Genius -- the evidence

Lyle Burkhead (
Fri, 24 Jan 1997 17:19:40 -0500 (EST)

John Clark writes,

> I know Galois died very young, but that's no excuse, as you say
> the proof is in the accomplishment and I think George Cantor was
> at least his equal. I also think you've underrepresented the 20'th
> century, I would certainly add Kurt Godel and Alan Turing to your
> A list of giants.

That's a defensible point of view. Naturally you would emphasize
set theory more than I would. Many questions could be raised about
who belongs on the A list. If I'm going to put Lagrange on the list,
why not Laplace? Why not Fourier? Does Galois really belong?
If I'm going to include Weierstrass, why not Hilbert? Why not
von Neumann? These are all fair questions, certainly. It might be fun
to argue about this, but I've just about written myself out for the

In any case, such questions have no effect whatever on the original

QueeneMUSE writes,

> On the topic of women and achievement ( or genius) : for an
> interesting look at women and men and why and how they attain
> their accomplishments, I suggest renting the movie Camille Claudel,
> a sculptress who was certainly more "gifted" - and certainly worked
> hard as Rodin (even coughed up some blood - just to please LYLE)
> but became known only as his mistress, despite the fact that he stole
> a lot of her ideas and techniques - he was a better business man
> and better at running his life. And he had a wife to do his laundry and
> make his house for him. ; )

I saw that movie several years ago, when it played at the NUART.
(Yes, they let people like me into the NUART, as long as we behave
ourselves, but only on Tuesday night --"Neanderthal Night." After the
movie, we go home and listen to the Psychotechnics show on KXLU.)

Who would deny that some women have great talent? Lisa Gerrard is
an obvious contemporary example. Also Ayn Rand, Lili Riefensthal,
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Hildegard von Bingen, Sappho... from
ancient times to the present, there have been such women. Likewise,
who would deny that there have been women like Camille Claudel,
who get taken advantage of by men? It happens in science, too.
There was a woman who helped Watson and Crick with the discovery
of DNA. She didn't get the Nobel Prize she deserved. And now I
can't even think of her name... no doubt about it, life is not fair.

But this has no effect on the original point, either.

The relationship of Rodin and Claudel is not a typical example of
how geniuses attain their accomplishments. Most geniuses don't
steal their ideas from women.

Eliezer writes,

> What is it about male supremacists that they take male intellectual
> superiority for *granted*, as if *we* had something to prove?
> Why isn't the default hypothesis that *females* are of superior
> intelligence?
> These people (de Garis and Wiik) aren't even bothering to argue.

I think they were assuming that you had some experience of life, and
some knowledge of the history of science, in which case their point
would indeed be obvious. Experience will only come with time,
but I have given you the basic facts about who the geniuses are in
one field, mathematics. The facts about other fields are similar. I am
bothering to argue, and I would be interested to see your response.
"How does one rotate one's finger about one's ear in ASCII? " isn't
going to cut it.
It is your assertions, not mine, that fly in the face of
common sense. You are the one who has something to prove.