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Genius Explained (Canto) Paperback – June 4, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0521008495 ISBN-10: 0521008492

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Product Details

  • Series: Canto
  • Paperback: 236 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (June 4, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521008492
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521008495
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,026,081 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


'... an enjoyable and informative book ... His insights are thought-provoking ... This argument, worked through the case histories, is not only impressive but encouraging, opening the way up to all of us and our children.' Galton Institute Newsletter

'The richness of Howe's examples and his clear flowing writing style, recommend this book for serious popular readers.' Contemporary Psychology

Book Description

In Genius Explained Michael J. A. Howe addresses the commonly held belief that genius is born not made. Controversially, he suggests that genius is not a mysterious and mystical gift, but the product of a combination of environment, personality and sheer hard work. He develops these ideas through case studies of famous figures such as Charles Darwin, George Eliot, George Stevenson, the Brontë sisters, Michael Faraday and Albert Einstein. This fascinating and accessible book will be of interest to academics and students of intelligence and the interested lay reader.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Gia on November 15, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is a great book in every sense. He is basically saying that the geniuses of the world have achieved their accomplishments through sheer hard work, persistence, and countless hour commitments. And therefore, genius is within all of our reaches, if we only apply the same principles that they did. I have seen what he is talking about played out in real life. For example, when I was working as an engineer, I had to share an office with a man who was known in the company as a genius, with astonishing achievements. He has since gone on to achieve national recognition for his work, and there is no end in sight. Therefore, I was astonished, when I was sharing an office with him, about how little he knew about some things, and how many mistakes he made even about engineering. In fact, I corrected him, and pointed things out to him on many occasions. After he left the company, I even redid some of his work, and everyone agreed it was an improvment. Seeing that side of him, I never thought he was born with some unexplained gift that caused him to be labeled genius by those who didn't see behind the scenes. He did what he did through sheer hard work. In fact, he is the hardest working person I have ever met. He would come into work at 5 in the morning. He would often work between 12 to 20 hours. He would work weekends. When he wasn't doing the direct work at hand, he would go home and read on background material for several hours. He was constantly studying. Hence, the finished product Genius. In this case, his genius came from a mind carefully, and very painstackingly trained through sheer hard work.
Now one point I would disagree with the author is that he says there are no born differences in people.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Reynolds on April 5, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book looks at the question of whether or not there is any such thing as genius. Are there innate, genetically programmed abilities whose possession makes one person smarter than another? Was Mozart qualitatively different from the rest of us poor mortals who were not composing piano concerti by the time we were four years old?
Dr. Howe (I presume) argues that there may very well be some innate genetic quality that makes Mozarts different from the rest of us, but it is difficult if not impossible to define. He argues that what leads to exceptional intellectual accomplishment as adults is primarily focus, dedication, and lots and lots of practice. He backs up his claim with abundant carefully reasoned, cautiously qualified and fairly presented evidence that is a pleasure to read.
Anyone like me who has repeatedly seen good, smart, capable people discouraged from pursuing intellectual studies because they were considered "not smart enough" owes it to themselves and those people to read this book. This is a MARVELLOUS book
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By S. F. Bell on September 9, 2006
Format: Paperback
Through a series of biographical sketches of historic "geniuses" in a number of fields, Howe argues that they develop their abilities from their experiences rather than having them arise from any innate or mysterious qualities. In his profiles of Einstein, Darwin, the Bronte sisters, and others, Howe essentially argues that a close examination of their lives shows that they studied hard, practiced their craft for many, many hours, and generally received training from knowledgeable parents or mentors.

The biographies are interesting, particularly the story of British engineer George Stephenson, a designer of the British railways (and therefore founder of the Industrial Revolution) who is little-known in America; through sheer hard work, he pulled himself up from poverty and illiteracy. Howe's basic argument is convincing, and also motivating (it would be a good book to give to a teenager), since it indicates that just about anyone can develop extraordinary abilities (if they only can or will put in the many, many hours of study and practice that it might take).

The chief faults I found with the book are that Howe gets a bit repetitious in stating his main points and the biographical profiles are rather thinly sourced: Howe seems to have conducted little or no original research about his subjects (or at least no digging in the primary documents), and the profiles are based on a relatively small number of standard biographies, with Howe selecting the details that support his thesis. Still, it's clearly written and an interesting read.
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8 of 29 people found the following review helpful By John Weretka on September 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The project of Michael J.A. Howe's 1999 Genius Explained is an extremely worthy one: to explicate the origins and characteristics of that special class of persons commonly denoted genius through the significance of their intellectual achievements and the lasting impression which they make on our lives and civilisation. Unfortunately, in this aggregation of logical non sequiturs, Howe brings us no closer to an understanding of the nature of genius. Howe's methodology is examined in the introduction, in which he asserts that rather than having to rely on magical or miraculous explanations for genius, we can see the explication of the phenomenon of genius as a problem which can be solved. Specifically, the solution to explaining the seemingly astonishing capabilities of some people is directly attributable to circumstances which nurtured them (home environments, learning opportunities, etc). He goes on to point out that through extraordinary diligence and application over a period of years, generally though not exclusively in the formative years of their early childhoods, these geniuses became exceptionally proficient in their areas of study. Due to this, Howe suggests, geniuses need not be born but can be readily explained as products of a certain set of environmental factors. His thesis further suggests that an exploration of the well-documented childhood of certain geniuses will reveal that they did indeed enter into protracted periods of training before contributing in the ways which would later mark them as geniuses, rather than emerging as full armed intellectual giants. Chapters 2-5 examine the childhoods of Charles Darwin, George Stephenson and Michael Faraday. Chapters 5 and 6 broadly explore the phenomenon of the child prodigy. Chapter 7 leaves the world of scientist and shows that the Bront?Read more ›
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