LONDON • A 12-year-old boy who taught himself to read at the age of two and has an IQ of 162 - higher than Stephen Hawking's or Albert Einstein's - has streaked ahead in Britain's brainiest child contest.
A huge audience is expected to watch tonight as Thomas Frith competes in the final of the Channel 4 series Child Genius, run in association with British Mensa.
The show pits highly gifted children aged between seven and 12 against each other in answering tough questions that range from general knowledge to logic and reasoning.
Thomas is off the scale, one rival parent mutters. He is "a machine", says London's Daily Telegraph.
The newspaper says Thomas can play the piano, cello, trombone and bassoon to grade five level; has devoured encyclopaedias and textbooks on the Tudors and Ancient Egypt, geology and science; has a passion for double chess, where a player engages in two games simultaneously; and loves football, table tennis, rugby and cooking.
Thomas lives in Leeds, where the local Wharfedale Observer newspaper says he can read a page in 10 to 30 seconds and that he passed his A-level maths two years ago aged just 10.
His mother Deborah, a primary school teacher, told the Telegraph: "When he was two he woke up at some ungodly hour to tell me he'd just counted to 503. I told him to go back to bed and do it in French. Then, when he'd done that, to do it backwards in German."
Thomas was 22 months old when his physics graduate and computer programmer father, Peter, died of leukaemia.
And although he has always been academically way ahead of most children his age, his mum says she is determined he should enjoy a normal childhood, simply doing what he loves.