Confident, cute and an IQ of 139: Meet Maximus, the five-year-old genius, in his element

Meet Maximus, the five-year old speed-reciting chemist

Five year old Maximus speed-recites all 118 elements of the Periodic Table to his Year 1/2 class at St Paul the Apostle primary school.

While other five-year-old kids are reading picture books, Maximus Dafopoulos likes to flick through Year 11 chemistry texts for fun.

He is yet to go to an AFL game, or travel overseas, but he can recite from memory, non stop, all 118 elements of the Periodic Table.

It takes him about a minute to say it, and just over three minutes if he sings it to the tune of The Elements song penned by Tom Lehrer.

In his element: Maximus Dafopoulos memorised the Periodic Table from his Dad's Year 11 chemistry text.
In his element: Maximus Dafopoulos memorised the Periodic Table from his Dad's Year 11 chemistry text. Photo: Jason South

Maximus learnt the Periodic Table from reading his father Arthur’s old Year 11 chemistry textbook.

A psychologist told his mother Dee that Maximus was profoundly gifted and scored an IQ of 139, when tested at age four.

This qualifies him for Mensa, and puts him in the top 1 per cent of kids in his age group.

He can also pull apart and reassemble a plastic model of the human heart and count to 1000 in Italian.

He loved seeing Gunther Von Hagens' human anatomy exhibition Body Worlds, and reads Roald Dahl books usually chosen by older kids.

While he might have a photographic memory for the element names, he can answer questions The Age put to him including:

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  • What is number 9 on the table? Fluorine
  • What is the symbol for sodium? Na
  • At standard temperature is neon a solid, liquid or gas? A gas
  • Is there an element called Londinium?  No (trick question: it’s the Roman name for London)

Of the first time she heard Maximus recite the Periodic Table, his teacher Tanya Beaumont said, "my reaction was open-mouthed staring".

"I don’t even have words for that," Ms Beaumont, who has a science degree, said.

Illustration: Matt Golding
Illustration: Matt Golding 

Maximus was happy to sing The Elements for 200 of his classmates at St Paul the Apostle primary school in Melbourne's north-east on Thursday.

"He’s a confident boy. He’s always said to me that he enjoys sharing his knowledge with other people, and teaching them new things," Ms Dafopoulos said.

She and her husband were guided by Maximus' interests.

"We don't push him into things."

Knowing his love for chemistry, she guessed (correctly) that Maximus would like to go to the International Year of the Periodic Table Expo which is being held in The Odd One Out function centre in Flinders Lane this Sunday.

It's run by the the century-old Royal Australian Chemical Institute. At 2pm at the expo, Maximus will do his one-minute recitation, and possibly his song, and take questions from the crowd.

Institute president Dr Vicki Gardiner said the expo is the "chemists' equivalent of a city tour (and at times a ghost tour) of the Periodic Table [where they] hear the stories behind the building blocks, the quirky individuals and their behaviours that we’ve taken advantage of to produce things like wearable materials, mobile devices and health technologies".

There will also be presentations on the chemistry of fireworks, chocolate and sherbet (though not at the same time), and a chemical element scavenger hunt.

Maximus is excited about the event.

"Because they have lots of elements they’re going to do experiments with."

"And they're going to have chocolate there. I want to make chocolate."

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