“The First Men” is a story in two parts. The first part is an exchange of letters between Harry Felton, a man living abroad, and his sister Jean, a child psychologist living in the United States. Through their exchanges we learn that Jean and her husband have received a grant for a project to raise high IQ children in an absolutely free and loving environment. The goal is to create super humans (“man-plus”) who are intellectually and physically superior to current humans. So begins the project.
“In part two we see Harry again after 18 years – this time chatting with some military big-wigs. The information he discovers about his sister’s project astounds and frightens everyone – but he’s not sure there is much to be done about it!
How shall I tell you of an American Indian boy, five years old, composing a splendid symphony? Or of the two children, one Bantu, one Italian, one a boy, one a girl, who at the age of six built a machine to measure the speed of light? Will you believe that we, the adults, sat quietly and listened to these six year olds explain to us that since the speed of light is a constant everywhere, regardless of the motion of material bodies, the distance between the stars cannot be mentioned in terms of light, since that is not distance on our plane of being? Then believe also that I put it poorly. In all of these matters, I have the sensations of an uneducated immigrant whose child is exposed to all the wonders of school and knowledge. I understand a little, but very little.
If I were to repeat instance after instance, wonder after wonder–at the age of six and seven and eight and nine, would you think of the poor, tortured, nervous creatures whose parents boast that they have an IQ of 160, and in the same breath bemoan the fate that did not give them normal children? Well, ours were and are normal children. Perhaps the first normal children this world has seen in a long time. If you heard them laugh or sing only once, you would know that. If you could see how tall and strong they are, how fine of body and movement. They have a quality that I have never seen in children before.
But I only offer the above review as a lazy way to introduce the online text of one of my favorite sci fi short stories — one that strongly prodded my teenage imagination and which still influences my thinking about the human condition today in a way that few other sci fi tales do. (See for example my post “Stalking the Big-Brained Baby“).
Here is the full text of The First Men by Howard Fast (1960)
I hope you enjoy it.
The First Men (wikipedia.com)