Greg Smith is a 10-year-old who plans to cure diseases, design space stations and create lasting world peace. And he’s just a freshman in college.

Boy Wonder

Greg Smith can’t sit still. His feet dangle restlessly high above the floor. He jumps up constantly to show his school work, look out a window, or lob an imaginary basketball shot.

He is like any 10-year-old after a long day in school.

Except that Greg is completing his freshman year at Randolph-Macon College.

His IQ is so high, it can’t be quantified.

And when he speaks, this small child with floppy blond hair and the mischievous glint of Dennis the Menace unveils some towering thoughts.

“I believe I have been given a special gift from God and I don’t know why,” he says in a soft voice. “I want to use this gift I’ve been given to help all mankind and to bring lasting world peace.” Plato is his favorite philosopher.

He admires the poetry of Wordsworth, the music of Mozart and the nonviolent scruples of Gandhi, King and Christ.

He’s at ease discussing ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, presidential politics and the plight of Elian Gonzalez.

“I would like to see every child have an upbringing in a free society,” he says. “But as long as a child has good and loving parents, he should be with them.”

Greg was walking when he was 7 months old.

When he turned 1, he could recite the alphabet.

He could read at age 2. He became a vegetarian that year after studying dinosaurs and realizing that humans, like herbivores, had flat teeth.

By his fifth birthday, he understood the facts of life. He had deduced the truth about Santa Claus one day at the library when he realized all the books about St. Nick were on the fiction shelf. He could do basic algebra. He had read “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” and “The Last of the Mohicans.” Then he entered kindergarten.

If all goes according to his plan, Greg will have three Ph.D.s by the time he’s 27.

With his first degree, in biomedical research, Greg hopes to develop cures for diseases. His motivation comes, in part, from his mother’s successful bout with breast cancer.

With his second degree, in aeronautical engineering, Greg wants to help develop space stations.

“Someday, I think, our supplies and resources are going to run out on Earth with the way we’ve been exhausting them,” he says. “I think we need to have an alternative plan in case that happens. One of my ideas is to mine the asteroids.”

Greg plans a third Ph.D. in political science. He figures it will help him become president of the United States.

“I know that the president has a lot of power and can make a lot of decisions,” he says. “I would like to have that influence to work hard for peace and nonviolence, and to give voice to the children.”

Not that he’s slacking right now.

In addition to his 17-credit load at Randolph-Macon, he’s trying to establish an international youth congress that would speak for children at the United Nations. Working closely with Nobel peace laureates Betty Williams of Ireland and Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, he is trying to raise money to evacuate kids from war-torn countries.

Greg’s exploits have been covered on network news. He’s chatted on TV with Oprah Winfrey, Katie Couric and David Letterman. He has meetings scheduled in September with Nobel peace laureates Mikhail Gorbachev and the Dalai Lama. He has a growing list of paid speaking engagements throughout the country.

(Chad Hunt / Style Weekly)Greg Smith stands atop a box to address fellow youngsters at Norrell Elementary School in Richmond.And, oh yeah, in his spare time Greg is developing a prototype for a solar-powered medical station that could be taken into the hinterlands of less-developed nations.

His parents are as astonished as anyone.

“It was apparent how rapidly he was developing as soon as he was born,” says Janet Smith, his mother. “Still, we were afraid of not being objective, and we held back as long as we could.”

The Smiths worried no one would believe them when they spoke about the acuity of their only child. So they began to record his feats. One videotape shows Greg swathed in a diaper around the time he turned 1.

“Greg, what comes after H?” his mother asks.

“I,” says the baby.

“What comes after O?” “P.”

Greg’s parents are well-educated but say there is no history of geniuses in their families. They met in the early 1970s at the University of Maryland, where Bob Smith was an all-conference football safety and Janet was a cheerleader.

Both were good students. He has a master’s degree in microbiology, is general manager of a publishing company and teaches science part time at a community college. She has a bachelor’s degree in communications and owned a dance studio until she quit to tend to Greg’s special needs.

The Smiths say they tried to encourage Greg’s interests with field trips and books, but were cautious not to force him in any pursuit.

“Greg just has an enormous appetite for knowledge, and we could never give him enough information to satisfy his interests,” his mother says.

Janet Smith says she’s been unable to answer her son’s questions since he was 5.

“All I can do is love him completely and totally,” she says with a deep smile.

“And I can certainly go to the library and check out five or six books on the topics he’s studying so he has the resources available.”

Jump to Part 1, 2,Part 2:


WHAT YOU WANT TO KNOW — straight to your inbox

* indicates required
Our mailing lists: