Ten years ago, Jason Padgett was mugged after coming out of a karaoke club in Tacoma, Washington. ABC News reports the muggers violently kicked and beat him.
Padgett likely suffered a closed head injury, meaning he received trauma that results from a blow to the head or a violent, quick jolt that causes the brain to knock against the skull. Other causes of closed head injuries include automobile accidents, falls, and work or sports-related accidents.
At first, doctors believed he had a concussion. However, Padgett soon realized that he was “obsessed with drawing intricate diagrams, but didn’t know what they were.” The injury left him seeing complicated mathematical formulas wherever he looked.
Padgett said he now sees “bits and pieces of the Pythagorean theorem everywhere.” Channeling this mathematical fixation through his drawings, he creates fractals, which he describes as “a shape that when you take the shape a part into pieces, the pieces are the same or similar to the whole.”
For example, Padgett explains this would be like taking 1,000 small pictures of you and placing them in such a way that creates the exact same image, only larger. He is believed to be the only person in the world with this skill.
Examples of his work include a visual representation of the formula of Pi, which is the infinite number beginning with 3.14. Researchers have compared his gift to that of John Nash, the mathematical genius portrayed in the 2001 film, “A Beautiful Mind.”
With no math background or college degree, Padgett’s acquired gift baffled scientists. To get an answer, Berit Brogaard, a neuroscientist and philosophy professor at the Center for Neurodynamics at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, flew him to Finland to undergo testing.
ABC reports that researchers found “Padgett’s brain showed damage that was forcing his brain to overcompensate in certain areas that most people don’t have access to.” This turned him into an acquired savant, meaning he is “brilliant in a specific area.”
A Yahoo News article points out that there are other famous savants who also had brain damage, including Orlando Serrell. After being struck in the left side of the head with a baseball at age 10, Serrell could then do complicated calendar calculations and “remember the weather every day from the day of the accident.”
Currently a furniture store employee, Padgett hopes to teach others what he has learned about the beauty of math since his accident. Although he admits this gift can sometimes become a burden because he can never stop seeing the mathematical formulas, he says the benefits have easily outnumbered the drawbacks.
His profile on Fine Art America explains Padgett is now studying at Washington state in order to learn traditional mathematics “so he can better describe what he sees in a more traditional form. “ To see Padgett’s works, you can visit his online portfolio.