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Genetics. 2009 Nov;183(3):773-7. doi: 10.1534/genetics.109.110452.

Charles Darwin: genius or plodder?

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Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, 14193 Berlin, Germany.

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  • Genetics. 2010 Feb;184(2):607.


There is no doubt about the magnitude of Charles Darwin's contributions to science. There has, however, been a long-running debate about how brilliant he was. His kind of intelligence was clearly different from that of the great physicists who are deemed geniuses. Here, the nature of Darwin's intelligence is examined in the light of Darwin's actual style of working. Surprisingly, the world of literature and the field of neurobiology might supply more clues to resolving the puzzle than conventional scientific history. Those clues suggest that the apparent discrepancy between Darwin's achievements and his seemingly pedestrian way of thinking reveals nothing to Darwin's discredit but rather a too narrow and inappropriate set of criteria for "genius." The implications of Darwin's particular creative gifts with respect to the development of scientific genius in general are briefly discussed.

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