Ben’s work gets global attention

Ben Lendrem who had an article published in the British Medical Journal.Picture Jane Coltman
Ben Lendrem who had an article published in the British Medical Journal.Picture Jane Coltman

Those who believe that men are more stupid than women will not be shocked by the results of recently published research in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

But what is surprising is that the study was led by Ben Lendrem, a student at King Edward VI School in Morpeth.

The 15-year-old, who is now the youngest author of work published in the BMJ, decided to test ‘male idiot theory’ by reviewing data on idiotic behaviours demonstrated by winners of the Darwin Award over a 20-year period (1995 to 2014).

The people who choose the recipients of the tongue-in-cheek honour say that to qualify, nominees must improve the gene pool by eliminating themselves from the human race using astonishingly stupid methods.

Of the 318 cases valid cases for statistical testing, 282 Darwin Awards were awarded to males and just 36 awards given to females. The authors of the report say that the high proportion of male winners (88.7 per cent) is highly statistically significant.

Ben was assisted by his father, Dr Dennis Lendrem – project manager at Newcastle University’s Institute of Cellular Medicine.

The acts of extreme stupidity that he discovered included a man who attempted to steal metal cables from the top of a functioning elevator. When he removed them from their positions, the elevator suddenly plummeted to the bottom of the shaft and the man died in the fall.

Another example is the case of a man who was part of a demolition team that was removing the top floor of a car park. He drilled through the final support pillar and the concrete platform collapsed, crushing him to death and flattening his mini-excavator.

The Year 11 pupil said: “In the chapter of a book I was reading, all of the Darwin Award recipients were men, so I thought it would be interesting to take a larger number of winners and find out the male/female split.

“I wasn’t too surprised with the findings, which are consistent with male idiot theory.

“In certain situations, a lot of men are prone to act quickly without taking the time to fully think things through. Sometimes it works out well, but it can also end very badly.

“I’m very proud because almost no-one of school age can say they are an author of a study that has appeared in such a prestigious journal.

“I’ve received hundreds of emails from people in many different countries and the attention has been amazing, if a little overwhelming at times.

“My friends and teachers at school have congratulated me and, unsurprisingly, they have asked me a few questions to find out more about my research.”

Two other members of staff at Newcastle University – consultant orthopaedic trauma surgeon Andy Gray and director of the Institute of Cellular Medicine John Isaacs – had an input into the report, which is available at www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g7094

Dr Lendrem said the study also has a serious message about injury prevention.