Late Bloomers, Rejoice: The Big Breakthroughs Happen in Middle Age

Einstein was wrong about at least one thing, according to a new paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research: if you haven't made a major contribution to science by the age of 30, you might just need to wait a few more years. If the average age of Nobel Prize winners and other tech innovators is anything to go by, late 30s is primetime for creativity.

late bloomers 

(Photo Credit: jurvetson/Flickr)

Writing in The Atlantic, Olga Kazan points out that the creative peak for abstract fields is even later: 39 for chemists, and 41 for doctors.

"So why the late 30s? The most obvious factor is education: Scientists spend ages 5 through 18 in school, and then ages 18 through 30ish getting their academic degrees," writes Kazan. "Then a few years of learning on the job, and presto! You dig up an uncertainty principle. Meanwhile, scientific breakthroughs tend to be less common in old age because we invest less in learning as we get older, and our skills gradually become less relevant."

Even more importantly for folks who are already in their late 30s (or far beyond), the NBER points out that scientists make "pioneering contributions" at all ages: before age 30, or as late as their 60s and after.

Bottom line? Whatever your age, it's not too late to make an investment in learning new skills and making time each day to build your practice, whether you're a chemist or a writer or a businessperson. Creative breakthroughs can happen at any time, as long as you have the passion and energy to make it happen.

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