How can we account for the sudden appearance of such dazzling artists and scientists as Mozart, Shakespeare, Darwin, or Einstein? How can we define such genius? What conditions or personality traits seem to produce exceptionally creative people? Is the association between genius and madness really just a myth? These and many other questions are brilliantly illuminated in The Origins of Genius.
Dean Simonton convincingly argues that creativity can best be understood as a Darwinian process of variation and selection. The artist or scientist generates a wealth of ideas, and then subjects these ideas to aesthetic or scientific judgment, selecting only those that have the best chance to survive and reproduce. Indeed, the true test of genius is the ability to bequeath an impressive and influential body of work to future generations. Simonton draws on the latest research into creativity and explores such topics as the personality type of the genius, whether genius is genetic or produced by environment and education, the links between genius and mental illness (Darwin himself was emotionally and mentally unwell), the high incidence of childhood trauma, especially loss of a parent, amongst Nobel Prize winners, the importance of unconscious incubation in creative problem-solving, and much more. Simonton substantiates his theory by examining and quoting from the work of such eminent figures as Henri Poincare, W. H. Auden, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Charles Darwin, Niels Bohr, and many others.
For anyone intrigued by the spectacular feats of the human mind, The Origins of Genius offers a revolutionary new way of understanding the very nature of creativity.
"No scholar writing about genius and creativity has the breadth of knowledge of Dean Keith Simonton. His Darwinian perspective is provocative, intriguing, generative and important."--Howard Gardner, author of Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences
"One of the most eminent researchers of eminence has written a very readable, intellectually exciting book about creativity seen from a Darwinian perspective. Anyone interested in what makes some persons stand out and shine will find it fascinating." --Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
"Dean Keith Simonton is an undiputed pioneer in the scientific study of history. His latest book, iOrigins of Genius, supplies yet another original and enduring contribution to the understanding of the creative process. Inspired by Darwinian theory, Simonton has brought together a large body of research on creative genius, and given this research a sweeping new interpretation. Every book that Simonton has previously produced has been a gem, and his
Origins of Genius is no exception." --Frank J. Sulloway, author of Born to Rebel: Birth Order, Family Dynamics and Creative Lives
"In this book, Dean Keith Simonton brings Darwinian principles to the question of creativity and genius. He does so with resounding success.... Hans Eysenck called Dean Keith Simonton the successor to Sir Francis Galton. With the appearance of this book, we see that he is also one of the successors of Charles Darwin." --Colin Martindale, author of The Clockwork Muse: The Predictability of Artistic Change
"A provocative story of how the limited human mind might produce work of astonishing brilliance and enduring value." --Teresa M. Amabile, Harvard Business School
"This work is required reading for anyone wanting to understand the creative power of the human intellect, the power that Darwin himself tapped to change forever our understanding of the evolution of species and our own place in nature. Origins of Genius may well be instrumental in changing forever our understanding of the evolution of creative human thought." --Gary Cziko, Professor and AT&T Technology Fellow, University of Illinois
"A fascinating treatise leavened with candid descriptions by Einstein, Nietzsche, Mozart, Darwin, Poe, Linus Pauling and many others of their own creative processes.... Likely to generate controversy but also has the potential to influence how we think about the human mind."--Publishers Weekly