Here begins a short series on geniuses. Prompted by the fact that, in my subjective and opinionated opinion, there have only been four true geniuses, plus a motley tag-team.
[Can you think who they are? Who would you include?]
There may have been other geniuses, for sure, but I can’t include geniuses I’ve never heard of, can I; and of the ones I’ve heard of, only four (and that tag-team) impress me as true geniuses.
Where to start?
The status “genius” defies definition, really, and it’s even more vacuous trying to compare one genius with another. They are incomparable. And it depends on context. Albert Einstein, arguably one, said, “… if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
The explorer Kupe would have failed an English exam, yet was a brilliant ocean navigator. Genius?
But Merriam-Webster gives (amongst several alternatives), “extraordinary intellectual power especially as manifested in creative activity.” I can live with that.
It is not enough just to be intelligent. Very intelligent people can be useless! And some geniuses might not score well on an IQ test. In fact, in some quarters IQ tests carry no credibility at all. How would Kupe’s IQ be calculated?
There are some common qualities though. Oxbridge Learning [https://oxbridgehomelearning.uk/blog/characteristics-of-a-genius] proposes that all geniuses, so-called, share at least four characteristics: a curious mind, a capability for ‘abstract thought’, a tendency to push boundaries, and a tendency to live and work to their own rhythms.
There are some interesting genius lists on the internet. See, for example, https://www.businessinsider.com.au/the-40-smartest-people-of-all-time-2015-2 and https://thebestschools.org/features/50-greatest-living-geniuses/. These both use IQs and, because IQ tests were not known until 1904, deduce IQs of the historical people on their lists.
Some of my choices are on those lists, so my picks are not completely rogue.
Ok, I’ve strung this out far enough. Who are the four? And the tag-team?
I’ll start with the latter, because I’m running out of words. In thinking this through, I decided the person who invented the internet must have been a true genius. Just think about it … the entire world and history of knowledge and information, plus dazzling communication possibilities, captured in zillions of electronic storehouses around the world and accessed interactively within fractions of a second by almost anyone on the planet. Wondrous. There must be a genius mind behind it.
Well, turns out that there were several minds behind it (in the 1970s and 80s) – not just one genius but a whole tag-team, and many refiners since, and none of them, taken by themselves, would be considered a genius. But, while it’s beyond my scope here to show what each player contributed, Tim Berners-Lee was the man, a Brit, who first created the World Wide Web so far-flung scientists and academics could share their ideas more easily; and Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf were the two Californian professors who developed the underlying code (or ‘protocols’) that Burners-Lee used. Kahn and Cerf provided the electronic wherewithal – Berners-Lee turned it into a living, interactive organism. These three semi-geniuses, and numerous other contributors, a veritable tag-team. 😊
More to come.