Daniel Tammet's colorful world of numbers

"When I was a kid, I felt a lot like number 24." With synesthesia, emotions can feel like numbers, and words can have colors or shapes. Writer Daniel Tammet experiences this neurological phenomenon — here, he shares how he sees the world.

Man with synesthesia sees numbers with colors and words

Who is Daniel Tammet?

Born with autistic savant syndrome, Daniel Tammet has synesthesia, a neurological condition that merges senses which aren’t usually connected. As a multilingual writer, math genius, and fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in France, he uses this special connection to interpret the world around him in an extraordinary way. Only about one hundred people in the world, including Tammet, are prodigious savants with abilities this spectacular. Often he uses colors and numbers to understand and define emotions and how to react to aspects of life around him.

“Sometimes, I’ll be looking at a number and I’ll say “oh, yes, number 24.” So that’s 4 x 6, and 6 is sad but 4 is shy so that’s a really… 24, that’s, like when I was a kid, I felt a lot like the number 24 sometimes. I was both sad because I couldn’t fit in, I was different to the other kids, and I was shy, so I was a little bit like the number 24…Words are physical, tangible. They have lives like numbers do, and, when I’m writing a sentence, I have to weigh the words almost literally in my mind, making sure that the colors go together, the feeling, the shape, the texture… And what I love about writing is the idea that for the time someone spends in one of my books, they become synesthetic as well," Daniel Tammet tells Brut.

Where is he now?

Since his diagnosis of Autistic savant syndrome in 2004, Tammet has published several books, poems, and essays including Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller A Memoir of Asperger’s and an Extraordinary Mind (2006). He also currently holds the European record for most digits of Pi recited from memory without error with 22,514 decimal places said in a little over five hours.