Chronicle An eight year old aspiring scientist with eyes full of

Chronicle | An eight-year-old aspiring scientist with eyes full of stars –

He is only eight years old and is already dreaming of scientific discoveries related to the infinite. Leland-Olivier Harper, a name to remember.

This friendly little eight-year-old man lives in Lévis with his mother Isabelle and their dog Cérès, a reference to the dwarf planet of the same name that travels through our solar system.

In 2023, Leland won two prestigious astronomy awards, the Pierre-Boulianne Cup for his talk on satellites and release velocities at the VÉGA Astronomy Club's Mini Expo Astro, and the Pléiades Prize. of the Fédération des Astronomes Amateurs du Québec, A prize awarded to a young person under 18 years of age who has excelled in astronomy in Quebec. In both cases he is the youngest recipient of these awards.

Satellite velocity is the minimum speed an object must reach to enter orbit around a star. The escape velocity is the minimum speed that must be reached to leave an orbit.

Quebec Premier François Legault even sent him a congratulatory letter.

“I am passionate about astronomy because it is infinite. There is always something to learn. People's knowledge isn't that great anyway. I like that we can create and modify theories,” says Leland-Olivier.

Early interest

His mother says that when her son was 18 months old, he didn't speak yet and was always pointing outside at the moon and making noises, very fascinated by this natural satellite lighting up the sky.

In her opinion, Leland-Olivier could sit for an hour and leaf through the pages of an old visual encyclopedia. What was his surprise when, at the age of two, his boy, saying his first words, found that he was already able to name the planets of the solar system in order!

During his trips to the park, he would host astronomy quizzes for his friends who were already passionate about the subject.

Leland-Olivier Harper poses.

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Leland-Olivier Harper says he has a passion for science.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Marie-Audrey Houle

“It was also the parents in the park who questioned me and talked to me about giftedness for the first time. I didn't even know the word. Thank you! I also started asking myself questions, so we saw a neuropsychologist. At the age of three, Leland received a highly advanced diagnosis,” reveals Ms. Girard.


Leland-Olivier is very involved in the amateur astronomer community and enjoys attending conferences and presenting on various topics, particularly the disappearance of dinosaurs.

He regularly volunteers with the VÉGA Astronomy Club and did so last summer at the Mont Mégantic Observatory to show the public how to use astrophotography instruments.

Often with giftedness, I learned it later, but often something else comes along. Explains his mother Isabelle. Leland's case also involves a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. This creates an asynchronous development in terms of knowledge and autonomy. Therefore, homeschooling was a solution for him. And the sciences offer him a space in which he feels really comfortable. “It’s beautiful to look at,” she adds.

Isabelle states that her son has high school skills in chemistry, physics and mathematics.

When we ask him what he wants to do as a career when he grows up, he answers: “49% astrophysicist and 51% chemist.” »

His inspiration? The famous physicist and theorist Stephen Hawking.

“I love Stephen Hawking and enjoy learning from him in my free time. I listen to his audio books every evening and learn a lot,” he adds.

Over time, her son's passion for astronomy also became a strong passion for his mother.

They work together on several projects, including building a meteor detector.

Equipped with several technological devices at home, this year he even decided on a project to design and 3D print the centerpiece of his ghost hunter costume for Halloween.

When we finally ask him which phenomenon you shouldn't miss in 2024, he answers without hesitation: the total solar eclipse of April 8, 2024, which he explains with fascinating ease.