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Paperback Strange Brains and Genius : The Secret Lives of Eccentric Scientists and Madmen Book

ISBN: 0688168949

ISBN13: 9780688168940

Strange Brains and Genius : The Secret Lives of Eccentric Scientists and Madmen

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Book Overview

Never has the term mad scientist been more fascinatingly explored than in internationally recognized popular science author Clifford Pickover's richly researched wild ride through the bizarre lives of eccentric geniuses. A few highlights: "The Pigeon Man from Manhattan" Legendary inventor Nikola Tesla had abnormally long thumbs, a peculiar love of pigeons, and a horror of women's pearls. "The Worm Man from Devonshire" Forefather of modern electric-circuit...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Beyond a Beautiful Mind

Strange Brains and Genius is by far the best book I have read that catalogues numerous examples of the fine line between genius and frailty in a wide range of colorful and influential people. Nikola Tesla had a horror of women's pearl earrings. Oliver Heaviside, the father of modern electric-circuit design, painted his nails cherry pink. Renowned scholar Samuel Johnson had so many tics and quirks that some mistook him for an idiot. Jeremy Bentham, the British philosopher who promoted the idea, "the greatest good for the greatest number of people", fell in love with rats. He also advised rich people to plant embalmed corpses of their ancestors upright along highways. There apparently is a link between extreme genius and madness in certain individuals. Pickover also goes further and discusses the role of the brain in religious and alien abduction experiences. Pickover points out that in repressive times, strange geniuses have been persecuted, but in more enlightened eras these nonconformists have had the freedom to make great contributions to science and society. Are their minds like our own, or are they so different that these geniuses should be viewed as entirely different beings? What do geniuses have in common, and how can we foster their continued emergence? Is their a link between their obsessions and their creativity?This book is organized into three parts. In Part I, Pickover discusses several geniuses with obsessive-compulsive (and Asperger's) tendencies. Many of the individuals might have Asperger's syndrome (characterized by an impairment in social interaction and development of restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, and activities). Part II is smorgasbord of short subjects ranging from IQ to the influence of the brain's structure on behavior. Part III discusses how individuals were selected for this book and describes the effect of other disorders such as bipolar disorder and temporal-lobe epilepsy on creativity, religion, and even the alien abduction experience.Buy this amazing book and go beyond "A Beautiful Mind"

This must rank as an important book of the decade

The basic premise of Strange Brains and Genius seems to be that real creativity, whether in science or art requires that brain are working at the limits of their stability. Many famous scientists were therefore very odd people as compared to mainstream humanity, from unskilled labourers to lawyers, accountants and so on. The lives of several are given a potted biography. Without these eccentrics, modern civilisation would not exist - we would still be in the age of the horse and cart and mud huts, or even caves.In addition, Dr Pickover suggests that most religious leaders and innovators seemed to have been suffering from temporal lobe epilepsy. (TLE) St Paul, for example, had obvious symptoms of this disease as seen by his own writing. If there had existed a simple widely known herbal remedy for TLE, the world's religions would be unlikely to exist, together with many great works of art, architecture, literature and music. This links to claims made by some "spiritual leaders" that they have "special organs of spirituality".It mentions cryonics once or twice, and includes a follow-up links section to this topic, albeit with a few out of date addresses. But presumably forwarding systems are in place by the cryonics organisations to deal with this perennial problem. Also included are previous inventions aimed at preserving dead people for future reanimation.

fun and profound

In his 1942 essay "Scientists are Lonely Men" Oliver La Farge asks, "What is the special neature of a scientist as distinguished from a soda-jerker? Not just the externals such as his trick vocabulary, but the human formation within the man?" With charm and flair some of the answers about this "special nature" of various contributors to science, literature, mathematics, and philosophy are in these pages - both their works and their often disturbed brains. It was Jeremy Bentham who influenced the writing of the United States Constitution with his utilitarian ideal of "the greatest good for the greatest number of people," and yet, for companionship Bentham preferred the company of his trained rats which he would stroke for hours. Besides this peculiarity he had names for his favorite possessions, and today his body - much like Lenin's - remains on display, and "In his lifeless hand is his beloved walking stick Dapple." The chapter on Nicola Tesla provides an example of the excellence of this book - both fun to read and profound. Every day computer users turn on their beloved machines to perform technical calculations, process words, and to create e-mail, all made possible in part by Tesla and his contributions to electricity - especially alternating currents. Today his name lives on as the unit for magnetic flux density and as the name of a heavy metal rock band. Here was a man who for several decades engaged in vast numbers of scientific experiments which brought him fame and fortune, and yet in his later years his memories consisted of events mainly from childhood and he spent his time brooding over pigeons in the New York City hotel rooms in which he lived. Dr. Pickover's account of Tesla's feud with Thomas Edison - another strange brain - certainly reveals some unusual cranial activity on the part of Edison. Throughout the book we have serious scholarship in the material on temporal lobe epilepsy, serton! in, bipolar disorder (manic depression), and the recently developed biochemistry of schizophrenia along with accounts of the brilliant achievements of these strange brains. Appropriately, pickover devotes an entire chapter to mathematian and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. "Blessed are the cracked, for they shall let in the light." Maybe it's true. Maybe genius and creativity are closely related to madness. If you read "Strange Brains and Genius" you will have a lot to think about and enjoy.

Fun and profound

The chapter on Nicola Tesla provides a superb example of the excellence in this book - both fun to read and profound. Every day computers users turn on their beloved machines to perform technical calculations, process words, and to create e-mail, all made possible in part by Tesla and his contributions to electricity - especially alternating currents. Today his name lives on as the unit for magnetic flux density and as the name of a heavy metal rock band. Here was a man who for several decades engaged in vast numbers of scientific experiments which brought him fame and fortune, and yet in his later years his memories consisted mainly of events from childhood, and he spent his time brooding over pigeons in the New York City hotel rooms in which he lived. Dr. Pickover's account of Tesla's feud with Thomas Edison - another strange brain - certainly reveals some unusual cranial activity on the part of Edison. Throughout the book we have serious scholarship in the material on temporal lobe epilepsy, sertonin, bipolar disorder (manic depression), and the recently developed biochemistry of schizophrenia along with chronicles of the brilliant achievements of these strange brains. Appropriately, Pickover devotes an entire chapter to mathematician and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. "Blessed are the cracked, for they shall let in the light." Maybe it's true. Maybe genius and creativity are closely related to madness. If you read "Strange Brains and Genius" you will have a lot of fun and a lot to think about. Dennis W. Gordon Madison, WI END

This book is incredible.

I have obsessive-compulsive disorder. My friend Tammy has temporal lobe epilepsy and bipolar disorder (manic depression). Strange Brains and Genius covers these disorders in detail, and we both read this amazing book several times. This book discusses genius in art and science. These geniuses suffered as we do but have changed the world for the better. The book has profoundly changed us. Please buy this wonderful gem of a book and learn about the limits of what it means to be human, and how disorders like ours can sometimes be a blessing -- because they can enhance creativity -- as well as a curse. Clifford Pickover, the author, of this book, is the biggest genius of all!
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