Accidental genius: Traumatic brain injury allows Carmel man to see the world in mathematical art


Getting mugged was life changing for Jason Padgett, although not in the way he expected.

Padgett, now a 52-year-old Carmel resident, was robbed by two men and hit on the head in 2002 while leaving a karaoke bar in Tacoma, Wash.

A younger Jason Padgett with his mother, Toni Smith. (Photo courtesy of Jason Padgett)

The traumatic injury altered how his brain works. Padgett, whose mathematical training culminated in a pre-algebra class, has acquired savant syndrome with mathematical synesthesia. He had been working at his parents’ futon store before the attack.

Padgett’s 2014 book, co-written with Maureen Ann Seaberg, is called “Struck by Genius: How a Brian Injury Made Me a Mathematical Marvel.”

The first thing Padgett noticed after the concussion is he had developed obsessive-compulsive disorder. Then his mind became overloaded with mathematical concepts he put into drawings.

“I met a physicist who said, ‘You need to go to school, because it looks like you’re doing high level mathematics, but you’re doing it with drawings and layman’s words,’” said Padgett, whose artwork can be found at Art on Main Gallery & Gifts in Carmel.

In Padgett’s mind, he was seeing equations but with different symbols for pi and others because he didn’t know the correct mathematical terms.

Padgett began taking mathematics classes at a community college.

“When I got to calculus, I was able to write the equation 100 percent, but I had to write it in the language that (the professors) are used to seeing,” he said. “Once I wrote it, and then I showed them step by step, this is how the drawing is made.”

Jason Padgett explains drawings in his portfolio. (Photo by Adam Seif)

Padgett said his artwork uses quantum information holography, which is a way to write computer code with bits of light on lattice.

He said a simple way to describe it is “information flow is equal to the way that light waves wiggle, which is equal to the way that space and time curve.”

Padgett makes his drawings in pencil with a ruler and a protractor.

“Every single angle on these drawings has to be put in the right place,” he said.

Padgett now looks at the violent attack as a gift. Brady Simmons, one of the men who attacked him, apologized to Padgett several years ago in a Facebook message.

“He’s totally turned his life around,” Padgett said. “He did an interview with a magazine and said they had been drinking too much and he had a drug problem. He was going through rough times, and they were behind me, and he said he liked my jacket. His friend said, ‘Let’s take it,’ and they attacked me from behind.”

They were finally arrested about 10 days later because of Padgett’s persistence, but the case was dismissed because the prosecutor lost the file, Padgett said.

Padgett said Simmons, a recovering substance abuser, now sits on a national board for at-risk youth.

Actor Channing Tatum and Sony Pictures originally held the option to Padgett’s story for a movie, but that changed after North Korea hacked into Sony Pictures in late 2014.

“The lady who did the deal with us was involved in the phishing scam that allowed North Korea to get into their computers,” Padgett said. “So Kim Jong Un has my book, my drawings and my Social Security number, even though he’s not using it. So she got fired and threw everything in a turmoil.”

The rights have been optioned now to Paper Pictures and the screenplay is finished.

“They have the right to dramatize my life and exaggerate it,” he said. “The contract says they can (depict me) doing anything but commit a felony or do illegal drugs. Those are the only two things, so that’s a lot of leeway.”

For now, Padgett continues to work on art that depicts the geometrical patterns he sees in the world.

“This whole theory that I have is based on just how light encodes information and how you can use a circle and where that light crosses the circle to define velocity, acceleration, gravity and probability,” he said.

Jason Padgett with his wife, Elena, and daughters, Jackie, left, and Katie. (Photo courtesy of Jason Padgett)

Perfect place

Jason Padgett developed a computer program to determine where he and his wife and two younger daughters, Jackie and Katie, should move. Padgett, who also has an adult daughter in Seattle, said the program determined Carmel was a perfect place to settle, so his family moved to the area 18 months ago.

He recently became a full-time artist at Art on Main Gallery and Gifts in the Carmel Arts & Design District. He said he likes working in the store to discuss how he does his drawings.

Padgett sells his drawings and does research. He used to display his drawings in his parents’ furniture store.

“People would wind up buying furniture because they enjoyed the drawings,” he said. “Then I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if I could talk about math all day and actually sell what I’m doing instead.”

Much of his artwork is sold after people see the documentary about Padgett.

“I have never met anyone like him — math and art intersect,” Art on Main co-owner Kim Greene said.

To view the documentary “The Acquired Savant,” view

For more, visit


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