Readers Respond to “The Science of Genius"

Letters to the editor from the November/December 2012 issue of Scientific American MIND
November/December 2012 Scientific American Mind

Scientific American MIND

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Tonight the hoary caveman contemplates Not just tomorrow's risky hunting fate, But he has indeed resolved our origin And where the stellar heavens did begin. He depicts no record of any kind And so this genius is lost in time.

What are the rules for genius-designates? Somewhere today a genius contemplates The deepest mysteries of the human mind. Yet, for the laws of Science, she is blind. How is her silent genius measured then As this mother toils and her children tends? Not a word of what she thinks Is written or said to provide a link To the thoughts in her prodigious mind Where her august genius resides sublime.

Is genius only a transient state Fulfilling what current standards dictate Today, for those who fill this select class With timely words and deeds which they amass? Even though we do not understand The mindful genius in another man, Should we concede the conceivable chance His genius is tempered by circumstance? That he too might forge a unique thought Which no one else has ever sought?

For every genius that is recognized A thousand geniuses remain disguised Or unexpressed or indeed unproclaimed. Or, that fleeting moment is not sustained For the circumstance requisite to find The fertile substrate for the genius mind.

Clarence Madhosingh

Ottawa, Ontario


Thank you for the excellent article by Dean Keith Simonton, “The Science of Genius.” I would agree that true genius is the merging of intellect, creativity and outstanding achievement. For this to happen, mastering domain expertise is crucial, confirming the “10-year rule.” Brilliant creativity requires the necessary knowledge, versatility and skill in order to have a scholarly academic or artistic breakthrough. Only then can we be truly original, achieving unpredicted goals, never before dreamt of.

Greg Westlake

Norfolk, England


I subscribe to Scientific American Mind. In the November/December 2012 issue, you primed me on page 8 [Head Lines] with the information that only 5 percent of Nobel laureates are women. I am interested in educational trips so I later read the SA Travel advertisement and discovered not even one female lecturer! With 10 lecturers named in four pages! And of the 12 people on Scientific American's Board of Advisers, only two are female. Maybe you need blind auditions. Come on, Scientific American, you can do better!

“Bailey” (female)

via e-mail


“A Daily Glass of Wine Is Okay during Pregnancy,” by Stephani Sutherland [Head Lines], discusses a study published by Danish scientists who examined the drinking habits of pregnant women and the cognitive outcomes of 1,600 five-year-old children. The authors of the study report that drinking up to eight alcoholic drinks per week during pregnancy has no effect on children's intelligence or attention span, but they caution that drinking during pregnancy is generally not safe. Nevertheless, the headline of your article and messages such as “Expecting moms can relax, it appears, and have a drink now and then, guilt-free,” alongside other similarly egregious abbreviated headline messaging in the national media, suggest that drinking during pregnancy is unequivocally safe. This undermines years of research to the contrary and directly challenges public health messages that urge pregnant women to abstain from alcohol.

Countless scientific studies have shown that alcohol is dangerous to the developing fetus. In response to the misleading messages delivered by Scientific American Mind and elsewhere by the media, scientific experts, advocacy groups and national medical organizations have released statements to the effect that no amount of alcohol consumed during pregnancy can be considered safe. We urge Scientific American Mind to act now and do the same.

This article was originally published with the title "November/December 2012."

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