Allen, "Observations on Genius"
The answer to the riddle of genius remains elusive. When
it is at last discovered it may prove to be closely
related to another of psychology's deepest mysteries, that
of the idiot savants, those peculiar individuals who are
mentally handicapped, with the exception of one aspect of
creative behavior, at which they are superior. What both
genius and the puzzling abilities of the idiot savants
have in common is that such praiseworthy factors as hard
work, practice and determination would appear to have
nothing whatever to do with the matter.
My own theory as regards the long-held beliefs about the
origin of genius is that a combination of envy and the
contempt said to result from long familiarity engendered
the idea that the gifted individual himself could not
possibly be responsible for his abilities. And indeed such
puzzlement is understandable since it is perfectly
possible for a person to be (a) a genius and (b) something
of a disappointment in other regards. Some geniuses have
appeared less than bright during their early
years--Aquinas, Newton and Einstein being classic examples.
Others have left a great deal to be desired morally. And
Havelock Ellis, in Study of British Genius, observed that
muscular incoordination, physical awkwardness and
MacCready, "Potential and Achievement Categorization
"Genius" is one of those broad, imprecise words
that is widely used but never exactly defined (like "common
cold"). A generally accepted definition is "extraordinary
intellectual power" where extraordinary just means
much more than possessed by the person doing the labeling
unless the labeler is the genius him/herself.
In summary, genius is as genius does. There must be a
well-recognized output. Extraordinary intellectual power
is sometimes needed, but by itself is rarely enough. The
number of geniuses depends strongly on how one defines the
term. By any definition, the number is growing--and will
continue to until computers take over and render genius
obsolete, or will they?