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On Genius...


Much is said about genius, often with the assumption that you have to be a genius to create anything. In a sense this is true, if you regard us all as geniuses, which is rather a nice thought. To be sure, there are Mozarts out there who just transcribe what the muses whisper in their ears. But most of us are Edisons, who chisel away and still get there, if a teensy bit later.

See also

artists, being different, children, mind, talent, talent vs. genius*, originality, thinking*, wisdom


‘The function of genius is to furnish cretins with ideas twenty years later.’

Louis Aragon

‘Genius is mainly an affair of energy.’

Matthew Arnold

‘There was never a genius without a tincture of madness.’


‘Geniuses are the luckiest of mortals because what they must do is the same as what they most want to do.’

W. H. Auden

‘Genius is nothing more or less than childhood recovered by will, a childhood how equipped for self-expression with an adult’s capacities.’

Charles Pierre Baudelaire

‘Genius is the capacity for productive reaction against one’s training.’

Bernard Berenson

‘Genius is nothing but a great aptitude for patience.’

George-Louis Leclerc de Buffon

Common sense is instinct, and enough of it is genius.’

Josh Billings

‘Genius ain’t anything more than elegant common sense.’

Josh Billings

‘Improvement makes straight roads; but the crooked roads without improvement are roads of genius.’

William Blake

‘Men of genius are are meteors destined to burn themselves out in lighting up their age.’

Napoleon Boneparte

‘A genius is a man who has two great ideas.’

Jacob Bronowski

‘What is genius–but the power of expressing a new individuality?’

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

‘Genius has somewhat of the infantine; but of the childish not a touch or taint.’

Robert Browning

‘Almost everybody is born a genius and buried an idiot.’

Charles Bukowski

‘Genius is but fine observation strengthened by fixity of purpose.’

Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

‘Every man who observes vigilantly, and resolves steadfastly, grows unconsciously into genius.’

Edward George Bulwer-Lytton

‘Genius is a nuisance, and it is the duty of schools and colleges to abate it by setting genius-traps in its way.’

Samuel Butler

‘I don’t want to be a genius–I have enough problems just trying to be a man.’

Albert Camus

‘There is no limit to the ingenuity of man if it is properly and vigorously applied under conditions of peace and justice.’

Winston Churchill

‘True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information.’

Winston Churchill

‘What makes men of genius, or rather, what they make, is not new ideas, it is that idea—possessing them—that what has been said has still not been said enough.’

Eugene Delacroix

‘Men of lofty genius when they are doing the least work are most active.’

Leonardo Da Vinci

‘Our observation of nature must be diligent, our reflection profound, and our experiments exact. We rarely see these three means combined; and for this reason, creative geniuses are not common.’

Denis Diderot

‘Genius is present in every age, but the men carrying it within them remain benumbed unless extraordinary events occur to heat up and melt the mass so that it flows forth.’

Denis Diderot

Time, place, and action may with pains be wrought, But Genius must be born; and never can be taught.’

John Dryden

‘Fortune has rarely condescended to be the companion of genius.’

Isaac D’Israeli

‘To think, and to feel, constitute the two grand divisions of men of genius--the men of reasoning and the men of imagination.’

Isaac D’Israeli

‘Philosophy becomes poetry, and science imagination, in the enthusiasm of genius.’

Isaac D’Israeli

‘Every work of Genius is tinctured by the feelings, and often originates in the events of times.’

Isaac D’Israeli

‘Patience is a necessary ingredient of genius.’

Benjamin Disraeli

‘The man of genius does not steal, he conquers.’

Alexandre Dumas

‘Every man of genius sees the world at a different angle from his fellows.’

Havelock Ellis

‘The stakes are immense, the task colossal, the time is short. But we may hope — we must hope — that man’s own creation, man’s own genius, will not destroy him.’

Albert Einstein

‘Every child is born a genius.’

Albert Einstein

‘Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius--and a lot of courage—to move in the opposite direction.’

Albert Einstein

‘Genius always finds itself a century too early.’

Ralph Waldo Emerson

‘In every work of a genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.’

Ralph Waldo Emerson

‘When Nature has work to be done, she create a genius to do it.’

Ralph Waldo Emerson

‘Fortune always will confer an aura
Of worth, unworthily; and in this world
The lucky person passes for a genius.’


‘A keen observer once said of Einstein that part of his genius was his inability to understand the obvious.’

Henry Eyring

‘Genius will live and thrive without training, but it does not the less reward the watering pot and the pruning knife.’

Margeret Fuller

‘Everybody is born a genius. Society de-geniuses them.’

Richard Buckminster Fuller

‘There is no such thing as genius, some children are just less damaged than others.’

Richard Buckminster Fuller

‘Better beware of notions like genius and inspiration; they are a sort of magic wand and should be used sparingly by anybody who wants to see things clearly.’

Josť Ortega Y Gasset

‘A science is any discipline in which the fool of this generation can go beyond the point reached by the genius of the last generation.’

Max Gluckman

‘If children grew up according to early indications, we should have nothing but geniuses.’

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

‘The best genius is that which absorbs and assimilates everything without doing the least violence to its fundamental destiny.’

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

‘The first and last thing required of genius is the love of truth.’

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

‘Give me a smart idiot over a stupid genius any day.’

Samuel Goldwyn

‘The definition of genius is that it acts unconsciously; and those who have produced immortal works, have done so without knowing how or why. The greatest power operates unseen.’

William Hazlitt

‘Rules and models destroy genius and art.’

William Hazlitt

‘Genius, like humanity, rusts for want of use.’

William Hazlitt

‘Sex energy is the creative energy of all geniuses. There never has been, and never will be a great leader, builder or artist lacking in the driving force of sex.’

Napoleon Hill

‘Every new invention has been a protest of genius against the masses.’

Adolf Hitler

‘Adversity reveals genius; prosperity conceals it.’


‘Genius is only the power of making continuous efforts.’

Elbert Hubbard

‘Genius is a promontory jutting out of the infinite.’

Victor Hugo

‘The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of childhood into maturity.’

Thomas Huxley

‘A genius is the man in whom you are least likely to find the power of attending to anything insipid or distasteful in itself. He breaks his engagements, leaves his letters unanswered, neglects his family duties incorrigibly, because he is powerless to turn his attention down and back from those more interesting trains of imagery with which his genius constantly occupies his mind.’

William James

‘The essence of genius is to know what to overlook.’

William James

‘Genius, in truth, means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an unhabitual way.’

William James

‘The true genius is a mind of large general powers, accidentally determined to some particular direction.’

Samuel Johnson

‘A man of genius has been seldom ruined but by himself.’

Samuel Johnson

‘Genius begins great works; labour alone finishes them.’

Joseph Joubert

‘A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.’

James Joyce

‘The principal mark of genius is not perfection but originality, the opening of new frontiers.’

Arthur Koestler

‘Genius is only a greater aptitude for patience.’

George-Louis Leclerc de Buffon

‘Everyone is a genius at least once a year; a real genius has his original ideas closer together.’

Georg C. Lichtenberg

‘Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored.’

Abraham Lincoln

‘Every man of genius is considerably helped by being dead.’

Robert Lynd

‘Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go into the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.’

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

‘I believe that genius is an infinite capacity for taking life by the scruff of the neck.’

Christopher Quill

‘Geniuses are wonks.’

Steven Pinker

‘The true genius shudders at incompleteness.’

Edgar Allen Poe

‘Genius is the capacity to see ten things where the ordinary man sees one.’

Ezra Pound

‘The concept of genius as akin to madness has been carefully cultivated by the inferiority complex of the public.’

Ezra Pound

‘The most amazing and effective inventions are not those which do most honour to the human genius.’




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