But some of Terman's other gifted kids failed to live up to their promise. One particularly troubled boy found in a San Francisco orphanage was dead by age 18, having swallowed cyanide in a Greenwich Village bookstore after being rejected by a girl. Another Termite graduated from Stanford at age 17 and showed great promise as writer, but ended up a landlady. The saddest profile is of five siblings, the two sons and three daughters of a Japanese father and American mother, the study's largest single-family group. All tested as exceptional, yet they were dogged by racism. After reading a newspaper story about the five young whizzes, a former U.S. Senator complained to Stanford about the inclusion of a "mongrel" brood. During World War II, the four survivors--one girl had died of tuberculosis--narrowly escaped internment.
Shurkin's sketches are interesting but uneven--in part, I suspect, because the subjects weren't equally communicative. Also, their lives don't always seem very relevant to the issue of intelligence. In any case, they're overshadowed by Terman's own story, which Shurkin tells very well. Born on an Indiana farm, one of 10 children, he was a sickly child, afflicted with TB. He persevered through college and graduate school and did brief, uninspired stints as a school principal in San Bernardino and professor of pedagogy at Los Angeles Normal School (UCLA's ancestor) before becoming a nationally known educational figure.