Fifteen years ago, psychologist and educator Howard Gardner introduced the idea of multiple intelligences, challenging the presumption that intelligence consists of verbal or analytic abilities onlythose intelligences that schools tend to measure. He argued for a broader understanding of the intelligent mind, one that embraces creation in the arts and music, spatial reasoning, and the ability to understand ourselves and others.Today, Gardner's ideas have become widely acceptedindeed, they have changed how we think about intelligence, genius, creativity, and even leadership, and he is widely regarded as one of the most important voices writing on these subjects.Now, in Extraordinary Minds, a book as riveting as it is new, Gardner poses an important question: Is there a set of traits shared by all truly great achieversthose we deem extraordinaryno matter their field or the time period within which they did their important work?In an attempt to answer this question, Gardner first examines how most of us mature into more or less competent adults. He then examines closely four persons who lived unquestionably extraordinary livesMozart, Freud, Woolf, and Gandhiusing each as an exemplar of a different kind of extraordinariness: Mozart as the master of a discipline, Freud as the innovative founder of a new discipline, Woolf as the great introspector, and Gandhi as the influencer.What can we learn about ourselves from the experiences of the extraordinary? Interestingly, Gardner finds that an excess of raw power is not the most impressive characteristic shared by superachievers; rather, these extraordinary individuals all have had a special talent for identifying their own strengths and weaknesses, for accurately analyzing the events of their own lives, and for converting into future successes those inevitable setbacks that mark every life.Gardner provides answers to a number of provocative questions, among them: How do we explain extraordinary timesAthens in the fifth century B.C., the T'ang Dynasty in the eighth century, Islamic Society in the late Middle Ages, and New York at the middle of the century? What is the relation among genius, creativity, fame, success, and moral extraordinariness? Does extraordinariness make for a happier, more fulfilling life, or does it simply create a special onus?
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About the Author
Howard Gardner is the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor in Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Among numerous honors, Gardner received a MacArthur Prize Fellowship in 1981. In 1990, he was the first American to receive the University of Louisville's Grawemeyer Award in education. In 2000, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.