Books  General Natural History  History of Science 

Sudden Genius: The Gradual Path to Creative Breakthroughs

By: Andrew Robinson

371 pages, 8 b/w plates, b/w illus

Oxford University Press

Hardback | Sep 2010 | #187568 | ISBN-13: 9780199569953
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £18.99 $23/€21 approx

About this book

The highly admired scientist Linus Pauling, a double Nobel laureate in chemistry and peace, was once asked by a student. 'Dr Pauling, how do you have so many good ideas?' Pauling thought for a moment and replied: 'Well, David, I have a lot of ideas and throw away the bad ones.' Where do ideas come from? Why do some people have many more of them than others? How do you distinguish the good ideas from the bad? Most intriguing of all, perhaps, why do the best ideas sometimes strike in a flash of 'sudden genius'?

These questions are the subject of this book. Andrew Robinson explores the exceptional creativity in both scientists and artists by following the trail that led ten individuals from childhood to the achievement of a famous creative breakthrough as an adult, in archaeology, architecture, art, biology, chemistry, cinema, music, literature, photography, and physics. Broken into three parts, the book begins with the scientific study of creativity, covering talent, genius, intelligence, memory, dreams, the unconscious, savant syndrome, synaesthesia, and mental illness.

The second part tells the stories of five breakthroughs by scientists and five by artists, ranging from Curie's discovery of radium and Einstein's theory of special relativity to Mozart's composing of The Marriage of Figaro and Virginia Woolf's writing of Mrs Dalloway. Robinson concludes by considering what highly creative people who achieve breakthroughs have in common; whether breakthroughs in science and art follow patterns; and whether they always involve imaginative leaps and even 'genius'.

In view of the ephemeral...nature of his subject, Robinson's calm and authority are exemplary. History Today Robinson's ten subjects display his impressive intellectual range. Peter Forbes, The Independent On the whole, this book does serve a useful purpose: it highlights the fact that creative people are complex individuals who focus on theur work to the exclusion of all else. New Scientist Fascinating book...The book's real value lies in its masterly overview of various theories promulgated about the causes of genius. The Sunday Times Robinson's book ranges widely and well, and he proves himself adept at explaining complex concepts. The Sunday Times


PREFACE: MEETINGS WITH REMARKABLE CREATORS; INTRODUCTION: THE SCIENCE AND ART OF BREAKTHOUGHS; PART I: INGREDIENTS OF CREATIVITY; 1. Genius and talent: reality or myth?; 2. Intelligence is not enough; 3. Strange to ourselves; 4. Blue remembered Wednesdays; 5. The lunatic, the lover, and the poet; PART II: BREAKTHROUGHS IN ART AND SCIENCE; 6. Leonardo da Vinci - The Last Supper; 7. Christopher Wren: St Paul's Cathedral; 8. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro; 9. 1 Jean-Francois Champollion: Decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs; 10. Charles Darwin: Evolution by natural selection; 11. Marie Curie: Discovery of radium; 12. Albert Einstein: Special relativity; 13. Virginia Woolf: Mrs Dalloway; 14. Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment; 15. Satyajit Ray: Pather Panchali; PART III: PATTERNS OF GENIUS; 16. Family matters; 17. Professor of the little finger; 18. Creative science versus artistic creation; 19. Is there a creative personality?; 20. Reputation, fame, and genius; 21. The 'ten-year rule'; POSTSCRIPT: GENIUS AND US; REFERENCES, BIBLIOGRAPHY, INDEX

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