TIME

THE MAKING OF GENIUS

FRANKLIN, EINSTEIN, JOBS, DA VINCI. HOW HISTORY’S GREATEST THINKERS BROKE WITH TRADITION AND SOLVED PROBLEMS NOBODY ELSE COULD SEE.

BEING A GENIUS IS DIFFERENT THAN MERELY being supersmart. Smart people are a dime a dozen, and many of them don’t amount to much. What matters is creativity, the ability to apply imagination to almost any situation.

Take Benjamin Franklin. He lacked the analytic processing power of a Hamilton and the philosophical depth of a Madison. Yet with little formal education, Franklin taught himself to become the American Enlightenment’s best inventor, diplomat, scientist, writer and business strategist. He proved, by flying a kite, that lightning is electricity, and he invented a rod to tame it. He devised clean-burning stoves, charts of the Gulf Stream, bifocal glasses, enchanting musical instruments and America’s unique style of homespun humor.

Albert Einstein followed a similar path. He was slow in learning to speak as a child—so slow that his parents consulted a doctor. The family maid dubbed him der Depperte, the dopey one, and a relative referred to him as “almost backwards.” He also harbored a cheeky rebelliousness toward authority, which led one schoolmaster to send him packing and another to amuse history by declaring that he would never amount to much. These traits made Einstein the patron saint of distracted schoolkids everywhere.

But Einstein’s contempt for authority also led him to question received wisdom in ways that well-trained acolytes in the academy never contemplated. And his slow verbal development allowed him to observe with wonder the everyday phenomena that others took for granted. “The ordinary adult never bothers his head about the problems of space and time,” Einstein once explained. “But I developed so slowly that I began to wonder about

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