What is genius? Here is an assortment of opinion from Wikipedia:
Genius is something or someone embodying exceptional intellectual ability, creativity, or originality, typically to a degree that is associated with the achievement of unprecedented insight. – Introductory sentence to “Genius”.)
“Genius is a talent for producing something for which no determinate rule can be given, not a predisposition consisting of a skill for something that can be learned by following some rule or other.” – Immanuel Kant
“Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.” – Arthur Schopenhauer
In the philosophy of Nietzsche, genius is merely the context which leads us to consider someone a genius. In Twilight of the Idols, Nietzsche writes, “Great men, like great epochs, are explosive material in whom tremendous energy has been accumulated; their prerequisite has always been, historically and physiologically, that a protracted assembling, accumulating, economizing and preserving has preceded them – that there has been no explosion for a long time.” In this way, Nietzsche follows in the line of German Idealism.
A theory of multiple (kinds of) intelligences was proposed by Howard Gardner in 1983 as a model that differentiates intelligence into eight categories, rather than a single general ability.
Can you think of exemplars of genius in these categories? I propose in this post a list for us to consider. For convenience I have included examples of professions or occupations from Gardner’s Wiki page, although these are not exclusive – for more detailed descriptions, see this link.
I have tried to put my nominees in roughly chronological order by birth date, just for convenience. A few names intentionally appear in more than one category. Also, I have tried not to exclude those who exhibited opprobrious genius as well, so, fair warning.
Spatial (artists, designers, architects, engineers): Leonardo DaVinci; Michelangelo; Caravaggio; Christopher Wren; Thomas Jefferson; Vincent Van Gogh; Isambard Kingdom Brunel; Guglielmo Marconi; Orville Wright; Wilbur Wright; Claude Shannon; Frank Lloyd Wright; Pablo Picasso; M. C. Escher; Nicola Tesla; Charles Babbage; John Von Neumann; Hyman G. Rickover; Eero Saarinen; I. M. Pei; Werner Von Braun; Alfred Hitchcock; Steven Spielberg; Steve Jobs
Linguistic (debaters, story-tellers, conversationalists, language experts, comedians): Shakespeare; Mozart (15 languages); Benjamin Franklin; Steven Douglas; Abraham Lincoln; William Jennings Bryan; Theodore Roosevelt; Father Charles Coughlin; Charlie Chaplin; Adolph Hitler; Joseph Goebbels; Jack Benny; Lucille Ball; Art Linkletter; Fred Rogers; Jerry Falwell; Carl Sagan; Johnny Carson; Jack Parr; George Carlin; Garrison Keillor; Rush Limbaugh, Barack Obama
Logical-mathematical (mathematicians, computer experts, scientists, inventors): Pythagoras; Euclid; Archimedes; Leonardo DaVinci; Isaac Newton; Galileo; Johannes Kepler; Rene Decartes; Blaise Pascal; Gregor Mendel; Ernest Rutherford; Dmitri Mendeleev; Charles Darwin; Alfred Wallace; Benjamin Franklin; James Clerk Maxwell; Marie and Pierre Curie; Samuel F. B. Morse; Thomas Edison; Niels Bohr; Nicola Tesla; Louis Leakey; Edward Jenner; Alexander Fleming; Albert Einstein; Kurt Godel; Jonas Salk; Alan Touring; Claude Shannon; Bobby Fischer; Steven Hawking; Roger Penrose; Srinivasa Aiyangar Ramanujan; James Watson; Francis Crick; Rosalind Franklin; Martin Gardner; Stephen J. Gould; Steve Wozniak; Steve Jobs
Bodily-kinesthetic (athletes, pilots, dancers, actors, doctors, police, soldiers): Alexander the Great; Fred Astair; Ginger Rogers; Eleanor Powell; Jim Thorpe; Harry Houdini; George Herman (Babe) Ruth; Lucile Ball; George C. Marshall; Michael DeBakey; Douglas MacArthur; Gene Kelly; Jimmy Stewart; Elvis Presley; Erwin Rommel; Gregory Peck; Jack Nicholson; Marlon Brando; Chuck Yeager; Michael Jordan
Musical (singers, instrumentalists, disc jockeys and orators): Amadeus Mozart; Demosthenes; Abraham Lincoln; Steven Douglas; Irving Berlin; Vera Lynn; Louis Armstrong; Pablo Cassals; Richard Rodgers; Oscar Hammerstein; Judy Garland; Hoagy Carmichael; Bing Crosby; Nat King Cole; Sammy Davis, Jr.; Les Paul
Interpersonal (sales, politicians, managers, teachers; social workers): George Washington; Thomas Jefferson; Benjamin Franklin; Abraham Lincoln; Clara Barton; P. T. Barnum; Charles Ponzi; Theodore Roosevelt; Albert Schweitzer; Mao Zedong; Wayne B. Wheeler; William Randolph Hearst; Benjamin Spock; Franklin Roosevelt; Joseph Stalin; Joseph R. McCarthy; Dwight Eisenhower; Winston Churchill; Hyman G. Rickover; Ronald Reagan; Steve Jobs; Bill Gates; Bernard Madoff; Michael Bloomberg
Intrapersonal (philosophers, psychologists, theologians, lawyers, writers): Socrates; Moses, Jesus Christ; Paul the Apostle; Gautama Buddha; William Blake; Mohammed; Martin Luthor; Daniel Defoe; Benjamin Franklin; Jules Verne; Mohandas Gandi; Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll); Sigmund Freud; Clarence Darrow; Samuel Clemons; Emily Dickinson; Jerry Falwell; Richard Dawkins; Sam Harris; Nelson Mandella; Martin Luther King Jr.; Christopher Hitchens; Isaac Asimov; William Manchester; David McCullough; J. K. Rowling
Naturalistic (farming, naturalists, geologists, mining, gardening): Gregor Mendel; Theodore Roosevelt; John Muir; George Washington Carver; Rachel Carson; Dian Fossey; Jacques Cousteau; Carl Sagan
The line between good and genius is blurry, but it seems to me that “genius” ought to be a very exclusive club. I am a little worried that my list for Logical-mathematical may be a too long, biased perhaps by my own background. I would be pleased to receive comments for either additions or challenges. I found making this list fun but challenging, but because this is a subjective project, if in light of comments there appear to be any obvious changes to be made, and I’m sure I’ve missed some, I will edit the post accordingly. Maybe we can arrive at an interesting sort of consensus.
- George Carlin on why we should Occupy Wall Street (dangerousminds.net)