Genius’ Dark Cousin

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Dean Keith Simonton

Renowned for his groundbreaking contributions to the study of genius, Dean Keith Simonton has provided his expertise to over 400 publications on the topic, including a dozen books.

When talking about geniuses, the conversation inevitably strays towards topics of eccentricity, or even madness. One needs only to look at the lives of artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Mark Rothko, or to mathematician John Nash (pictured)—whose battle with paranoid schizophrenia was made famous in the film A Beautiful Mind—as examples of the thin line between brilliance and insanity. But is there really anything to this idea of the “tortured genius”? Or is it just a romanticized notion exaggerated by film and literature? Philip Glass and Julie Taymor respond to striking data presented by Dean Keith Simonton, a psychologist who has studied the nature of genius for decades.
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This program is part of The Big Idea Series, made possible with support from the John Templeton Foundation.