Sudden Genius: Creativity Explored Through Ten Extraordinary Lives

Overview

Most intriguing of all, do the best ideas really strike in a flash of 'sudden genius', or is there some build-up to them? Andrew Robinson explores these questions by looking closely at creative periods in the lives of ten very different individuals from the arts and sciences. Breakthroughs, he observes, involve talent, intelligence, and luck, but above all, years of total absorption and commitment.

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Overview

Most intriguing of all, do the best ideas really strike in a flash of 'sudden genius', or is there some build-up to them? Andrew Robinson explores these questions by looking closely at creative periods in the lives of ten very different individuals from the arts and sciences. Breakthroughs, he observes, involve talent, intelligence, and luck, but above all, years of total absorption and commitment.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The concept of genius is both revered and reviled in modern society. However, the genius personalities chosen for this book would probably be widely accepted as prime examples of high accomplishment and creativity. Robinson (Einstein: A Hundred Years of Relativity), a former literary editor for The Times Higher Education Supplement, amassed an impressive array of scientific research and biographical detail for this study. He explores the components of creative genius, including talent, intelligence, memory, and the unconscious, as well as unusual but related manifestations like savant syndrome and synesthesia. The biographical subjects come from diverse fields but mostly represent Western cultural backgrounds. The final section analyzes the patterns and correlates of high creativity. Notable conclusions are drawn concerning the "creative personality," the ten-year rule for creative breakthroughs, family effects, the relationship between madness and creativity, and factors determining who is considered a genius and for how long. The notion of sudden genius is empirically evaluated, and the author suggests that "genius" itself is historically decreasing. VERDICT Recommended for students as well as general readers, this is a well-researched, finely written, and highly stimulating intellectual romp through the world of cognitive exceptionalism.—Antoinette Brinkman, M.L.S, Evansville, IN
Michael S. Roth
Andrew Robinson sets out to explore whether the idea of genius can be clearly articulated, or whether we are just left with the notion that "we know it when we see it." He explores as case studies the lives and works of 10 extraordinary people: Christopher Wren, Jean-Francois Champollion, Marie Curie, Henri Cartier-Bresson and Satyajit Ray, ….
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199569953
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 11/1/2010
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 1,428,439
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Robinson is the author of numerous books, including five biographies of exceptionally creative individuals in a wide range of fields.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Preface: Meetings with Remarkable Creators xi

Acknowledgements xv

Introduction: The Science and Art of Breakthroughs xvii

Part I Ingredients of Creativity

1 Genius and Talent: Reality or Myth? 3

2 Intelligence is Not Enough 16

3 Strangers to Ourselves 28

4 Blue Remembered Wednesdays 40

5 The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet 53

Part II Ten Breakthroughs in Art and Science

6 Leonardo da Vinci: The Last Supper 69

7 Christopher Wren: St Paul's Cathedral 86

8 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro 106

9 Jean-Francois Champollion: Decipherment of Egyptian Hieroglyphs 123

10 Charles Darwin: Evolution by Natural Selection 142

11 Marie Curie: Discovery of Radium 159

12 Albert Einstein: Special Relativity 177

13 Virginia Woolf: Mrs Dalloway 202

14 Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment 219

15 Satyajit Ray: Pather Panchali 236

Part III Patterns of Genius

16 Family Matters 255

17 Professor of the Little Finger 267

18 Creative Science versus Artistic Creation 279

19 Is there a Creative Personality? 292

20 Reputation, Fame, and Genius 304

21 The Ten-year Rule 316

Postscript: Genius and Us 328

References 330

Bibliography 349

Index 359

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