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The Geography of Genius

A Search for the World's Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley

By Eric Weiner
13-minute read
Audio available
The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World's Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley by Eric Weiner

The Geography of Genius (2016) takes you on a journey around the world to places that have been at the epicenter of golden ages of creativity. You’ll discover what made these places so rich in human genius.

  • People intrigued by the development of genius
  • Lovers of history
  • Anyone interested in human creativity

Eric Weiner is a writer, columnist and public speaker. He is also the author of the New York Times bestseller The Geography of Bliss.

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The Geography of Genius

A Search for the World's Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley

By Eric Weiner
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 8 key ideas
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The Geography of Genius: A Search for the World's Most Creative Places from Ancient Athens to Silicon Valley by Eric Weiner
Synopsis

The Geography of Genius (2016) takes you on a journey around the world to places that have been at the epicenter of golden ages of creativity. You’ll discover what made these places so rich in human genius.

Key idea 1 of 8

Genius is not inherited; it is bound to place.

A genius can be defined as someone who has the potential to come up with new, surprising and valuable ideas. But is there a way to predict whether an individual will possess this potential?

In the past, some thinkers believed that genius could be predicted by genetic inheritance. But modern science has proved the contrary.

One of these thinkers was Francis Galton, the father of inheritance theory. In the nineteenth century, he came up with the idea that civilizations flourished or failed because of their genes. For him, a regular influx of immigrants and refugees brought a valuable new line of blood into societies, boosting creativity.

However, Galton didn’t believe all immigrants and bloodlines were equal. Typically for the nineteenth century, he was plagued by racist assumptions. For instance, he believed that ancient Greek civilization declined because its members began to intermarry with non-Greek people of lesser blood, like people from Asia Minor.

Furthermore, Galton’s theory does not fit the empirical evidence: modern psychologists believe that genes play only a minor role in the development of creative genius. The truth is that creativity is too complex to be explained by genes alone: it’s a relationship that develops at the meeting point between person and place.

This is what Dean Simonton, a leading researcher in human creativity, discovered when he studied the history of creativity. He found that at certain times certain places have been the cradles of numerous brilliant minds. These epicenters of extreme creative activity are commonly referred to as Golden Ages, a concept that comes from ancient Greece, where one of the great Golden Ages took place. Not one but many world-changing geniuses lived at the same time during these eras. If we look carefully at examples of such creative cities, we can determine the circumstances that favored the emergence of genius – and try to pinpoint where the next Golden Age will happen.

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