Early strokes of genius

TermanPsychologists still grind away (sometimes at each other) at explaining what genius is, and where it comes from. The effort, now weary and tendentious, was exciting in its earlier days. In 1920, Lewis Terman and Jessie Chase of Stanford University published a report called The Psychology, Biology and Pedagogy of Genius, summarising all the important new literature on the subject.

Those early 20th-century psychologists showed a collective genius for disagreeing about almost everything. JCM Garnett, in a study called General Ability, Cleverness and Purpose, offered a formula for genius. Measure a person’s general ability; then measure their cleverness, then square both numbers and add them together, then take the square root. Genius.

So begins this week’s Improbable Research column in The Guardian.