The man who originally asked the question "Why 26?" was 3 time Oscar winning director Frank Capra. ("It's A Wonderful Life") In his autobiography 'The Name Above The Title' he explained that he was trying to make a come-back at age 57 and began searching for heroes for his next film. "What kind of heroes? Outsize men who conquer against odds--men who leave a wake of human progress. The advents and epiphanies of heroes, the moments that set them apart--especially the 'why, where, and when' their adrenals pump at the 'furiest'--will always captivate the curious mind, and the movie audiences." Read more...
Then while visiting Cal Tech one day, Dr. Carl Anderson told Capra that his discovery of the positron (August 2, 1932) sparked an awareness of various other atomic particles. When Capra asked him what it meant, Andersen replied "I don't know. Right now we're yelling 'Help!' But some student of 26 will give us the answer soon." That's when Capra asked the question "Why 26? Is that the most active age of the brain?"
"No," answered Andersen, "but it's the age when the combination of knowledge and brashness is the most potent. At twenty-six a student is flush with up-to-date learning, yet is rebel enough--and full of beans enough--to defy the conservative scientific Establishment, and come up with some wild 'guesses'. After 26 he acquires much more knowledge--but also becomes more conservative. He sees more trees but fewer forests."
Capra thought "...that was one heck of a statement." and ran to a research library to check it out. Here are a few items he found:
Alexander began his conquest of the then known world--at 26.
Napoleon took command of the French Revolutionary mobs--at 26
Yukawa, Japanese Nobel Prize winner, brilliantly predicted the existence of the meson before it was found--at 26.
Marie Curie began investigating radioactive uranium--at 25. (But women mature earlier--and prettier.)
Lincoln switched from wondering to politics an immortality (elected to State Legislature)--at 26.
Leonardo da Vinci proclaimed a "master painter"--at 26.
It should go without saying that after reading Capra's discoveries I went out and did some research of my own. But I researched modern day heroes and celebrities and found that Andersons theory still stands.
Incidentally, I was given Frank Capra's book "The Name Above The Title" by my brother on my 25th birthday. I finally got around to reading it when I was 26!