ADVERTISEMENT
See Inside August 2011

Recommended: Silent Killers: Submarines and Underwater Warfare

Books and recommendation from Scientific American



Ian Palmer Osprey Publishing

Silent Killers: Submarines and Underwater Warfare
by James P. Delgado. Osprey, 2011

Dive into the history of submarines with maritime archaeologist and writer James P. Delgado of the National Oceanic and Atmos­pheric Administration. He traces the evolution of these undersea vehicles from their humble wooden ancestors to modern submersibles built for deep-sea exploration.

EXCERPT

A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links between Leadership and Mental Illness
by Nassir Ghaemi. Penguin Press, 2011

Some kinds of insanity can produce better leadership during times of crisis. So contends Nassir Ghaemi, director of the Mood Disorder Clinic at Tufts Medical Center, who surveys the careers and psyches of history’s great leaders. Below he describes the demons that plagued Winston Churchill.

“Other prominent British statesmen had failed to fill the role that Churchill rode to glory. Churchill alone emerged as the great leader, the wartime genius, the deliverer of democracy. And although some acknowledge that he had mental problems, few appreciate the relevance of those problems to his prodigious leadership abilities. I believe that Churchill’s severe recurrent depressive episodes heightened his ability to realis­tically assess the threat that Germany posed.

“One might suppose that such a great man would have to be especially whole, healthy and fit in mind and body, full of mental and spiritual capabilities that escape average men. But Churchill belied this notion. In fact, he was quite ill, and his story, if belonging to a middle-class American living in the twenty-first century, would seem a sad but typical tale of mental illness....

“When he was not depressed, Churchill’s moods shifted frequently. He was never ‘himself,’ because his ‘self’ kept changing.... Said his military chief of staff General Ismay, ‘He is a mass of contradictions. He’s either on the crest of the wave, or in the trough: either highly laudatory, or bitterly condemnatory: either in an angelic temper, or a hell of a rage....’

“These observations suggest that when he wasn’t depressed Churchill probably had cyclothymic personality: he was high in energy, highly sociable and extraverted, rapid in his thoughts and actions, and somewhat impulsive.... He was incredibly productive, not only serving as minister or prime minister for decades, but writing forty-three books in seventy-two volumes (not to mention an immense body of correspondence).... His mind never stopped; he was always thinking, always plotting and planning, whether or not he had reason to do so.... These hyperthymic personal­-ity traits are, clinically and biologically, mild versions of mania. They would alternate with milder periods of depressive mood and energy and activity and, not infrequently, with severe depressive episodes that would last months or longer.”

Scientific American Back To School

Back to School Sale!

12 Digital Issues + 4 Years of Archive Access just $19.99

Order Now >

X

Email this Article



This function is currently unavailable

X