smile.

Not surprisingly, he connects music with maths too. “Bach had a very interesting way of composing his notes mathematically,” he says while talking about his favourites Bach and Beethoven.

The mathematical genius is indeed the most modest a teenager one can think of.

[Cover photograph of Agnijo with co-author David Darling. Photograph courtesy: HarperCollins]


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