Howard Gardner on the genius of Albert Einstein

Creating Minds is one of the most enjoyable as well as one of the most informative books I have ever read. Recently, I re-read it and recommend it even more enthusiastically now.

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I have long admired Howard Gardner’s research on multiple intelligences which he also discusses in other works such as Intelligence Reframed (2000), Frames of Mind (1993), and Multiple Intelligences (also 1993). As Gardner explains in the Preface, this volume” represents both a culmination and a beginning: a culmination in that it brings together my lifelong interests in the phenomena of creativity and the particulars of history; a beginning in that introduces a new approach to the study of human creative endeavors, one that draws on social-scientific as well as humanistic traditions.”

Specifically, this “new approach” begins with the individual but then focuses both on the particular “domain,” or symbol system, in which an individual functions and on the group of individuals, or members of what Gardner calls the “field,” who judge the quality of the new work in the domain.

This is the approach he takes when analyzing the lives and achievements of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinsky, Eliot, Graham, and Gandhi. Throughout the book, Gardner makes brilliant use of both exposition (e.g. analysis, comparison and contrast) and narration (especially when examining causal relationships of special significance) to reveal, explain, and evaluate each of the seven geniuses.

For example:

While Albert Einstein’s contributions to physical science were modest after 1920, “he continued to grow in his understanding of the issues raised by his work and in his capacity to connect science to the rest of life. Einstein’s enduring evolution, indeed, was as a human thinker in general, rather than as a scientist…The special genius of early life consists of brilliant intuitions shrewdly and quickly followed up. Another kind of understanding can continue ti grow throughout an active life – the kind that merits the term reflective wisdom.

“Indeed, in his last thirty years, Einstein turned his considerable energy and talents to issues that more properly concern the wiseman or philosopher: the practice and allure of science; the nature of epistemology; the psychology of thought, including personal thought processes; the relationship between common sense and scientific thought; the role of religion; the existence of God and of the world; and the role of an aesthetic sensibility in the sciences.”

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Howard Gardner is the Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Creating Minds: An Anatomy of Creativity Seen Through the Lives of Freud, Einstein, Picasso, Stravinksy, Eliot, Graham, and Gandhi was first published by Basic Books in 1993 and later reprinted in 2011.

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