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Abstract

Creativity researchers often assert that specialization is a requirement for adult success, that skills and knowledge do not transfer across domains, and that the domain dependence of creativity makes general creativity impossible. The supposed absence of individuals who have made major contributions to multiple domains supposedly supports the specialization thesis. This chapter challenges all three legs of the specialization thesis. It describes individuals who have made major contributions to multiple domains; reviews prior literature demonstrating polymathy among creative adults; and presents data from an ongoing study of Nobel laureates in literature, science and economics that confirms this creativity–polymathy connection. KeywordsPolymathy–Polymaths–Creativity–Specialization thesis–Domain dependence of creativity–General creativity–Multiple domains–Creative adults
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Chapter 42
Multiple Giftedness in Adults: The Case of Polymaths
Robert Root-Bernstein
Abstract Creativity researchers often assert that spe-
cialization is a requirement for adult success, that skills
and knowledge do not transfer across domains, and
that the domain dependence of creativity makes gen-
eral creativity impossible. The supposed absence of in-
dividuals who have made major contributions to mul-
tiple domains supposedly supports the specialization
thesis. This chapter challenges all three legs of the
specialization thesis. It describes individuals who have
made major contributions to multiple domains; reviews
prior literature demonstrating polymathy among cre-
ative adults; and presents data from an ongoing study
of literature, science, and Nobel laureates in economics
that confirms this creativity–polymathy connection.
Keywords Polymathy ·Polymaths ·Creativity ·Spe-
cialization thesis ·Domain dependence of creativity ·
General creativity ·Multiple domains ·Creative adults
Introduction
Whether gifted adults are generally or particularly cre-
ative and what the relationship of polymathy to gifted-
ness may be are contentious issues for cognitive psy-
chologists (Amabile, 1996; Gardner, 1993; Baer, 1998;
Sternberg, Grigorenko, & Singer, 2004; Kaufman &
Baer, 2005). The main issue being debated in the field
is whether people are generally creative or specifi-
cally creative. Many psychologists assert that individ-
uals can contribute to only one specialized profession
or domain (Carey & Spelke, 1994; Feist, 2005; Gard-
R. Root-Bernstein (B)
Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA
ner, 1983; Gardner, 1999; Karmiloff-Smith, 1992). The
reasons specialization is thought to be required are
diverse. Some psychologists suggest that the detailed
knowledge and skills that must be acquired to con-
tribute creatively to a discipline are too great for any
individual to master more than one set in a lifetime.
Others propose that non-overlapping and cognitively
different types of intelligence are required to excel in
different fields of endeavor and the likelihood of inher-
iting or developing multiple types of intelligences to
the level necessary to be creative is vanishingly small.
And a few have argued that even if an individual had
the inherent set of intelligences and could acquire the
necessary training in several disciplines, there is no ev-
idence that transfer of knowledge and skills occurs be-
tween them, and therefore no reason to believe that a
person who is creative in one discipline will be any
more likely to be creative in another discipline. In sum,
many psychologists argue that gifted adults are special-
ists and that their creativity stems from intensive appli-
cation to a single domain. From this creativity-stems-
from-specialization perspective, polymathy is rare and
unrelated to creative ability.
A minority of psychologists disagree, arguing that
creativity is not limited to single domains, but is a more
general trait. In particular, Catherine Cox argued that
among historical personages, the more creative an in-
dividual was, the more varied their intense interests
(Cox, 1926, Table 41). R. K. White found similarly
that “the typical genius surpasses the typical college
graduate in range of interests and...he surpasses him in
range of ability” (White, 1931, p. 482). Lewis Terman
summarized his findings concerning gifted individuals
by saying that “Except in music and the arts, which
draw heavily on specialized abilities, there are few per-
sons who achieved great eminence in one field without
L.V. Shavinina (ed.), International Handbook on Giftedness,853
DOI 10.1007/978-1-4020-6162-2 42, c
Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009
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854 R. Root-Bernstein
displaying more than average ability in one or more
other fields” (quoted from Seagoe, 1975, p. 221). Eliot
Dole Hutchinson similarly concluded in his 1959 study
of creative individuals that multiple talents were the
norm: “It is not by accident that in the greatest minds
professions disappear.... Such men are not scientists,
artist, musicians, when they might have just as well
have been something else. They are creators” (Hutchin-
son, 1959, pp. 150–152). Finally, Roberta Milgram has
found that career success in any discipline is better cor-
related with one or more intellectually stimulating and
intensive avocational interests than IQ, grades, stan-
dardized test scores, or any combination of these (Mil-
gram & Hong, 1993).
The observation that creativity is associated with
polymathic ability has been validated by historians as
well. Historian of science Paul Cranefield found that
among the men who founded the discipline of bio-
physics during the mid-19th century (a group including
Helmholtz, Mueller, and Du Bois-Reymond among its
stellar cast), there was a direct correlation between the
number and range of avocations each individual pur-
sued, the number of major discoveries he made, and
his subsequent status as a scientist (Cranefield, 1966).
Historian Minor Myers, Jr., found a similar correlation
between the range of developed abilities and the diver-
sity and importance of an individual’s contributions for
great figures from the Renaissance through the mod-
ern era. Myers proposed that creativity is governed by
a combinatorial function such that the greater the di-
versity of knowledge and skill sets that an individual
can integrate, the greater the number of novel and use-
ful permutations that will result (Myers, 2003; 2006;
Basbanes, 2006).
The controversy between specialized creativity ver-
sus polymathic or general creativity spills over to who
is gifted. For those psychologists who favor specializa-
tion as the key to creativity, giftedness is often defined
by precocity and always by unusual accomplishment in
a single domain. Amabile, Gardner, Csikszentmihalyi,
and their colleagues argue that creativity always occurs
within domains and that specialized knowledge, train-
ing, and practice are required to achieve creative po-
tential (Amabile, 1996; Feldman, Csikszentmihalyi, &
Gardner, 1994). From the creativity-is-domain-specific
perspective, polymathy is not only unnecessary to cre-
ativity but actually inhibits its achievement by divert-
ing an individual’s focus away from activities that bring
professional success.
Those who favor polymathy as a basis for cre-
ativity view giftedness quite differently and, in fact,
are asking a different question than the creativity-
is-domain-specific crowd. Cranefield, Meyers, and
others such as Poincare (1946), Koestler (1976), and
Rothenberg (1979) who discuss integrating ideas from
diverse fields as the basis of creative giftedness ask not
“who is creative?” but “what is the basis of creative
thinking?” From the polymathy perspective, giftedness
is the ability to combine disparate (or even apparently
contradictory) ideas, sets of problems, skills, talents,
and knowledge in novel and useful ways. Polymathy is
therefore the main source of any individual’s creative
potential. The question of “who is creative” must
then be re-examined in light of what is necessary for
creative thinking. In light of this distinction, Santiago
Ramon y Cajal, one of the first Nobel laureates in
Medicine or Physiology, argued that it is not the
precocious or monomaniacal student who is first in
his class who we should expect to be creative, but the
second tier of students who excel in breadth: “A good
deal more worthy of preference by the clear-sighted
teacher will be those students who are somewhat
headstrong, contemptuous of first place, insensible to
the inducements of vanity, and who being endowed
with an abundance of restless imagination, spend their
energy in the pursuit of literature, art, philosophy, and
all the recreations of mind and body. To him who
observes them from afar, it appears as though they
are scattering and dissipating their energies, while in
reality, they are channeling and strengthening them...
(Ramon y Cajal, 1951, pp. 170–171).
So, monomaniacal precocity or profligate breadth?
Intense focus or combinatorial permutations? Given
the fundamentally contradictory nature of the two po-
sitions, identifying who is gifted will only be possi-
ble once the proper relationship between creativity and
polymathy is understood. Understanding that relation-
ship will, in turn, be necessary in order to foster the
most creative people.
One set of definitional issues must be addressed be-
fore proceeding. To whom something is novel and how
it is useful are also problematic aspects in defining
creativity. The operational manner in which creativity
is defined translates necessarily into functional crite-
ria for its recognition and testing, which in turn deter-
mine what an investigator finds. Psychologists such as
Runco (2004) and Csikszentmihalyi (1996) argue that
every person either is or is capable of being creative in
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42 Multiple Giftedness in Adults 855
the sense of inventing for themselves a novel and use-
ful insight. Others argue that the term creative can only
be applied to domain-altering activities and is there-
fore limited to extraordinary and very rare individuals
(“geniuses”) operating in unusual times and places. Be-
tween these two extremes exists a sort of stepladder
approach to creativity: Everyone is capable of personal
(little “c”) creativity (in the form of personal insights,
artistic expressions, and re-inventions of things already
known to a wider public); some people will master the
sets of disciplinary skills and knowledge sufficiently to
practice the full range of disciplinary activities; of these
masters, an even smaller set will encounter and solve
problems that require innovative tools, techniques, and
practices that will push the boundaries of what can be
done a bit further than before; and from the innovators,
an even smaller set – the domain-altering or “Big C”
creators – will invent or discover entirely new realms
that require new sets of techniques and skills to address
previously unforeseen problems and possibilities. The
ladder approach to creativity bridges the “everyone-is-
creative” and “only-geniuses-are-creative” approaches
to creativity and is inherently developmental: It as-
sumes that one cannot become a paradigm-altering cre-
ator without passing through the prior stages of per-
sonal creator, master, and innovator. The stepladder ap-
proach to creativity is employed here.
Einstein as a Polymathic Exemplar
The importance of definitional issues becomes evident
when attempting to determine who is polymathic,
how many polymathic individuals there may be, and
whether polymathy denotes adult giftedness. Some
psychologists insist that to qualify as polymathic, an
individual must attain significant professional stature
and success in at least two different fields of endeavor.
If we accept, in addition, as some psychologists do,
that creativity must be domain altering, then the num-
ber of creative people in any discipline is extremely
small to begin with, and the probability that any
individual would make domain-altering contributions
to two disciplines in a single lifetime is even smaller.
Kaufman & Baer (2004, p. 5) have, for example, noted
the “apparent lack of creators who have reached the
highest levels of creativity in two or more domains.
Yet “Renaissance people” certainly have existed in
the 20th century, and some are even alive today: So-
fya Kovalevskaya was one of Russia’s greatest poets
and playwrights and also one of the 20th century pre-
eminent mathematicians. George Washington Carver,
the African-American inventor, also won numerous
awards in national art exhibitions. Charlie Chaplin not
only acted in and directed films, but was at one time
or another a professional dancer, musician, composer
and photographer and amateur artist as well. George
Antheil revolutionized modern music with his Ballet
Mecanique, wrote novels (under the pseudonym Stacy
Bishop) and non-fiction columns about endocrinolog-
ical mysteries, and in collaboration with actress Hedy
Lamarr, invented “frequency hopping,” a technique for
encrypting information that remains the basis for pro-
tecting all sensitive communications to this day. J. B. S.
Haldane, with only an undergraduate degree in Clas-
sics, managed to become one of the most important
physiologists, geneticists, and statisticians of the 20th
century and a writer who published a science fiction
novel, children’s stories, and poetry. Bertrand Russell,
a world-class mathematician, also won a Nobel Prize in
Literature for his philosophical writings. Linus Pauling
won two Nobel Prizes, one in Chemistry and the other
in Peace for his political efforts to ban atmospheric
nuclear testing. Herb Simon not only won a Nobel
Prize in Economics, but was also a founder of the field
of computer artificial intelligence. John Kenneth Gal-
braith, another Nobel laureate in Economics, also pub-
lished several best-selling novels (e.g., Triumph and
A Tenured Professor). C. P. Snow became one of the
leading physicists and science administrators in Britain
and also a world-renowned novelist. Hannes Alfven
published (under the pseudonym Olaf Johannesson) a
worldwide best-selling science fiction novel called The
Great Computer – the prototype of the Matrix movies –
more than a decade before he won a Nobel Prize in
Physics. Carl Sagan, the astronomer, also wrote the
novel Contact (upon which the movie of the same name
is based). A. L. Copley, an expert in the physiology and
biophysics of blood flow, painted under the pseudonym
Alcopley and became one of the founders of gestural
art. Desmond Morris, an Oxford don whose book The
Naked Ape revolutionized anthropology and sold mil-
lions of copies, is also an award-winning filmmaker,
novelist (Inrock), and surrealist painter who has exhib-
ited with other great artists such as Joan Miro. Loren
Eisely and Jacob Bronowski wrote poetry and essays
that were at least as important as their scientific con-
tributions. Gordon Parks managed professional careers
as an internationally acclaimed photographer, movie
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856 R. Root-Bernstein
director, composer, poet, and musician; Tan Dun is in-
ternationally acclaimed as a composer, sculptor, and
artist. Miroslav Holub is considered by many people to
be the foremost non-English language poet of this age
and is also an immunologist of international reputation.
These people must certainly qualify as gifted, in
the sense of achieving international recognition, and
they are certainly gifted in more than one discipline.
Additional examples of multiply gifted creators
will be described below. These people must prove,
even to the most recalcitrant creativity-derives-
from-specialization advocate, that polymathy can be
associated with the highest levels of creativity in more
than one field.
Such multiply successful individuals are often
contrasted with those who, in greater numbers, have
become world famous in one field of endeavor and
have demonstrable competence (and even excellence)
in one or more avocations that they have not developed
to professional levels. Since this essay will describe
dozens of such people, I will only consider here the
example of Albert Einstein. Einstein attained the
highest possible stature in physics but was only a good
amateur musician. Thus, while there is no doubt of
Einstein’s “Big C” creative contributions to physics,
there is equally little doubt of his lack of “Big C” cre-
ative contributions to music. For many psychologists,
Einstein would not, therefore, qualify as polymathic.
In fact, Gardner has used Einstein as a prototypical
exemplar of a “logico-mathematical mind” who
contributed to a single domain – science (Gardner,
1993).
But Einstein is polymathic from the stepladder per-
spective on creativity. He is polymathic on two counts.
First, he pursued music as an avocation along with his
science throughout his life. Second, he integrated his
music into his scientific thinking to produce surprising
and effective innovations. Vocation and avocation in-
tersected fruitfully. “If I were not a physicist,” Einstein
said in an interview with George Viereck, “I would
probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my
daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music....
I get most joy in life out of music” (Viereck, 1929). He
told Alexander Moszkowski, one of his earliest biogra-
phers, that some unexplainable connection existed be-
tween his music and his physics (Moszkowski, 1973).
Moreover, he was able to use this connection. His son
reported that “Whenever he [Einstein] felt that he had
come to the end of the road or into a difficult situa-
tion in his work, he would take refuge in music, and
that would usually resolve all his difficulties” (Hans
Einstein, quoted in Clark, 1971, p. 106). His daugh-
ter confirmed that after playing, he would often get up
from his piano saying, “There, now I’ve got it” (Maja
Einstein, quoted in Sayen, 1985, p. 26). Einstein even
told Shinichi Suzuki, the famous inventor of the Suzuki
method for teaching music, that “The theory of relativ-
ity occurred to me by intuition, and music is the driving
force behind this intuition. My parents had me study
the violin from the time I was six. My new discov-
ery is the result of musical perception” (Suzuki, 1969,
p. 90). Moreover, when Niels Bohr unveiled his plan-
etary model of electrons orbiting the atomic nucleus,
Einstein described it as being, “the highest form of mu-
sicality in the sphere of thought” (Schilpp, 1969, vol 1,
p. 116).
Such statements (of which there are many more)
lend credence to Moszkowski’s conjecture that for
Einstein, as was certainly the case for his men-
tor Ernst Mach, “Music and the aural experience
were the organ for describing space” (quoted from
Muller, 1969, p. 170). Robert Mueller, himself a
musician and scientist, has expanded on how such
aural experience might have shaped Einstein’s image
of space. Mueller begins by noting that Einstein was
particularly attracted to the structure of music, or its
architecture. “It is also conceivable to me...that this
disposition to the architectonic logics of abstraction
was formulated by Einstein’s early musical experi-
ences, and even enlarged by a constant struggle for
musical experiences which helped him build a rich
mental perceptual fabric of space and time in which
to perform his scientific theorizing” (Mueller, 1967,
p. 171). In sum, there is good evidence to argue that
Einstein was not the “logico-mathematical” thinker
that Gardner (1993) has portrayed and who one might
expect if creativity were domain limited, but rather
was an individual who used mental skills developed
outside of his field to inform his work, as one would
expect from a creativity-is-combinatorial approach to
creativity (Root-Bernstein, 1989; Root-Bernstein &
Root-Bernstein, 1999).
Einstein, in short, is a good example of a person
whose talents were “correlative,” meaning that the
individual finds useful connections between con-
tent, skills, methods, structures, or materials that
link their diverse activities (Root-Bernstein, 1989;
Root-Bernstein & Root-Bernstein, 1999). John Dewey
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42 Multiple Giftedness in Adults 857
called these “integrated activity sets” (Dewey, 1934)
and Howard Gruber “networks of enterprise” (Gru-
ber, 1984; 1988a, 1988b). Both men have linked such
integrated gifts to unusual creative ability. The key
point for all of us is that polymaths are not dilettantes.
Polymaths put a significant amount of time and
effort into their avocations and find ways to use their
multiple interests to inform their vocations, whereas
the dilettantes merely acquire skills and knowledge
for their own sake without regard to understanding
the broader applications or implications and without
integrating it.
Does Polymathy Denote General
Creativity?
Many psychologists have supposed that polymathy,
whether of the correlative or dilettante variety, signifies
general creativity. In the case of correlative talents,
this is not at all the case. Einstein (and many other
examples to be described below) demonstrates that
they are not. His music informed his physics, but there
is no evidence that he used his physical thinking to
create a novel form of music. Thus, the issue being
addressed here is not whether people are generally
creative or specifically creative but rather how they are
creative in whatever way their creativity is manifested.
It must be emphasized, therefore, from the very outset,
that the interactions between skill sets and activities
can be, and probably most often are, asymmetrical.
Avocations may influence vocations without vocations
influencing avocations, or vice versa. Thus, the issue
is not whether Einstein could have been a great musi-
cian or composer had he chosen to direct his efforts
toward a musical career. The important issue is how
polymathy is a source of a person’s specific creativity
and whether that creativity could have been manifested
without its polymathic source. If Einstein did, in fact,
think “musically” rather than logico-mathematically,
and if he invented his general theory of relativity
through his musical intuition as he claims, then we
must accept the fact that domain-defined thinking
was not the key to his creativity. The cognitive issue
is therefore whether it would have been possible for
him to have invented his scientific theory without his
musical training or to have understood the nature of
space–time in physics without a deep appreciation for
the space–time architecture of music.
On the issue of how non-scientific thinking influ-
enced and directed his thinking, Einstein is again in-
structive. “The greatest scientists are artists as well,” he
said (Calaprice, 2000, p. 245). Since such a great sci-
entist mixes up artistic thinking with scientific think-
ing, it gives him a choice of modes of expression. “If
what is seen and experienced is portrayed in the lan-
guage of logic, then it is science. If it is communi-
cated through forms whose constructions are not ac-
cessible to the conscious mind but are recognized in-
tuitively, then it is art” (Calaprice, 2000, p. 271). By
these criteria, Einstein himself was both a scientist
(since he expressed his results mathematically) and
an artist, since he did his thinking intuitively. In fact,
he told both Jacques Hadamard and Max Wertheimer
that he never thought in logical symbols or mathe-
matical equations, but in images, feelings, and musi-
cal architectures that have no domain-specific identities
(Wertheimer, 1959, pp. 213–228; Hadamard, 1945).
Words or other symbols (presumably mathematical)
were only employed in an explicitly secondary trans-
lation step after he was able to solve his problems
through the formal manipulation of these images, feel-
ings, and architectures: “I very rarely think in words
at all. A thought comes, and I may try to express it in
words afterwards” (Wertheimer, 1959, p. 213).
Notably, Root-Bernstein & Root-Bernstein (1999)
have demonstrated that such non-symbolic, privately
subjective forms of thinking followed by transla-
tion into public forms of communication are not
only a common phenomenon but may be typical of
much creative thinking. Thus, while Gardner has
described dancer Martha Graham as a primarily
bodily-kinesthetic thinker, a good case can be made
from her own writings and interviews that much of
her actual creative thinking and dance composition
was verbal and visual and only bodily-kinesthetic
in a secondary, translation step (Root-Bernstein &
Root-Bernstein, 2003). Similarly, Gardner identifies
poet T. S. Eliot as primarily a verbal thinker, but Eliot
himself was a trained musician who wrote a great deal
about the musicality of sound and said that he never
thought in words, but rather in bodily feelings and
visual images. Like Einstein, Eliot claimed that words
were used merely as a translation of these feelings and
images into a form fit for public discourse about things
that in reality could never really be expressed in words
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858 R. Root-Bernstein
at all (Root-Bernstein & Root-Bernstein, 1999). Thus,
the mental tools an individual uses in order to reach
a creative idea may have little or nothing to do with
the mode in which the idea is finally expressed, and
to conflate creative thinking with the form in which it
is communicated is a fundamental error that can only
blind psychologists to the mental processes by which
creativity is actually manifested.
My thesis is that creative thinking, as opposed to
the expression and communication of a creative idea or
product, is inherently multimodal, trans-disciplinary,
and independent of domains. Creativity, by definition,
is effective novelty that requires the integration of
ideas, concepts, practices, problems, skills, methods,
or materials that have not previously been integrated.
Thus, creativity, by definition, requires polymathic
breadth accompanied by correlative talents and linked
by integrated activity sets or networks of enterprise.
Only by understanding how creative ideation occurs
can we eventually learn to identify who has the
cognitive abilities required to be creative.
The Ubiquity of Polymathy Among
Gifted Scientists
So what is the relationship between polymathy and
adult giftedness? Giftedness among adults is a difficult
characteristic to identify since adults, unlike children,
are not usually subject to generalized and widespread
testing. For the purposes of this essay, I have therefore
adopted a simple definition of adult giftedness that is
perhaps overly stringent and only applicable in retro-
spect, but which is easily implemented and reasonably
objective: An adult is creatively gifted if they produce
work that is recognized by their peers, or by history, as
being extraordinarily important. For present purposes,
“extraordinarily important” is functionally defined as
national or international recognition as manifested by
major disciplinary awards, inclusion in “Who’s Who”
compilations or encyclopedias, textbook accounts of
primary contributors to a field, and so forth. It will
immediately be noted that Einstein’s example is once
again informative. Einstein was a slow developer who
displayed, as far as is known, no unusual precocity
or outstanding intellectual gifts prior to his extraordi-
nary outpouring of revolutionary papers in 1904. Ein-
stein therefore demonstrates what can be taken to be a
relatively general proposition: There may be no nec-
essary correlation between childhood giftedness and
adult giftedness. Gifted children (particularly preco-
cious ones) often do not become gifted adults and
gifted adults are not necessarily precocious nor may
they even be identified as gifted when young.
Following up on the example of Einstein, poly-
mathy is certainly very common among eminent sci-
entists and highly correlated with professional suc-
cess. The earliest study suggesting such a correlation
was performed by J. H. van’t Hoff (who became the
first Nobel laureate in Chemistry in 1901) in 1878. He
noted that virtually all of the scientists from Kepler and
Galileo through Newton, Davy, and Priestley excelled
at arts such as poetry, painting, and music and were
often deeply engaged in non-conformist spiritual or re-
ligious activities as well (van’t Hoff, 1878). Early stud-
ies of other pools of eminent scientists and mathemati-
cians by Ostwald (1907–1909, 1909), Moebius (1900),
Fehr (1912), and Hadamard (1945) confirmed van’t
Hoff’s observation, but all of these studies were based
on small, uncontrolled, investigator-selected samples.
Root-Bernstein and his collaborators performed the
first studies to compare the avocational interests of
eminent scientists with those of average achievement.
The initial investigation involved 40 young scientists
recruited in 1955 by Bernice Eiduson for the first
(and perhaps only) longitudinal psychological study
of scientists over the course of their careers. Each
scientist was interviewed and given a variety of
psychological tests every 5 years through 1980. The
40 scientists diverged widely in their achievements.
Four won Nobel Prizes by 1985 and they and seven
additional colleagues had been elected to the US Na-
tional Academy of sciences. These 11 scientists would
clearly qualify for the label “gifted” under the criteria
being employed here. At the other extreme, several
scientists had failed to obtain tenure and had obtained
non-academic positions, while another dozen or so
had quite average academic careers. Various other
measures of success such as number of publications,
number of citations, and impact factors all correlated
well with various assessments of success (Root-
Bernstein, Bernstein, & Garnier, 1993). A survey of
the scientists in 1988 determined the number and types
of their adult avocations and these were then correlated
with the scientists’ publication, citation, and impact
factor data and evaluated in light of their previous
interviews.
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42 Multiple Giftedness in Adults 859
Significant correlations were found between the
number of adult avocations each scientist participated
in and their success, as well as between specific
avocations and success. Scientists who painted and
drew were very significantly more likely to be among
the Nobelists and National Academy members than
were those who did not. Those who wrote poetry,
did photography, or participated in various technical
crafts, and those who had the widest range of hobbies
were also more likely than the average scientist to
be recognized as influential by their peers (Root-
Bernstein, Bernstein, & Garnier, 1995). Unexpectedly,
musical avocations had no predictive value for success
as a scientist in this group, perhaps because they
were equally common among gifted and average
scientists.
Notably, a very significant correlation also existed
between the kinds of mental “tools” that the scientists
used (such as visual thinking and kinesthetic thinking)
and the type of avocations they pursued (painters
tend to be visual thinkers, poets verbal thinkers,
etc.). A further set of significant correlations were
then found between the types of mental tools used
by each scientist and their likelihood of success.
Various forms of visual thinking (3D, 2D, graphic,
etc.), kinesthetic feelings, and verbal/auditory patterns
were each independently correlated with success,
as was employing a greater-than-average range of
modes of thinking. Thus, avocations may reflect or
even build a range of mental skills that complement
or enhance logico-mathematical thinking among
scientists (Root-Bernstein et al., 1995).
Interviews with the scientists (all of which were
done many years prior to and independently of the sur-
vey of avocations, and therefore could not have been
influenced by the survey) revealed that many were,
like Einstein, conscious of the role that their avocations
played in promoting their scientific creativity. One un-
usually adept experimentalist and Nobel Prize winner
said that “I have a big tendency to use my hands and
I also have a tendency to use my intellect. Well, the
sciences are a great way of combining these operations
and there aren’t too many professions that do that....
My concept of the ideal ’scientist,’ is that you do one
thing real well, and its a very specialized thing, and
then you do a lot of other things, but not too many,
maybe 5 or 6 or 10 different other things, which you do
well enough to give yourself and possibly others plea-
sure. This should be distributed quite widely among
sports and artistic things and carpentry, and things that
involve using your hands and a little music, perhaps
and things of that sort” (quoted from Root-Bernstein
et al., 1995, p. 136). Another Nobel laureate said, “Ev-
ery scientist realizes in his science only a small portion
of his total ability. I suppose that’s true in general – that
you don’t do everything you’re capable of by a big fac-
tor. I don’t” (quoted from Root-Bernstein et al., 1995,
p. 136). Avocations were a way of employing some
of his only partially used abilities. And a member of
the National Academy rationalized his own interest in
music by saying, “[Suppose] someone is getting inter-
ested in musical problems. He may then apply what
he finds there back to his scientific research. That’s
something which may affect very much the result. I
think it’s good. I think for a scientist who is working
very hard, anything is good which brings from time to
time another angle about general ideas into the picture”
(quoted from Root-Bernstein et al., 1995, p. 136). Yet
other gifted scientists recounted how building things,
electronics hobbies, photography, and other avocations
developed skills and knowledge that they employed
in their scientific work. Thus, like Einstein, the poly-
mathic individuals in the Eiduson study wove their vo-
cational and avocational interests into integrated net-
works of mutually reinforcing enterprise. On the other
hand, the least successful scientists in the study not
only had fewer avocations than the successful ones, but
almost universally considered these avocations as dis-
tractions that competed with their work.
The results of the Eiduson study have been vali-
dated by investigation of a larger pool of scientists. In
1936, Sigma Xi, the National Research Organization, a
US-based society for scientists, surveyed its member-
ship about their avocations. This survey provides base-
line data for average-to-above-average scientists dur-
ing the first half of the 20th century. These data were
compared with avocations mentioned in biographical
and autobiographical writings of Nobel Prize winners
in Chemistry from 1901 through 2000. Data on avoca-
tions were found for approximately 70% of the laure-
ates. The most conservative treatment of the data show
that Nobel laureates are twice as likely to play a mu-
sical instrument as the Sigma Xi members; 5 times as
likely to engage in crafts; 8 times more likely to en-
gage in a visual art; 10 times more likely to write po-
etry or fiction; and more than 20 times more likely to
engage in a performing art such as acting or dancing
as an adult (Root-Bernstein & Root-Bernstein, 2004).
All of these differences were very highly statistically
significant.
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860 R. Root-Bernstein
Once again, these statistical data are supported by
personal statements from a large number of the laure-
ates concerning the variety of functional professional
uses they find for their avocations. van’t Hoff, the first
Nobel laureate in Chemistry (1901), argued that av-
ocations practice and expand the imagination (van’t
Hoff, 1878). His colleague Wilhelm Ostwald (Nobel
Prize, 1909) turned his painting hobby into a new pro-
fession by studying the chemical basis of color and by
producing the first gray scale and scientific color theory
(Ostwald, 1905; Ostwald, 1906). Donald Cram (Nobel
Prize, 1987), a craftsman, artist, poet, and musician,
wrote that “In my opinion, organic chemists are part
artist and part scientists, and thus apply both lobes of
their brains to their work. To the extent that they are
artists, they develop a research style expressed in their
choice of research problems, how they address these
problems, the degree of craftsmanship they bring to
their research results, the extent to which they docu-
ment their results, the readership they address in their
papers, and their style of writing papers” (Cram, 1990,
p. 122). Indeed, Roald Hoffmann (Nobel Prize, 1981)
has written several essays explaining explicitly how
writing poetry is similar to creating a chemical the-
ory (Hoffmann, 1988a, 1988b; Hoffmann, 2006). Pe-
ter Debye (Nobel Prize, 1936), for his part, argued
that scientific thinking is much more akin to the vi-
sual and performing artist’s thinking than most sci-
entists are willing to admit. He said that the key to
his insights was to become an actor in the chemical
process, “to use your feelings – what does the car-
bon atom want to do? You had to...get a picture of
what is happening. I can only think in pictures” (De-
bye, 1966, p. 81). These are only some of the myriad
connections that Nobel laureates have made between
their avocations and vocations (others can be found
in Root-Bernstein, 1987; 2000; 2001a; 2003; 2005a,
2005b; 2006a, 2006b, 2006c). These links demonstrate
that domain- or discipline-bounded thinking is too lim-
ited for understanding the creative thought of gifted
scientists.
The Ubiquity of Polymathy Among
Gifted Artists
Polymathy is also very common in the arts, but unlike
the sciences, only one, incomplete statistical study has
yet been made linking artistic success with avocational
pursuits. Michele Root-Bernstein investigated the avo-
cations of Nobel laureates in Literature from 1901 to
2002 using standard biographical and autobiographical
sources. Avocational information was found for 58 of
the 101 laureates. Of these 58, 25 (43%) had a visual
arts or sculpture avocation; 14 (24%) had a musical
avocation; 13 had a performing arts avocation (22%);
and 21 (36%) had a science or engineering vocation or
avocation. Many of the Literature laureates, like their
scientific counterparts, had multiple avocations (Root-
Bernstein & Root-Bernstein, 2004).
Many of the Noble laureates in Literature have also
written about the importance of their avocations for
their vocational success, demonstrating that the same
kinds of correlative talents that inform great scientific
thinking also inform innovative literary creativity. Win-
ston Churchill, for example, wrote a very popular book
on Painting as a Pastime, in which he wrote that “One
begins to see, for instance, that painting a picture is like
fighting a battle.... It is, if anything, more exciting than
fighting it successfully. But the principle is the same. It
is the same kind of problem as unfolding a long, sus-
tained, interlocked argument. It is a proposition which,
whether of few or numberless parts, is commanded by
a single unity of conception” (Churchill, 1950, p. 19).
The connections between Derek Walcott’s painting and
his poetry and plays are even more obvious. Walcott
has not only written about painting but illustrated what
he has written, finding that many of his skills trans-
fer from one medium to the other: “I approach every
canvas with a pompous piety,” he once wrote, “faith-
ful to the lines of the drawing, a devotion transferred
from a different servitude, to lines of poetry proceed-
ing by a systematic scansion, brushstroke and word”
(Walcott, 2005). Similarly, George Bernard Shaw (who
turned down the Nobel Prize, but is nonetheless listed
by that institution as a recipient) saw a similar unity in
his own vocational and avocational activities. He once
wrote to G. K. Chesterton that just as no one could un-
derstand Chesterton’s work in ignorance of his love for
painting, no one could understand Shaw’s own work
without appreciating his love of music (Dale, 1985,
p. 83). Indeed, Shaw not only earned his early living
by writing reviews of concerts, but was known to sing
opera to himself throughout his life.
Scientific training has also played an unexpectedly
important role in the thinking of many Nobel laure-
ates in Literature. Shaw maintained in a self-written
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42 Multiple Giftedness in Adults 861
obituary that his greatest contribution to society was
not his plays, but his essays on “metabiology,” the
study of the impact of biological science on human
society and psyche. Not only is the influence of his
metabiology apparent in plays such as “Man and Su-
perman, but, “he [Shaw] quite seriously and emphat-
ically claimed to be a pioneer in science, though he
had never worked in a laboratory” (Pearson, 1950,
pp. 86–87). Vladimir Nabokov, on the other hand, did
work in a laboratory, specifically the Harvard Natu-
ral History Museum, where he discovered several new
species of butterflies and organized the taxonomy of
several important groups (Johnson & Coates, 1999).
Readers of Nabokov’s novels have recognized his pen-
chant for including butterflies, and butterfly collectors,
among his characters, but only in light of the recent
rediscovery of his entomological work has the extent
to which his science informed his art become appar-
ent. Many readers of Johannes Jensen’s novels, on the
other hand, will be aware of his explicit use of scien-
tific knowledge. Jensen wrote in his Nobel autobiog-
raphy that “The grounding in natural sciences which
I obtained in the course of my medical studies, in-
cluding preliminary examinations in botany, zoology,
physics, and chemistry was to become decisive in de-
termining the trend of my literary work” (Nobel, 2002).
Similarly, John Steinbeck’s scientific interests perme-
ate not only his novel To a God Unknown (Liukko-
nen, 1999; Pribic, 1990) but also his non-fiction col-
laborative work with ecologist Edward Ricketts on The
Sea of Cortez (1941/71), which he prefaces by admon-
ishing his readers to bear in mind that non-fiction is just
as much an imaginative creation of the writer’s mind
as is fiction. Recognizing the interlinked bases of fic-
tional and non-fictional thinking seems to be a common
thread among Nobel laureates in Literature.
Although statistically robust studies for an
arts–polymathy connection are still lacking, artists
themselves, and those who study them, have often
remarked on such a connection. “It is not unusual
for great artists to practice in media other than those
in which they excel,” writes art historian Andrew
Wilton. “The violon d’Ingres is a common enough
phenomenon” (Wilton, 1990, p. 7). Novelist Henry
Miller has put it even more succinctly: “Every artist
worth his salt has his ’violon d’Ingres”’ (Hjerter, 1986,
frontispiece). The reference both Wilton and Miller
make is, of course, to the fact that the great French
painter Ingres was as well known for his ability and
proclivity to play the violin as he was for his painting.
Miller himself has painted throughout his life even
while turning out best-selling novels.
A connection between writing and painting seems
to be particularly strong, perhaps because a writer
often needs to be able to visualize what she or he
writes about. Two books, Kathleen Hjerter’s Dou-
bly Gifted (1986) and Lola Szladits’ and Harvey
Simmonds’ Pen & Br ush (1969), portray the visual
arts of a hundred of the most famous novelists,
playwrights, and poets of the 19th and 20th centuries.
These include George Sand, Harriet Beethcer Stowe,
William Makepeace Thackeray, Oscar Wilde, Thomas
Hardy, Paul Verlaine, Robert Loius Stevenson, John
Masefield, T. S. Eliot, E. E. Cummings, John Dos
Passos, William Faulkner, Evelyn Waugh, T. H. White,
Hermann Hesse, Lawrence Durrell, Henrik Ibsen,
Dylan Thomas, Tennessee Williams, Allen Ginsberg,
Gunter Grass, John Updike, and Anne Sexton. Whole
books have been devoted to analyzing the relationship
of the paintings, drawings, and photographs of various
writers to their writings, including William Blake
(Keynes, 1970), Lewis Carroll (Cohen, 1989), August
Strindberg (Hedstrom et al., 2001), Wyndham Lewis
(Handley-Read, 1951), G. K. Chesterton (Dale, 1985),
Henry Miller (Miller, 1974), J. R. R. Tolkien (Ham-
mond & Scull, 1995; Tolkien, 1992), E. E. Cummings
(Cohen, 1987), and Derek Walcott (Walcott, 2000;
King, 2000).
Among these artistic authors, several succeeded at
more than one vocation. George du Maurier, author of
the famous novel Trilby, actually earned his living as
a professional artist for the magazine Punch, turning
out over a thousand published drawings (Kelly, 1996).
Playwright August Strindberg’s originality as a painter
is considered among Scandinavians to be on a par with
the best modern artists so that Strindberg’s painting
Underlandet (“Wonderland”) holds the Swedish record
for the highest price paid for any painting at auction: 23
million kroner (approximately $3.5 million) (Hedstrom
et al., 2001, pp. 9–10).
Even those for whom visual arts were merely avo-
cations often benefited vocationally in ways expressed
by painter and poet J. M. W. Turner: “Painting and
Poetry flowing from the same fount mutually by vi-
sion, constantly comparing Poetic allusions by natu-
ral forms in one and applying forms found in nature
to the other, meandering into streams by application,
which reciprocally improved reflect and heighten each
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862 R. Root-Bernstein
others’ beauties like...mirrors” (Wilton, 1996, p. 10).
Poet E. E. Cummings wrote rhetorically in the intro-
duction to a catalogue to a one-man show of his paint-
ings and drawings, “Tell me, doesn’t your painting
interfere with your writing? Quite the contrary: they
love each other dearly” (Cummings, 1945). Indeed,
he is famous in part for his translation of the cubist
painting style to poetry to create a novel form that he
called “poem/pictures,” in which the arrangement of
the words on the page create a simultaneously liter-
ary, visual, and kinesthetic effect on the reader. J. R.
R. Tolkien would often draw variations of scenes or
places that he would then describe in words in his nov-
els (Tolkien, 1992; Hammond & Scull, 1995), while
G. K. Chesterton would literally storyboard his nov-
els with hundreds of drawings, just as is done with
movies today, so that he could literally “see” the ac-
tion (Dale, 1985). While the influences are more sub-
tle in Lewis Carroll’s work, most scholars agree that
one cannot understand his Alice books without also
understanding his vocational devotion to mathemat-
ics and his avocational devotion to photography (Co-
hen, 1989). What is surprising is not that such connec-
tions exist, or that they become transparently obvious
when pointed out, but that so many scholars ignore the
existence of avocations in their biographical and ana-
lytical studies of creative individuals.
Polymathy in New Synthetic Disciplines
If polymathy is relatively common among groups
of eminent scientists and writers who work in well-
established disciplines (and indeed among eminent
artists, composers, filmmakers, actors, and almost
any other group one examines with care), then it
should not be surprising that polymathy is virtually
ubiquitous among the founders of new synthetic
disciplines. Consider two examples: kinetic sculpture
and electronic music.
The history of kinetic sculpture is virtually synony-
mous with a coterie of artist-engineers. It begins with a
pair of autodidacts, Giacomo Balla and Fortunato De-
pero, in Italy during the nineteen-teens who founded
the Futurist movement. Both Balla and Depero were
widely trained in music, painting, sculpture, and de-
sign, and they began to realize that a very important
element of the modern world was being ignored by
their contemporary artists: technology. Consequently,
one element of their Futurist movement called for the
“Fusion of art + science. Chemistry, physics, continu-
ous and unexpected pyrotechnics all incorporated into
a new creature, a creature that will speak, shout and
dance automatically” (Depero, 1915). Balla, in partic-
ular, began teaching himself scientific techniques and
applying them to the analysis and display of move-
ment. Among his innovations were sculptures with
moveable parts.
Contemporaneously, Naum Gabo initiated the Con-
structivist movement in Russia. Gabo was trained as
a physicist and engineer, acquiring a thorough grasp
of non-Euclidean geometries and Einstein’s theory of
relativity, as well as other contemporary advances in
physics and mathematics. Gabo left science when he
began to question what these advances meant for the
social and emotional understanding of nature. He trans-
lated his scientific knowledge into the intuitive forms
that Einstein also recognized as valid ways of under-
standing concepts. “I realized that the image I had been
given by my teachers, the scientists,” wrote Gabo, “by
their way of looking at Nature, was just another stage
setting with all the magnificence and ingenuity that the
genius of any artist produces in a work of art. I realized
that in my scientific journey I had been under the power
of a magic spell of a work of art whose reality was just
as true as the verity of the image in an artist’s vision”
(Gabo, 1962, p. 21). And so Gabo looked for the art
in science. Mathematical equations took on 3D forms
and human portraits and busts were constructed along
the lines of 4D geometries (Nash & Merkert, 1985).
In 1920, Gabo motorized at least one of his sculptures
providing it with the same dynamic qualities that were
to be found in the equations upon which it was based
(Nash & Merkert, 1985, p. 60).
Neither Balla, Depero nor Gabo took their kinetic
sculptures beyond tentative trials. The exploration
of a fuller range of possibilities was left to a second
generation of young sculptors who would fully liberate
sculpture to swing freely as mobiles or become fully
autonomous mechanical devices in and of themselves.
The most notable of these were Alexander Calder and
George Rickey. Calder was the son of a sculptor, but
his earliest leanings were toward mechanical things,
and he had a series of engineering jobs as a young
man that taught him many of the technical skills
(such as ship building and repair) that he would use
when he began making his stabiles and mobiles a
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42 Multiple Giftedness in Adults 863
decade or two later (Marter, 1991, pp. 10–15). George
Rickey also had a technical background, spending
the years 1940–1945 as an Army Air Corps engineer
before going to art school (Valdez, 2000; Anonymous
(Eds), 1956). The impact of his training on the mobiles
and mechanical sculptures he subsequently designed
is unmistakable. Of the early kinetic sculpturists,
only Jean Tinguely lacked a formal engineering back-
ground, which he made up for as a teenager by building
numerous mechanical devices to harness wind and
water to make sound and movement. Later he learned
by apprenticeship and collaboration (Schwarz, 1969).
The key point here is simply that in order to be able
to meld sculptural form with mechanical or free
movement required knowledge of both sculpture and
engineering and only those individuals either trained
in both or willing to train themselves (as Balla and
Tinguely did) made fundamental contributions.
The development of electronic music required a
similar melding of previously disparate disciplinary
knowledge and practice. There are three distinct as-
pects of this disciplinary melding. One is the use of
computers to produce music; another is the use of com-
puters to compose music; and the third is the inven-
tion of electronic instruments other than computers.
The creative individuals who pioneered each field were
polymaths.
The first people to use computers as instruments
were, not surprisingly, drawn from the musically
trained engineers and mathematicians who first de-
veloped computer technologies. By chance, almost
all of these were at Bell Labs in New Jersey, and
they included J. R. Pierce, Claude Shannon, and Max
Matthews. Pierce was an engineer and Vice President
for Research at Bell Labs. He oversaw the group that
invented the transistor (which won William Shockley
a Nobel Prize) and had over 90 patents to his personal
credit as well. His most important and long-lasting
invention was the communication satellite, a device
that his colleague Arthur C. Clarke suggested as a pos-
sibility in an article in 1954 and which Pierce turned
into reality. Like Clarke, Pierce was also a respected
science fiction writer, publishing most of his work
under the pseudonym J. J. Coupling. He was also a
musician who almost immediately saw the possibilities
of using computers to analyze and synthesize sound
and gathered a group of like-minded Bell Labs people
to implement the idea (Sanford, 2005; Pierce, 1990;
Bell Telephone, 1961).
Claude Shannon was one of Pierce’s collaborators
in these early computer-generated music experiments.
Shannon was a mathematician and computer designer
who became the major architect of modern informa-
tion theory. It was said that he could juggle ideas al-
most as adroitly as he juggled balls while riding his
unicycle. While Shannon did not personally develop
his initial exploration into computer-generated music,
and remained devoted to his mathematical theorizing,
his work on information theory nonetheless had a huge
influence on music theory and methods of composition
(Katterman, 1999).
Pierce, on the other hand, maintained an active part
in developing computer-generated music throughout
his career, becoming a professor of music at Stanford
University’s Center for Computer Research in Music
and Acoustics upon his retirement from Bell Labs.
Stanford’s CCRMA had been founded by avant-garde
composer and computer enthusiast John Chowning.
Chowning was also the inventor of frequency mod-
ulated sound synthesis, a technique that became the
basis of the early Yamaha line of synthesizers (Lev-
itin, 2006, pp. 47–50). Pierce found the CCRMA en-
vironment congenial and while there, explored three
very different facets of music. One was the psychoa-
coustical properties of sound. Another was novel elec-
tronic means to generate novel sounds. And finally, he
also invented a new acoustical bridge for stringed in-
struments that earned him yet another patent (Sanford,
2005).
Max Matthews was the man who gave the exper-
iments of Pierce and Shannon long-lasting impact.
Matthews was another musically trained engineer.
His greatest contribution was to develop the first
digital tools that permitted computer programmers
and composers alike to make use of the possibili-
ties offered by computer-generated sound. He also
programmed the first computer-generated voice,
coaxing the Bell Labs computer to sing “Daisy.” This
innovation inaugurated computer-generated speech
research. For many years, he directed the Acoustical
and Behavioral Research Center at Bell Labs. He
also collaborated with composer Iannes Xenakis
(on whom more below) as a scientific advisor to
the Xenakis’s Institute de Recherche et Coordina-
tion Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM) in Paris. After
1987, Matthews also became a Professor of Music
at Stanford University’s CCRMA (Max Matthews,
Wikipedia).
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864 R. Root-Bernstein
The first person to program a computer to compose
music – an innovation quite distinct from the contem-
poraneous innovation of using computers as musical
instruments – was Lejaren A. Hiller, Jr. Hiller had dual
training as a chemist and a composer. He majored in
chemistry and also obtained his Ph.D. in that subject
at Princeton University. During his Princeton years, he
studied with a Who’s Who of American composers, in-
cluding Milton Babbit and Roger Sessions. He went to
work for the Dupont Chemical Company after gradu-
ate school, where he learned to use a computer to do
the theoretical calculations necessary for his chemical
research. He quickly realized that the composition of
music by a computer would not be different from the
calculation of a chemical reaction or chemical structure
by a computer. In each case, one needed to know the
set of rules governing the operation (an algorithm) and
needed to provide the computer with a set of variables
upon which to perform the operation. Hiller therefore
set about trying to discover what properties defined
a “good” piece of music and the process by which a
composer identifies and elaborates a musical theme.
He then began programming the Dupont computer to
create music based on these rules. After several years,
two publications, three patents, and half-a-dozen mu-
sical compositions, Hiller moved to the Chemistry De-
partment of the University of Illinois, which had one
of the first ILLIAC computers. At Illinois, while serv-
ing as an Assistant Professor of Chemistry, Hiller also
earned an MA in Music. His computer compositions,
particularly the “ILLIAC Suite,” soon created such a
stir that the Dean of the Graduate Faculty transferred
him to the Music Department as a faculty member. Sev-
eral years later, Hiller moved to the University of New
York at Buffalo, where he held the position of Freder-
ick B. Slee Chair of Composition and was co-director
of the Center for Performing Arts. It is clear from his
history that only an individual with access to one of
the rare and very expensive early computers (that is,
a scientist or mathematician), skilled in programming,
and also trained as a composer could have created the
novel discipline Hiller inaugurated (Hiller website and
archives; Hiller, 1986; Wamser & Wamser, 2006).
I will simply mention in passing what should be
obvious, which is that the inventors of new electronic
instruments other than the computer have also all
had formal training in both music and electronics
or physics. These innovators include (among many
others) Walther Nernst, a Nobel laureate in Chemistry
and the inventor of the first electronically amplified
piano (Hiebert, 1983); Thadeus Cahill, the inventor
of the telharmonium; Lee De Forest, the inventor
of the electronic Audion piano; Leon Theremin, the
inventor of the theremin, the theremin cello, and, in
collaboration with composer/inventor Henry Cowell,
the rhythmicon; Friedrich Trautwein, inventor of
the Trautonium; Laurens Hammond, the inventor
of the electronic organ; Robert Moog, the inventor
of the Moog synthesizer; and of course Chowning
with his frequency modulated sound synthesizer
(Anonymous, “120 years...”; Burns, “History of
electronic....”; Wikipedia, “Electronic musical...”).
What is particularly important about these individuals
is that by combining their diverse talents and skills,
they expanded the means of generating sounds as
well as the range of sounds possible to musicians
and composers who lacked the inventors’ polymathic
backgrounds. Thus, polymaths create bridges between
disciplines that benefit specialists as well.
The people who did the most to develop the new
field of electronic music were also, not surprisingly,
multitalented. Raymond Scott, one of the pioneers of
electronic musical compositions, was a “composer,
orchestra leader, pianist, engineer, recording studio
maverick, and electronic music inventor” (“Raymond
Scott,” Wikipedia). Iannes Xenakis, probably the most
influential innovator in electronic music, was formally
trained as, and worked as, an engineer and architect.
Apprenticed to the great architect Le Corbusier,
he carefully transformed the equations describing
his building plans (e.g., the award-winning Philips
Pavilion designed for the Brussel’s World’s Fair in
1958) into musical compositions (Metastaseis) and
vice versa, using a wide range of mathematical and
statistical concepts and techniques in his music (e.g.,
Matossian, 1986; Capanna, 2002). He is certainly
proof that it is possible to excel in more than one
discipline simultaneously and to transfer detailed
knowledge and methods from one discipline to another
across domains. The mere titles of his books are suffi-
cient to illustrate some of his integrative themes: One
was entitled Musique, Architecture (Xenakis, 1971a),
another Formalized Music: Thought and Mathematics
in Composition (Xenakis, 1971b), while the subject
of his Sorbonne dissertation d’etat (a post-doctoral
degree awarded in France only to the most extraordi-
nary individuals) was Arts-Sciences Alloys (Xenakis,
1985).
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42 Multiple Giftedness in Adults 865
Polymathy and Creative Giftedness
Reconsidered
The examples of polymaths and their polymathic in-
novations provided above permit a re-examination of
the issue of how creative giftedness is related to poly-
mathy. The most important point is simply that none of
the innovations described above could have been cre-
ated by anyone other than a polymath. This is not a
matter of theory or debate. It is a fact imposed by the
logical structure of the creative ideas that people like
Xenakis, Hiller, Pierce, Gabo, and other multiply tal-
ented individuals integrated.
The requirement of polymathic abilities to create
novel, integrative forms of human endeavor sheds im-
portant light on the question of who is creative. Most
psychologists have approached this problem from the
perspective of personality traits. This focus leads to at-
tempts to find behavioral and genetic traits (divergent
thinking, need for novelty, etc.) that predispose to cre-
ative activities. The focus of the present study is very
different. It asks how people are creative and what par-
ticular skills are required to express any specific form
of creativity. Putting these questions first leads to a very
different view of who is creative. Creativity becomes
not a set of traits that can be ascertained by appropri-
ate psychometric measures, but a set of skills, knowl-
edge, talents, and experiences that can be acquired and
applied to particular problems in particular situations.
Creativity is therefore never general because creativity
is not a personality trait that imbues all of an individ-
ual’s actions. Rather, creativity is a strategy for prob-
lem finding and problem solving. Like any strategy, its
application is limited by personality, talent, skill acqui-
sition, practice, experience, and opportunity.
This functional rather than personality-based per-
spective on creativity explains why creative individuals
can be polymathic without necessarily being generally
creative. Polymathy provides the set of skills, knowl-
edge, and experiences required to become creative, but
talent, opportunity, persistence, environment, and other
factors determine whether that polymathic ability be-
comes manifested creatively. Some individuals are able
to find opportunities in multiple fields to apply their
polymathic abilities professionally; others, due to cir-
cumstances or choice, apply their creative ability only
in one field, using their remaining skill sets for per-
sonal or social enjoyment as avocations. In whatever
way polymathic abilities are manifested, however, it
should be clear from all that has been argued above that
such abilities are absolutely necessary to generate the
novel and useful ideas that underlie all creativity. Cre-
ativity is, after all, the result of combining previously
disparate elements in surprising and useful ways.
Two specific examples may help to clarify the is-
sues. Kaufman & Baer (2004, p. 5), two proponents of
the specificity of creativity, have asked rhetorically in
one of their essays whether the entertainer Madonna
could have been a great mathematician. This is a silly
question that confuses different types of intelligence
with different types of creativity. No one has ever been
shown to have an equal distribution of all possible “in-
telligences” or talents at the very highest levels of per-
formance. It must surely be obvious to anyone that cre-
ativity can only be manifested, no matter how general it
may be, in areas in which an individual has talent and
interest. The real question is whether Madonna could
turn her range of talents (which is surely extraordinary
by any criteria: dancer, singer, songwriter, actress, and
author of a dozen children’s stories) to become highly
successful at something other than entertainment. Here
the answer must almost surely be in the affirmative,
since the singing, dancing, and acting star Shirley Tem-
ple was able to become Shirley Temple Black, diplo-
mat and US Ambassador to the United Nations.
Kaufman and Baer’s similar question, “Could
Heisenberg have been a great poet?” (ibid.) is much
more interesting. Kaufman and Baer immediately
answer, “Probably not, but given the time required to
prepare for creative productivity in a given domain
(and the limits of the human life span), that’s an
assertion difficult to prove.” I must disagree. Their
assertion that Heisenberg could not have been a
great poet – or at least great at some art – is not
only wrong but it can be proven to be wrong. Had
Kaufman and Baer bothered to learn anything about
Heisenberg, they would have found out that he did,
in fact, write poetry and paint as well as play the
piano (Cassidy, 1992, pp. 14, 17, 23, 24, 82). What is
particularly striking is that he seriously considered a
professional career as a musician (Heisenberg, 1972,
pp. 18–19). He rejected such a career on grounds
very relevant to the issue of why polymathy is often
expressed asymmetrically. Heisenberg argued that he
had a greater probability of making a major contribu-
tion to physics than to music (ibid.). He nonetheless
played at a semi-professional level for the rest of his
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866 R. Root-Bernstein
life (Cassidy, 1992, pp. 81, 85, 139, 219, 269, 272–3,
323) and his biographer, David Cassidy, remarks that
his performances often opened social and political
doors that were of considerable importance to the
furtherance of his career. Moreover, he, like Einstein,
argued that mathematics was only a translation of
“intuitive pictures and distinct types of force,” but
“not the content” of physics (Heisenberg, 1974, p.
83). He also believed that music and physics shared
content and beauty (Heisenberg, 1974, pp. 166–183;
Heisenberg, 1971, pp. 10–11; Cassidy, 1992, p. 545).
Even more striking is the fact that Heisenberg is
hardly unique. Boris Chain, who earned a Nobel Prize
in Medicine or Physiology for developing the pro-
cesses required to mass produce penicillin, also had
the ability to have been a professional pianist, but like
Heisenberg, chose to use his skill to advance his ca-
reer socially (Clark, 1985). Max Planck, the Nobel lau-
reate who invented quantum physics, was also a tal-
ented enough pianist to face a decision as to whether
to become a professional physicist or a professional
musician. He resolved his difficulty by realizing that
“The creative scientist needs an artistic imagination”
(Planck, 1949, p. 14). Again, like Heisenberg, he made
a conscious choice that he described in his autobiog-
raphy to devote his efforts to the field in which he
could make the greatest impact. And like Heisenberg,
he continued to play as an amateur for the rest of his
life, creating a musical salon at which many other mu-
sically inclined giants of physics, such as Otto Hahn
and Lise Meitner, would meet weekly to play. Thus,
anyone asking whether any particular individual could
have succeeded at more than one profession must also
ask whether the individual made explicit or implicit de-
cisions concerning the uses of their talents.
The point is that historians (and those who use
historical documents) know and can demonstrate that
many creative people have the ability, but not always
the desire or opportunity, to succeed professionally
in more than one field. Documentation exists for
many of these people concerning the decisions they
made either to choose one field in which to focus
their efforts while retaining an amateur status in the
others (Heisenberg, Chain, Planck, Einstein, etc.),
to balance more than one career simultaneously
(Borodin, Kovalevskaia, Desmond Morris, Galbraith),
or to have serial careers (Herb Simon, Lejaren Hiller,
etc.). Polymathy may be expressed in many different
ways.
The diversity and multitude of polymathic individ-
uals, combined with the paucity of psychological lit-
erature discussing polymathy, suggest that the analyt-
ical tools being developed and used by psychologists
studying creativity in laboratory and testing situations
are not capturing some essential elements of creative
giftedness. Tools only reveal what they are designed to
reveal. If the tools do not elicit information about poly-
mathic abilities, avocational interests, choices among
possible careers, or perceived connections among di-
verse skill sets, then such information will not, and
cannot, become part of the discussion about gifted-
ness, creativity, and polymathy. Psychometricians need
to take some lessons in devising future metrics from
historians and from those psychologists, such as Cox,
White, Terman, and Hutchinson, who have used histor-
ical sources.
Conclusions
The importance of the debate over polymathy and cre-
ativity cannot be overestimated. The main implication
of the specialized-knowledge-is-required-for-creativity
camp is that early specialization in a domain is the
surest means to develop creative ability. Such early
specialization clearly requires domain-specific testing
methodologies of great predictive value. Precocity
should be identified and developed. Training in mul-
tiple domains is not only useless, because there is no
transfer between cognitive domains, but is actually
counter-indicated because it diverts energy from the
full development of domain-specific abilities.
On the other hand, the polymathy-develops-
creativity camp would argue that early specialization
is the surest means to stifle creativity. Precocity is
only valuable when used as a springboard to the
intensive development of the widest possible range of
abilities and skills. Precocity is not necessary for the
development of adult creativity and, without additional
interests and training outside of the discipline in which
the precocity is displayed, will be a dead end. What
characterizes the most creative individuals is an ability
to discover connections between apparently unrelated
domains of activity – the artist in the scientist, the
sculptor in the mathematician, the musician in the
programmer. In such cases, transfer of knowledge,
skills, and cognitive tools is not only possible but
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42 Multiple Giftedness in Adults 867
necessary. In fact, the most creative individuals are
not those who work within existing fields but who
synthesize new fields (along with new modes of
thinking and working) from combinations of existing
ones – kinetic art, electronic music, sociobiology, and
so forth. The polymathy-develops-creativity camp
argues that giftedness will be a function of the range
of intensively developed vocational and avocational
talents, skills, knowledge, and experience combined
with the degree to which an individual can correlate
these to form integrated networks of enterprise.
The polymathy–creativity connection therefore sug-
gests a novel way to identify potential creative gift-
edness among young adults, which involves surveying
two fundamental parameters of vocational and avoca-
tional practice. One parameter involves the range of av-
ocations practiced by an individual and their attitudes
toward those avocations with regard to vocational ac-
tivities. Root-Bernstein et al. (1995) demonstrated that
scientists with the widest range of avocations and who
could explain how these avocations benefited their vo-
cational activities were the most successful profession-
ally. Root-Bernstein et al. (1993) also found a sec-
ond parameter that correlated with professional success
among scientists. While most scientists work on one
problem at a time, highly successful and creative scien-
tists simultaneously investigate multiple problems and
employ explicit self-imposed constraints on how much
time is to be devoted to each. Creative polymaths, in
other words, diversify their efforts and are excellent
managers of time and effort. Both sets of parameters
are evident in the majority of those who become highly
successful scientists by the age of 40 years. These find-
ings, along with Milgram’s observation that intellectu-
ally intensive avocations among adolescents are an ex-
cellent predictor of career success in any field, suggest
that it should be possible to identify young adults with
high creative potential early in their careers.
This issue is not merely of importance to those
who study cognitive psychology. Cognitive psychol-
ogy is influencing educational practice to an ever
greater extent. Minor Myers, Jr., in his capacity as
President of Illinois Wesleyan University, pointed
out that secondary school and university curricula
can foster or discourage the polymath (Myers, 2003;
Anderson, 1999). If, as is argued here, polymathy
is linked to creativity, then the ways in which our
cognitive understanding is translated into curricular
practice will have a major impact on the pool of
creative individuals in the future. Precocious students
and those who excel in one subject are just as unlikely
to be the creative standard-bearers in the future as
they have been in the past. Time must be made in the
curriculum and in leisure time for the development
of correlative talents. Much as the diversification of
talents may seem to be a waste of time and energy,
there is good reason to believe that such diversity
will enhance creative potential. Two studies, in fact,
demonstrate that scientists in general are more likely to
make their breakthroughs while working on unrelated
problems and away from their workplace than they are
while directly addressing a problem in their laboratory
(Platt & Baker, 1931; Root-Bernstein et al., 1993). If
these findings are generalizable to other disciplines,
then intensive training and focus on single tasks for
long periods of time may be seriously detrimental to
creativity.
In sum, polymathic creativity clearly exists among
gifted adults among whom it is not only common
but may be ubiquitous. Only by encouraging gifted
polymaths can polymathic creativity itself ever be
manifested. Given that many of the most important
innovations in the past few centuries have resulted
from integrating problems, skill sets, knowledge,
and experience across established disciplinary and
domain-defined boundaries, such polymathic creativity
is something we cannot afford to ignore. As Myers
has asked, “Are we going to be citizens of the world
of knowledge or subjects in the petty principalities of
disciplines?” (Anderson, 1999). If creativity is more
than just a personality trait, then how we answer this
question will also determine how creative our society
will be in the future.
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... cause the definition of polymathy presented in this work carries the presumption of depth (like many classical utilizations of the term mathema). Not surprising, many modern scholars have converged toward the understanding that polymathy implies knowledge or expertise that must be above narrow and above superficial (e.g. Simonton, 2017;Burke, 2012;R. Root-Bernstein, 2009;2008). Therefore, even a brief investigation on the etymology of the word leads to the conclusion that polymathy incorporates at least two elements: depth (non-superficiality) and breadth (non-narrowness). In the next sections, we contend that a third element-integration-is also implicit and necessary for full-fledged polymathy. ...
... Although in some ancient texts alleged polymaths have been accused of lack of depth (Hufbauer, 1982, p. 40), several modern scholars have converged in putting depth as a core element of polymathy, which becomes clear when they emphasize the contrast between polymaths and dilettantes: while dilettantes seek skills and knowledge in a superficial manner, polymaths invest a significant amount of time and effort into their interests-vocational or avocationally (R. Root-Bernstein, 2009). This extra time and effort lead to higher quality knowledge, discernment and execution, which underlies the element of depth. ...
Preprint
The idea that a person can know, do and create many things if they will has accompanied humanity for millennia. Lesser known is the fact that this idea is espoused by a term continuously utilized across cultures for the last 2,500 years: polymathy. Understanding the nature of polymathy can be crucial not only for the flourishing of multi-gifted individuals sometimes regarded as polymaths, but also for everyone seeking to develop a more comprehensive view of the world or hone their creative thinking skills. Nevertheless, the construct of polymathy remains underexplored in the scholarly literature, not being object of any comprehensive literature reviews so far. Thus, this paper is an effort to survey and synthesize the literature on polymathy, aiming to apprehend the ‘essence’ of the concept along three review studies. Study 1 provides the first comprehensive map of the literature on polymathy by surveying and synthesizing modern works addressing the concept, from 1956 to 2019. Study 2 enhances the quality of that map by organizing the diversity of opinions found in the literature into thematic categories. Study 3 provides a deeper understanding of the phenomenon by taking a detailed look into its history, from Ancient Greece to modern days. This effort culminates into our suggestion of a novel and more integrative conceptualization of polymathy. We conclude by highlighting the resurgence of polymathy as a theme of study and discussing its importance for the development of individuals and society at large. Keywords: Polymathy, Creativity, Literature Review, Eminence, Multidisciplinarity, Multipotentiality, History
... Some authors (e.g. ROOT-BERNSTEIN, 2009) often name the possession of breadth without depth as dilettantism. In the dictionary definition, dilettantism refers to an interest in an art or in an area of knowledge that is not very deep or serious (MERRIAM-WEBSTER, 2015c), which clearly contrasts with the idea of profoundness that polymathy necessarily entails. ...
... Root-Bernstein was the most prolific author to dissert specifically about polymathy since the end of the 20 th century, as far as the literature review conducted in this study is concerned. Root-Bernstein and colleagues present multiple arguments for the development of avocations, broad interests and an interdisciplinary thinking in order to be creative in multiple areas(ROOT-BERNSTEIN et al., 1995;ROOT-BERNSTEIN, 1997;ROOT-BERNSTEIN and SHAVININA, 2003; ROOT-BERNSTEIN and ROOT-BERNSTEIN, 2004;ROOT-BERNSTEIN et al., 2008;ROOT-BERNSTEIN, 2009; ROOT-BERNSTEIN and ROOT- BERNSTEIN, 2013). ...
... However, despite the general claim that creativity and innovation are important and despite the role of polymathy for creativity and innovation to flourish (Simonton and Cassandro, 2010;Root-Bernstein et al., 2019), the dominant culture in both the industry and academia is that of specialization. To be successful as a professional, one is expected to focus very narrowly, avoid giving "mixed messages" regarding one's expertise, and often advised to split one's interests and passions between those that are "vocational"-and deserve one's true attention-and those that are "avocational, " and should not take precious time away from one's main specialty (see also Root-Bernstein and Root-Bernstein, 2004;Root-Bernstein, 2009;Araki, 2018). In this paper, we contend that not only this paradigm is hurtful for polymathic people but also it is ill-suited to deal with the wicked, transdisciplinary kind of problems that events such as the COVID-19 crisis bring. ...
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It is increasingly argued that polymathy—vocational and avocational pursuits in multiple domains—is deeply associated with creativity and innovation, and that its development enables the creation of important bridges between otherwise fragmented, dispersed sets of knowledge. Nevertheless, the dominant culture in both industry and academia is still that of narrow specialization. In this paper, we argue that in the context of COVID-19 crisis, with its wicked and transdisciplinary nature, the disciplinary approach of specialization is ill-suited to solve our increasingly complex problems, and that polymathic thinking can be a crucial asset in this regard. Drawing on different literature strands, we first examine the interplay between polymathy and other well-developed constructs in personality and temperament research. We then advance theoretical predictions regarding the relationship between trait polymathy and resilience in the COVID-19 crisis. After that, we discuss learnable strategies that can be used in complex, uncertain and adverse situations, which are associated with development of a more polymathic (broader, deeper and more integrated) set of knowledge. Later, we discuss how it may be possible to better capitalize on the key features of polymathic thinking at the societal level. Finally, we conclude with a reflection on the adequacy of our current institutions for dealing with complex problems, and we underscore the crucial role of polymathic thinking in an increasingly complex and interrelated world. Full-text available at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.601508/full
... Interdisciplinary practice is nothing new, and the specialist versus polymath debate has been ongoing for centuries. 1 The 'design generalist is mostly met with scepticism', 2 yet throughout the twentieth century, hybrid, universal individuals took a comprehensive view, re-defining design and preparing the ground for the twenty-first century. Now, 100 years since the formation of the Bauhaus, it would appear we are again at a similar moment, with the rise of the 'polymath interloper'. ...
Article
Full-text available
Since 2000, design practice in the UK has changed dramatically. Boundaries between design disciplines have dissolved, and many contemporary design studios now defy classification. These studios are reconfiguring the design landscape, yet a uni-disciplinary structure still dominates undergraduate education. This is creating a disconnection between practice and education and posing critical questions for the current design education system. This article outlines the findings of a PhD research study exploring this disconnection, and although situated within the UK, the findings have international relevance. An initial scoping exercise draws on interviews with leading commentators from the UK design sector, examining the evolution of design practice over the past 10 years, and possible future directions for undergraduate education. Findings highlight that UK policy for creative education has placed undergraduate design courses in potential crisis. Arguably, the current university system for design education is outdated. It is now necessary to redefine the skills and processes twenty-first-century designers need. The body of the research is situated within five internationally renowned creative studios which defy classification. In-depth ethnographic studies cross-analyse the creative processes of these studios and their views on education. Findings identify key components of each studio’s processes, while also exploring studio members’ educational experiences, and reflections on future implications for pedagogy. This article argues that this growing disconnect between practice and education calls for existing pedagogic models to be challenged, proposes alternative approaches and highlights the need for policymakers, practitioners and educators to work together to best prepare young designers to meet today’s challenges.
... As per Ernest Boyer, the future belongs to the integrators. People have at least three diverse interested fields and they integrate those to generate the top 1% skillset (Root-Bernstein, 2009). They bring the best of humanity and become more efficient in their main field when others are becoming specialized in their field by focusing on the general knowledge they have in their field. ...
Article
This study aims to identify key Entrepreneur Capabilities (EC) of international entrepreneurs and recognize the significance of such ECs in the digital disruptive technology industry in Sri Lanka. Most theories and experiments are established in developed countries, and sometimes those may not be applicable in emerging countries. Reviewing and exploring narrations of successful entrepreneurs assist in recognizing their unique processes and identifying how socio-cultural and economic factors of their native country shape the international entrepreneurial process. The interviews were carried out with industry leaders who became international entrepreneurs early in their career and a qualitative case study method was used in this study. The data was triangulated using secondary documents. Universally applicable thoughts that they generated through unusual integration, cross-cultural understanding and discipline and maturity could be considered as the main themes that emerged. Relationship building capability that was supported by passion, risk acceptance and locus of control and honesty was another theme that emerged. The entrepreneurial capability was further supported by inspirational leadership, pro-activeness and opportunity utilization, language and communication ability, and flexibility. Moreover, ECs that were developed from childhood gradually supported to build the mindset of the competent international entrepreneur. The childhood experiences, the moment of truth of their guardians and the right inspiration, developed the solid base of EC. The study revealed that it is not the size of the business which matters but the capabilities of the small firms in developing countries like Sri Lanka to sustain in international markets. The outcome of this research enhances the understanding of EC for International Entrepreneurship in developing countries. These findings can be taken to improve policies of the government and SME supportive institutions to develop new policies and procedures to develop the International Entrepreneurship culture in Sri Lanka. Keywords: Entrepreneur capabilities, International entrepreneurship, International New Venture (INV)
... The most creative researchers characterize themselves by an ability to discover links between seemingly unrelated ideas, theories, concepts or methods, and to create couplings and transfers between them (Darbellay, 2012;Root-Bernstein, 2009). They do not just work in existing disciplines, but try to synthesize new research, to develop new ways of thinking. ...
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The purpose of this article is to detail how Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, the hero’s journey, and Carol Pearson’s archetypical stages of human development have inspired an interpretive clinical assessment to construct meaning from songs created by adolescents who identify with Hip Hop Culture and who have experienced extreme trauma. The history and creative elements of Hip Hop Culture are rich with mythic narratives that reflect the lived social, cultural, and political experience of communities marginalized and underrepresented, and it especially connects with a global adolescent audience. Adolescence, as a developmental stage of human growth, can be viewed through the lens of a hero’s journey in which a child moves through a stage of liminality to enter into adulthood. This perspective can be particularly useful for music therapists when making meaning of songs created by adolescents who have experienced childhood trauma. Three songs, representing different stages and archetypes along each songwriter’s hero’s journey, will be presented to reveal the trials, clinical goals, fears, and rewards contained within the lyrical and musical components.
... The most creative researchers characterize themselves by an ability to discover links between seemingly unrelated ideas, theories, concepts or methods, and to create couplings and transfers between them (Darbellay, 2012;Root-Bernstein, 2009). They do not just work in existing disciplines, but try to synthesize new research, to develop new ways of thinking. ...
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Full-text available
This article is the author’s autoethnographic exploration of change in music education (Randles, 2013, 2015a) as illustrative of a hero collective, a term used here to represent a sociocultural explanation of Campbell’s hero’s journey as outlined in The Hero with a Thousand Faces (2008). The hero collective is a term that is inclusive of all individuals working in the field of music education who would like to see much more diversity in offerings and modes of musicianship represented in the curriculum of primary and secondary (K-12), as well as higher education music. Tensions involved in this pursuit are presented as part of the separation-initiation-return cycle of Campbell’s hero’s journey as expressed specifically by Vogler (2007). The hero collective is proposed to be a more realistic explanation of how to conceptualize the hero’s journey, given the current discourse in the creativity literature around sociocultural as opposed to purely individualized notions of creativity (Sawyer, 2012). The author makes the case, in line with previous work, that curriculum development is a creative process, and that the hero’s journey might be used as one way of conceptualizing what the change process might look like in the real world.
Preprint
The concept of spiritual intelligence is currently at the focus of scientific debate. One of the most important problems is if it is a valid intelligence that meets the criteria developed by scholars. In this paper, I look at this idea in the context of Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences and show some evidence from biology, neurology, and other scientific disciplines
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Although figures like Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin and Gottfried Leibniz are admired for their multiple expertise and their contributions for multiple domains of human endeavor, the phenomenon of polymathy, which traditionally means wide-ranging knowledge, is still surprisingly underexplored in the literature. Despite having received wider attention in the popular domain in the last few years, polymathy as a field of scientific study is still in the early stages of development, with researchers calling for more studies in the area (e.g., Shavinina, 2013; Sriraman, 2009). At present, researchers studying this topic come from backgrounds as diverse as psychology, physiology, mathematics, management and education. Although incipient, the extant studies can already demonstrate the importance of polymathy as a concept that can help enhance our understanding of human diversity and of the elements that underlie one of the most human of traits: creativity. This article presents an overview of the contributions of six contemporary scholarly authors to the understanding of the phenomenon of polymathy. The criterion to choose the authors included in this article was the existence of publications in academic outlets focusing on the concept of polymathy itself (and not, for instance, on the biographies of specific polymaths).
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O objetivo deste trabalho é lançar as bases teóricas para o desenvolvimento de um novo construto no campo de liderança chamado “liderança polímata”. “Polímata” pode se referir tanto a um substantivo (a pessoa polímata) como a um adjetivo (a liderança polímata). O termo tem origem no grego clássico e significa "amplo conhecimento ou aprendizagem" (OXFORD, 2015). A liderança polímata é aqui apresentada como um padrão de comportamentos de um líder que incentiva e inspira seguidores a avançar para níveis mais elevados de profundidade, amplitude e conectividade de ideias, conhecimentos e competências. Teoriza-se que tais comportamentos do líder assim como os comportamentos coletivos que essa abordagem defende são especialmente positivos para lidar com problemas e situações que se caracterizam por serem difíceis, complexas, voláteis, incertas e ambíguas. Devido à obscuridade do termo polimatia, o trabalho primeiro explora e analisa os significados e definições do termo para depois articular a polimatia com outros construtos bem definidos da literatura. Em seguida, é apresentada a definição e descrição da liderança polímata, além da análise de suas diferenças e similaridades com outras abordagens de liderança. Além disso, o trabalho apresenta exemplos de como essa abordagem de liderança pode ser utilizada em grupos de trabalho. O trabalho conclui destacando as possibilidades de novos estudos a partir desta nova abordagem.
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Chapter
It is not uncommon for people to gloss over the high degree of creativity involved in science. The physical sciences (physics, chemistry, geology, and astronomy) would not be where they are today without extremely creative insights and solutions to both experimental and theoretical pro blems. In this chapter I review the vast and growing psychological literature on creativity in the physical sciences. I do so by organizing the studies by their overarching methodology, namely psychometric, experimental, biographical, historiometric, and biometric. I begin, how ever, by first defining creativity and how it is measured in the physical sciences. I end by pointing out some of the important gaps in our under standing of creativity in the physical sciences, such as the biological, genetic, epigenetic, and neuroscientific foundations of creative talent in the physical sciences, why still so few women are entering the profession, and whether personality traits distinguish those who are interested in and have talent for the physical sciences compared to the social and biological sciences.
Article
The sciences and arts were once, not so very long ago, considered to be very similar, certainly complementary, and sometimes even overlapping ways of understanding the world. No longer. Today we accept such generalizations as that the sciences are objective, analytical, and rational whereas the arts are subjective, emotional, and based on intuition. But I am a controversialist. The fact that arts and sciences are not widely perceived to be similar does not mean that they are not. Fashions often dictate perceptions of beauty and knowledge alike, and fashions are notoriously changeable. Thus, I am willing — indeed eager — to challenge the new fashion of separating sciences and arts into two, uncommunicating and even antagonistic camps. I believe that such a challenge is not only necessary if we are to develop a viable theory of thinking, but also healthy, for it should create controversy. Unlike some people, who believe that knowledge is best advanced by the slow accumulation of validated and undoubtable bits of information, I believe that we learn most by challenging conventional wisdom with the biggest and best arguments we can muster. This is my style. Sometimes it fails; sometimes it succeeds. But in either case, the process of trying to undermine dogma often reveals new aspects of knowledge, or forces it to be utilized in new and innovative ways that justify the rethinkings.