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By Philip Hunter   November 2002

Genetics research could soon solve the riddle of mathematical pre-eminence: why nearly all geniuses in the field over the last millennium were first-born boys. It is not surprising that boys should have predominated, given that girls in the past have been denied both encouragement and access to tutoring. But if you make a list of the 100 greatest mathematicians of all time, well over 90 per cent of them are eldest boys, even though there were often several younger brothers in the family. The correlation between birth order and mathematical pre-eminence is far too strong to be coincidental.

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