The Simonton Book Shelf:
"Dean Keith Simonton's Great Psychologists and Their Times is a brilliant tour de force that examines the factors that lead to highly successful careers and contributions in scientific psychology. The book considers a wide range of factors, from intellectual and personality traits to cultural and historical factors. The book is required reading for all scientific psychologists who wish their work to have an impact on the field, and I plan to require all of my doctoral and postdoctoral students to read it."
Robert J. Sternberg, on Great
Psychologists and Their Times.
"This is an outstanding book, partly becomes of the considerable interest in what the author's sub-title calls 'A psychology of science' but mainly because of the quantitative treatment given to the data surveyed, and the originality of his approach.... These are remarkable achievements, and the book undoubtedly will be widely read and appreciated."
Hans J. Eysenck, in Personality and
Individual Differences, on Scientific Genius.
"For someone who during the past quarter century has followed closely the ups and downs of creativity research, the publication of this book is a definite landmark. Almost single-handedly, Simonton has set the theoretical parameters for a new field. He has made it possible for others to approach the psychological study of creativity (or, at least, scientific creativity) in a systematic, deductive mode, thereby allowing others to assemble logically linked evidence cumulatively in this domain. Probably not since Guilford's contributions of a generation ago has creativity research been so transformed.... Simonton's book is not a flash in the pan. In the 15 years since he earned his doctorate at Harvard, he has unleashed a whirlwind of research reports, published by some of the best journals.... If the psychology of creativity is to become a serious discipline, it needs the kind of stimulation that this book provides.... [H]e pulled off a feat that I did not think was possible given the current state of the art: to present a coherent theory of creativity and test it in an enormous variety of real-life historical contexts using a potentially useful novel methodology. This is unquestionably a vital book, full of ideas, bursting with interdisciplinary scholarship. It should keep followers and opponents busy for decades to come."
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, in Contemporary
Psychology, on Scientific Genius.
"In brief, what is displayed here seems to me to be a most important new body of knowledge - and perhaps more significantly, an important new approach - in the area of the social psychology of creativity and leadership. Simonton has given us methodological innovations based on trenchant analysis and coupled with sophisticated metrical techniques. In addition, he has an eye for the high-stakes problems and for crucial questions, and he shows himself widely read and knowledgeable in cultural history, a necessary combination if the field is to realize its promise. The area he has opened up for investigation and the methods he so ingeniously adapts represent an important new challenge to psychologists and offer new means for exploration."
Frank X. Barron, in Contemporary
Psychology, on Genius, Creativity, and Leadership.
"This review has been only a sampling of Simonton's well-organized, highly readible, and engrossing presentation of an impressive set of studies, theories, conjectures, and suggestions. The book is best read in moderate portions - in the aggregate, it becomes overwhelming. As readers of Simonton's work have come to expect, it is both scholarly and creative; in many places controversial and provocative (I often thought, "Maybe, but ..."), it is never pedestrian or boring. This is an important book in the history, sociology, and methodology of the fields, and an enjoyable way to answer at least some of our questions about our discipline and our best-known colleagues."
Peter Suedfeld, in PsycCritiques,
on Great Psychologists and Their Times.
"A Great Historiometrician Examines Greatness [title] ... Dean Keith Simonton has emerged as the most articulate and persuasive advocate of the view that (a) psychological laws do, indeed, constrain and shape historical events and (b) it is possible through historiometric research to identify these laws from archival records and, moreover, to link these laws with regularities discovered in controlled experimental work. ... Simonton's book is so comprehensive and so engagingly written that, if major research universities regularly offered courses in the psychology of history, Greatness: Who Makes History and Why would be widely adopted as a text. The book is, in short, a tour de force: spirited, erudite, and entertaining."
Philip Tetlock, in Contemporary
Psychology, on Greatness.
"Dean Keith Simonton has produced a sweeping and masterful account of the great psychologists who, through their pioneering research, have shaped our understanding of ourselves. Rich in biographical detail and intriguing generalizations, Simonton's analysis of the achievements and genius of these pioneers makes for fascinating reading. In addition, his path-breaking research constitutes an important contribution to psychology itself. For anyone who wants to read just one book about the history of psychology, Great Psychologists and Their Times is an ideal choice."
Frank J. Sulloway, on Great
Psychologists and Their Times.
"This book is a perfect illustration of Simonton's power to strike a delicate and difficult balance between psychology, economics, and the arts. A must for those who like the seventh art. Read Simonton as soon as possible."
Victor Ginsburgh, on Great Flicks.
"[A] clear and engaging summary of this mysterious and utterly important phenomenon written by arguably the world's expert on the topic. Nearly 30 years of Simonton's fascination and focused intellect on the topic of exemplary genius come together in this brief, accessible and insightful volume. If only all introductory courses were this much fun!"
Gregory J. Feist, on Genius 101.
"The latest, and possibly most comprehensive, entry into this genre [on the study of genius] is Dean Keith Simonton's new book Genius 101... Simonton, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, is one of the world's leading authorities on the intellectually eminent..."
John Cloud, Time Magazine, on Genius
"if a Darwinian approach to human behavior and achievement is not total anathema to you, and you want to read a serious and sensible and insightful discussion of human genius, you could do much worse than start your inquiry with Origins of Genius: Darwinian Perspectives on Creativity."
Michael Ruse, Isis, on Origins
"In this book, Dean Keith Simonton brings Darwinian principles to the question of creativity and genius. He does so with resounding success. … Hans Eysenck called Dean Keith Simonton the successor to Sir Francis Galton. With the appearance of this book, we see that he is also one of the successors to Charles Darwin."
Colin Martindale, on Origins of
"Insightful, passionate, clever, and filled with extensive research and ideas, Great Flicks is a great read. This book will find devoted audiences in wide corners, from aesthetics/creativity researchers to film buffs. With an unparalleled depth of knowledge, Simonton covers such disparate fields as psychology, literature, and business to illuminate the burgeoning field of the science of cinema."
James C. Kaufman, on Great Flicks.
"By the time we conclude the final chapter of Great Flicks we have learned 'lots' about great movies. We have been introduced to a significant set of predictors for greatness, whether measured in terms of awards, critical acclaim, or profits. And we have had an entertaining time doing so."
Shelley Carson, PsycCRITIQUES, on
"Simonton continues to dazzle us with his historical imagination and erudition. His ingenuity in devising ways to test historical hypotheses in an objective and scientific manner is indeed impressive. This work is required reading for all would-be researchers in quantitative history."
Frank J. Sulloway, on Psychology,
Science, and History.
"No, it doesn’t take a genius to know a genius—after all, we recognize Albert Einstein as a genius, and most of us don’t qualify as geniuses. But Dean Keith Simonton, the author of Genius 101, comes about as close as any psychologist to being one. ... Genius 101 is an extremely readable and entertaining book: I read it in one sitting. Each chapter is informative, well organized, rovocative, and entertaining. This book presents the best short introduction to genius to be found. The next time I teach a course on creativity, I will use Simonton’s book as a supplementary text. That conveys how much I liked this informative and entertaining book."
Robert J. Sternberg, in PsycCRITIQUES,
on Genius 101.
"In my opinion, social psychologist Simonton's book is the best single place to begin reading about cliometrics (he prefers "historiometry" for what he does). Conceptually clear, mathematically sophisticated, sensitive to the difficulties and dangers, with fascinating data ranging over several behavior domains - if it doesn't convince you that cliometrics is worth looking into, I suspect nothing will."
Paul E. Meehl, on Psychology,
Science, and History.
"As we would expect from the pen of Dean Keith Simonton, Greatness is a masterful survey of the diverse factors that make the eminent stand out from the crowd. ... Hans Eysenck (1993) has called Simonton the successor to Sir Francis Galton. I would not dispute this praise but would rather add to it by noting that he is also the successor of Alfred Kroeber and Pitirim Sorokin, who emphasized the social and cultural determinants of creative eminence."
Colin Martindale, in the Creativity
Research Journal, on Greatness.
"No scholar writing about genius and creativity has the breadth of knowledge of Dean Keith Simonton. His Darwinian perspective is provocative, intriguing, generative, and important."
Howard Gardner, on Origins of Genius.
"Scientific Genius is an excellent book. Simonton covers a great deal of research and extends his own original and provocative theory. He does not have the final say about certain facets of the creative process; but he knows this, and does not claim to."
Mark Runco, in Imagination, Cognition
Personality, on Scientific Genius.
"One of the most eminent researchers of eminence has written a very readable, intellectually exciting book about creativity seen from a Darwinian perspective. Anyone interested in what makes some persons stand out and shine will find it fascinating."
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, on Origins
"Genius 101 makes for a great read on a centuries-old scientific puzzle - as well as a lively text on the wellsprings and manifestations of genius."
Teresa M. Amabile, on Genius 101.
"Simonton is one of the world's leading authorities on creativity, genius, and cinematic achievement. In these areas, he is a true trailblaizer. In Great Flicks, Simonton continues to elucidate new pathways for the reader. Simonton moves beyond opinion and film critic conjecture to what the latest science reveals about successful movies. The result is a captivating analysis that forms a picture of history's greatest films."
Ryan M. Niemiec, on Great Flicks.
"Dean Simonton is one of the most creative people studying creativity today. In Scientific Genius he presents a theory of the bases of scientific creativity, as well as the beginnings of what he calls a 'psychology of science.' The book is a signal contribution to our understanding of creativity, scientific and otherwise. ... For whatever limitations this book may have, it is an excellent piece of work, and one that will be of interest to people in many different areas of psychology. It is an outstanding exemplar of work on scientific creativity."
Janet E. Davidson, in Applied
Cognitive Psychology, on Scientific Genius.
"Simonton's research on the creativity of film is a seminal body of work in the field of the psychology of aesthetics. In this volume, for the first time, Simonton summarizes and elaborates on his important and influential explorations on the psychology of the movies. This impressive volume summarizes previous research - much of which Simonton himself has conducted - and provides a path forward for future empirical studies of film quality. This engaging book is a must-read for anyone interested in film studies, or people interested in learning more about the movies they love (and love to hate!)."
Jonathan Plucker, on Great Flicks.
"Dean Simonton is one of the most evocative, ingenious, and offbeat psychologists going. His work ranges from a mathematical model of creative scholarly contributions as a function of age, to a historical analysis of characteristic melodic patterns of composers in different eras, to a study of the crucial attributes of popularity in Shakespeare's plays. To these often formless areas in the psychology of the arts and the sociology of knowledge he brings a disciplined respect for quantitative evidence. He hunts relentlessly for quantitative indicators, using them intelligently in statistical and mathematical analyses..."
Robert P. Abelson, in Contemporary
Psychology, on Why Presidents Succeed.
"Dean Keith Simonton is an undisputed pioneer in the scientific study of history. His latest book, Origins of Genius, supplies yet another original and enduring contribution to the understanding of the creative process. Inspired by Darwinian theory, Simonton has brought together a large body of research on creative genius, and given this research a sweeping new interpretation. Every book that Simonton has previously produced has been a gem, and his Origins of Genius is no exception."
Frank Sulloway, on Origins of Genius.
"A highly unusual treatment, almost revolutionary in parts...the book should be read by those in the behavioral sciences who can combine the humanistic modes of examining problems and the quantitative methodologies."
Derek Price, on Genius, Creativity,
"A provocative story of how the limited human mind might produce work of astonishing brilliance and enduring value."
Teresa Amabile, on Origins of Genius.
"It is always stimulating to read Simonton's work, and this book is no exception. Even if one disagrees with his views, one cannot but be impressed by the sweep of his ideas, as he discusses creativity synchronically and longitudinally; within the individual, across cultures, and throughout the history of human kind. Ideas and findings are conveyed in prose which makes the reader feel as if he or she is the direct object of Simonton's attention. Simonton is also specific in his acknowledgment and discussion of others' work in relation to his own, so that one is always aware of the interconnected nature of the research enterprise of which his work is a part and an advance beyond it. It summarizes Simonton's Darwinian theory of creativity, bringing together ideas which have been presented in various forms and forums over the past 25 years or so. In this role, the book is valuable for the knowledgeable reader as summary and synthesis; for the non-specialist, it is a stimulating introduction to an important body of work. The book also attempts to break new ground, most particularly, in discussing how the creative mind has evolved and how group processes play a role in development of creative genius ... However, the book's most important function in my view is the presentation of Simonton's theory in a concise and easily accessible format."
Robert W. Weisberg, in Contemporary
Psychology, on Origins of Genius.
"Dean Keith Simonton is Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Davis Campus. Over the last 15 years he has carried out a formidable series of theoretical researches into the nature of great ability as manifest in scientific, military, artistic and other social domains. His methods are largely mathematical, and they seek elegant explanations of the frequency and distribution of production output variables. To this end he has deployed probabilistic simulation of great sophistication. ... Simonton is a conscientious scholar whose work deserves close study by other workers in a range of fields of enquiry. The model suggests insights into the measurement of scientific creativity and in the broad-brush processes of discovery. In his own terms he is probably an advancer rather than a revolutionary, securing a niche for himself - and for others of a developmental frame of mind - to expand and consolidate."
Tudor Rickards, in Leadership &
Organizational Development Journal, on Scientific Genius.
"I strongly recommend Creativity in Science to philosophers of science for two reasons. First, the book is about scientific discovery, and this is a topic that has been largely and unfortunately neglected by philosophers of science. ... The second reason why philosophers of science should attend to Simonton's book is that it provides a valuable synthesis of empirical studies on science, scientific reasoning, and creativity, and thus enables us to effectively pursue our goal of developing a naturalistic epistemology of scientific knowledge and inquiry. ... Simonton's book provides us with a vast store of data and studies from which to build a better understanding of science and scientific change."
K. Brad Wray, in Philosophy of
Science, on Creativity in Science.
"Because of its influence and rarity, greatness cries out to be studied. We all want to know what makes someone great. Are people great because of their genius or because they ride the 'spirit of the times'? Dean Keith Simonton’s entire career has been spent on asking this question of politicians, physicists, chemists, mathematicians, musicians, writers, and now psychologists. Was Freud greater than Piaget? Was Skinner greater than James? Indeed, psychology, unlike other sciences, is both a natural and a social science, a pure and an applied science, and so how does one compare greatness across such diverse people and activities and not end up comparing apples (e.g., Freud) to oranges (e.g., Piaget)? It is not easy, but Simonton is up to the challenge. Combining the mathematical sophistication of a physicist with the humanistic scope of a historian, Simonton presents a completely convincing case that meaningful commonalities can be found in the developmental, cognitive, personality, social and historical components of greatness in psychology. Hardly a topic has been left untouched: family, education, gender, age, institution, birth order, mental illness, personality, intelligence, sexual orientation, genetics, genius, marriage, and culture to name but a few. As the psychology of science in general has shown, and now the psychology of psychology, science is a human enterprise, done by men and women with rich and interesting family histories, deep and complex motives, and wonderful and not so wonderful personalities. When you finish with Great Psychologists and Their Times you will not only be able to answer the question of what makes a psychologist great, but also what makes psychology great."
Gregory J. Feist, on Great
Psychologists and Their Times.
"Simonton's topic, human creativity, is exactly the kind of complex psychological phenomenon that demands a mature theory. His book, Creativity in Science: Chance, Logic, Genius, and Zeitgeist, develops such a theory on the basis of a Darwinian structure. That structure, which takes cognizance of both necessity and chance, gives his theory the ability not only to describe lawful relations but also to account for the subjective experience of freedom, or agency. ... Creativity in Science, with its detailed explication of the role of chance in relation to the other factors Simonton considers, is an important contribution to the understanding of creativity, not only in science but in all fields of human endeavor.
William Meehan, in PsycCritiques,
on Creativity in Science.
"This engaging and insightful book explores the four candidates that traditionally have been suggested to explain creativity in science. Recommended."
R .M. Davis, CHOICE, on Creativty
"Dean Keith Simonton, who has conducted volumes of path-breaking studies over the years, may be the perfect person to write this book. His knowledge of the field is vast, and his dedication to research in the field is impressive; is it surprising that his final product is so polished and so rich?"
Grant Jewel Rich, in Creativity
Research Journal, on Origins of Genius.
"Why Presidents Succeed is a brilliant, comprehensive, much-needed analysis of presidential performance from Washington to Reagan, which every presidential aspirant should ponder. Simonton combines the best tools of history, philosophy, political science, psychology, rhetoric, and statistics in an account both solidly based on empirical research and fascinating in its narration. Here is a major contribution to political studies."
R. Gordon Hoxie, on Why Presidents
"A marvelous book. Simonton's work will be remembered as a landmark in the development of historiometry a hundred years from now."
Philip E. Tetlock, on Psychology,
Science, and History.
"Although substantial portions of this book will be of special interest mostly to those with a background in the social sciences, much will appeal to biologists per se and to general readers."
Russell B. Stevens, "Recommended
Reading," in Phi Beta Kappa's Key Reporter, on Origins of
"All right, sit back. I'll give you a little erudition here. Most Original Thinker of 2000, Dean Keith Simonton, author of Origins of Genius, his ground-breaking treatise that links the Darwinian concept of evolution to the social purpose behind genius; a remarkable book in which I've personally found great help."
John McLaughlin of the McLaughlin Group,
on Origins of Genius.
"What makes a genius? What factors are responsible for the development of creative scientific breakthroughs? Why does it appear that some scientific discoveries are made simultaneously by several scientists with no knowledge of each other's work? Simonton (Greatness: Who Makes History and Why; psychology, Univ. of California at Davis) attempts to answer these questions as he surveys the research on genius and creativity, examining such contributing factors as cognitive processes, personality, environment, heredity, development, productivity, psychopathology, and sociocultural milieu. Using Charles Darwin as his primary example of creative genius, Simonton draws from the lives of eminent scientists and creative individuals to demonstrate that creativity follows Darwinian principles of selection and variation. This fascinating and intriguing study is recommended for academic and large public libraries."
Lucille M. Boone, San Jose Public
Library, CA, in Library Journal, on Origins of Genius.
"What makes a psychologist great? In this ambitious book, Dean Keith Simonton reviews historiometric findings on this question, addressing psychologists, scientists, and historians interested in 'the provocative overlap among psychology, science, and history' .... Extending his 1995 proposal to test metahistorial generalizations published in histories of psychology, Simonton examines individual differences and longitudinal changes in 'greatness,' as defined by publication counts, citation counts, and rankings by expert psychologists and relates greatness to an impressive array of personal characteristics (e.g., intelligence, traits, and world views), developmental features (e.g., family background and career training), and sociocultural contexts both internal to psychology (e.g., Comtian progress and Kuhnian transformations) and external to it (e.g., cultural values and political conditions). He illustrates these results with many interesting examples of individual great psychologists .... Psychologists and historians who prefer a more inclusive approach and those who wish to pursue an understanding of exceptions to Simonton's laws may find this book a source of inspiration for detailed studies of psychologists within their historical contexts."
Nicole B. Barenbaum, Journal of the
History of the Behavioral Sciences, on Great Psychologists
and Their Times.
"In Simonton's bold formulation, creative genius - the ability to produce highly original ideas with staying power - is based on a fundamentally Darwinian process that enhances the adaptive fitness of the individual and the human species. In a fascinating treatise leavened with candid descriptions by Einstein, Nietzsche, Mozart, Darwin, Poe, Linus Pauling and many others of their own creative processes, Simoton, a professor of psychology at UC-Davis, argues that creativity can be understood as a process akin to natural selection that leads to the survival of those ideas that prove their hardiness.... Besides providing his own mathematical model of creative prodcutivity, which will interest specialists, Simonton explores how cultural evolution and environmental influences stimulate the emergence of genius, as well as the links between mental illness and creativity. His dense and at times astonishing analysis of the creative process is likely to generate controversy but also has the potential to influence how we think about the human mind"
Publishers Weekly, on Origins
"Simonton (psychology, U. of California-Davis) argues that creativity can best be understood as a Darwinian process of variation and selection. Then he uses that construction to explore the sudden appearances of dazzling artists and scientists, the definition of genius, the conditions or personality traits that seem to produce exceptionally creative people, and the association between genius and madness."
Book News, on Origins of Genius.
"The latest, and possibly most comprehensive, entry into this genre [of books on genius] is Dean Keith Simonton's new book Genius 101 .... Simonton, a psychology professor at the University of California, Davis, is one of the world's leading authorities on the intellectually eminent, whom he has studied since his Harvard grad-school days in the 1970s."
John Cloud, Newsweek, on Genius
"However right or wrong Dean Keith Simonton may be about creative genius in science and art, I'm grateful to him for having engaged me in so much fruitful thinking on issues fundamental to our understanding of human potential."
Denis Dutton, Philosophy and
Literature, on Origins of Genius.
"This is a book that might be used as a text or as a reference but here's the great part: It can be read for enjoyment! This is not damning with faint praise, but rather an endorsement of a rare accomplishment. Simonton has created a monument to completeness and complexity, but it is highly readable. ... Simonton has compiled an excellent reference on greatness. The book is very well written, full of examples and creative interpretation, persuasive, and up to date. This is a great book about greatness."
Malcolm James Ree, in Personnel
Psychology, on Greatness.
"Genius, Creativity, and Leadership is a fascinating book. Simonton establishes a form of investigation he calls 'historiometry' - the statistical analysis of historical data. So doing, he displays both intellectual creativity and scholarly leadership. Genius is for the generations to decide."
Harvey Mindess, in the Los Angeles
Times, on Genius, Creativity, and Leadership.
"Only a great book could do justice to greatness throughout the ages, and Simonton has produced one. ... a valuable resource for professionals and engaging reading for lay audiences. ... The book also provides an unexpected view of the history of psychology."
Readings: A Journal of Reviews and
Commentary on Mental Health, on Greatness.
"This book is required reading for anyone wanting to understand the creative power of the human intellect, the power that Darwin himself tapped to change forever our understanding of the evolution of species and our own place in nature. Origins of Genius may well be instrumental in changing forever our understanding of the evolution of creative human thought."
Gary Cziko, on Origins of Genius.
"In this very readable book, widely published psychologist Simonton attempts to determine what factors history-makers share in common and what characterizes them as unique . . . lively and convincing."
B. Ayers-Nachamkin, in Choice, on
"Simonton has been one of the few researchers studying scientific creativity, and this book meticulously summarizes his work. His book stands alone in offering a comprehensive psychological theory of scientific genius.... An excellent review of the research literature on genius is included. A valuable addition to collections in the history and philosophy of science."
J. G. Morawski, in Choice, on Scientific
"This is a stimulating and rewarding book. Even if one disagrees with some, many, or even all of its assertions, it is hard not to imagine anyone not only learning a good deal, but also enjoying this book. It contains a strong thesis which should be quite novel to most readers, even if it is not an original thesis; it is both well argued and well documented; it introduces and deals seriously with a wide range of studies; and, last but not least, it is well written."
Charles W. Smith, in Contemporary
Sociology, on Scientific Genius.
"The range of quantitative studies described is staggering and the writing is engaging. The book carries the reader along in its hypomanic enthusiasm. ...The book will repay the attention of anyone interested in this kind of history."
Robert M. Galatzer-Levy, in Isis,
on Genius, Creativity, and Leadership.
"Simonton has produced another superb book on creativity.... The book is extremely well written and a pleasure to read. Simonton makes a great effort to reach his audience, summarizing and recapitulating as he goes along.... Kudos to the scientific genius of Simonton!"
Stephanie Dudek, in Psychology and
the Arts Newsletter, on Scientific Genius.
"Simonton is one of the most creative methodologists and theorists in social psychology today."
Philip Tetlock, on Why Presidents
"What makes an Einstein happen? How is it that some kids grow up to be Nobel laureates while others, seemingly their equals, go on to undistinguished careers? Dean Simonton, professor of psychology at the University of California at Davis, has striven to understand this phenomenon for years and has compiled his insights and research in Origins of Genius: Darwinian Perspectives on Creativity. His evolutionary perspective sheds new light on an old topic, suggesting that the genius is able to generate a diverse range of ideas, recombine them, and choose the "fittest" with which to proceed. These faculties might have a wide range of origins, including both genetic and environmental, and Simonton tries to pinpoint them and their similarities with the etiology of mental illness. His writing style is humble and personable, yet as penetrating when discussing experimental results as it is humane when presenting examples of genius and madness at work. While defining such terms as intelligence and creativity are (and should be) daunting even to a thoughtful psychologist like Simonton, his use of the terms is precise enough to avoid mushy thinking yet wiggly enough to satisfy most critics. His deeply engaging writing coupled with the undeniable, almost urgent fascination that his subject holds makes Origins of Genius a rousing success by any standard."
Rob Lightner, on Origins of Genius,
"Now I Know Why I am Not a Genius!
I have recently finished Origins of Genius and am about to dig into Simonton’s Genius. I felt privileged to share a few hours with Simonton over the past week seeing how Darwin’s ideas play a significant role in creativity. I was swept away by the book’s breadth and enthralled by its Darwinian perspective. The book avoids technical jargon and is readily accessible to the general reader. Even after I finished the book, I found myself going back to reread the good bits."
Anonymous reader from NYC, on Origins
of Genius, for Amazon.com
"This book represents the culmination of Dean Keith Simonton's more than twenty-year search for the psychological foundations and meaning of the attribution of greatness to hundreds of historical personalities. This work is appropriate for social scientists of all stripes but also for the general reader: not only is it the most comprehensive treatment of the subject but also Simonton has lucidly written his 'psychology of history' in a style that is at times chatty. Perhaps the main exception is his chapter on psychometrics, but even there he attains a clarity enviable by his coworkers in the field of psychology."
Jack Fruchtman, Jr., in The Annals of
the American Academy of Political and Social Science, on Greatness.
"In seeking a unified theory of scientific creativity, Simonton has written a remarkably well-researched, well-argued, and well-presented synthesis.... There is so much good material in Scientific Genius that one simply cannot afford to be without it. Hence this valuable book should be on the shelf of every student of creativity."
Social Psychology of Science, on
"Simonton is one of those incredible authors from whose mouth flows liquid gold whenever he opens it. Psychology, Science and History is a solid gold investment."
Stephanie Dudek, in Psychology and
the Arts Newsletter, on Psychology, Science, and History.
"the book is full of interesting (often bemusing) information, wise methodological advice, and frequent insights into specific issues, written in an often engaging style. However different from my own the drum to which Simonton is marching, I am happy to keep him in earshot."
Graham Richards, in Medical History,
on Psychology, Science, and History.
"This book sets out to bring together, evaluate, and to suggest the significance of published material - principally but not exclusively quantitative - dealing with the factors that appear to be associated with artistic and scientific creativity, and with remarkable political leadership. Simonton has himself in the past decade or so published some of the best work in the area. . . . [H]e shows that systematic inquiry can produce firm and testable generalizations of good explanatory and predictive utility."
Robert S. Robins, in American
Political Science Review, on Genius, Creativity, and
"History has always fascinated readers but the question, in what ways can one evaluate history, has often perplexed. Simonton's book contains a detailed account of what kinds of questions can be asked and by what methods they may be answered. What may be surprising is the delightful array of meaningful questions which have been addressed. ... Simonton gives us a readable, exciting account."
Douglas Ammons, in Perceptual and
Motor Skills, on Psychology, Science, and History.
"Simonton... presents an intriguing and thorough discussion of the nature and origins of creativity.... Simonton's book challenges anyone concerned with the welfare of science or any other creative enterprise."
Daryl Chubin and Lisa Heinz, in Issues
Science and Technology, on Scientific Genius.
"Despite these criticisms, the book remains welcome as a very rare example of anyone even attempting to develop a psychology of science. It does bring together much of the empirical evidence on the subject, and it provides a useful and up-to-date starting point for anyone wishing to enter the field."
John Hendry, in British Journal of
the History of Science, on Scientific Genius.
"Dean Keith Simonton … provides an encompassing overview of the factors that contribute to genius."
Richard Restock, in Washington Post,
on Origins of Genius.
"With an erudite and readable style, this book reintroduces the reader to great characters via their own personal characteristics. ... [H]is glimpse of insight into the mechanisms of greatness merits reflection. Certainly, Greatness unfolds the beginnings of the psychohistorical landscape with its audience."
Jane Berndt, in Presidential Studies
Quarterly, on Greatness.
"His book will be marvelous bed-time reading for any academic with a curiosity about historical or statistical matters."
Patrick Rabbitt, in Nature, on Scientific
"Psychology, Science, and History thus provides a useful introduction to historiometry and a thoughtful inquiry into the strengths and weaknesses of the field."
Daniel J. Wilson, in Psychohistory
Review, on Psychology, Science, and History.
"Simonton has performed a valuable service by reviewing the literature, raising issues, and advancing hypotheses."
Karl Hufbauer, in Science, on Genius,
Creativity, and Leadership.
"Why presidents succeed is an obviously important issue. Readers of Simonton's book will find no easy explanations. They will find, however, one of the best bibliographies on the subject ever compiled in one place. They also will find Why Presidents Succeed to be a very helpful reference tool and guide to further examination of this topic. For these purposes alone, this volume no doubt will be widely used in graduate courses on the presidency and possibly in those that explore the theories of political leadership."
Bert A. Rockman, in Journal of
Interdisciplinary History, on Why Presidents Succeed.
"Simonton has made a valuable, stimulating contribution that can't but help to move presidential studies forward."
Daniel Paul Franklin, in Presidential
Studies Quarterly, on Why Presidents Succeed.
"the book deserves a place in the presidency specialist's library."
Bruce Buchanan, in Social Science
Quarterly, on Why Presidents Succeed.
"the book is recommended reading for presidential scholars. It is both a good source of information drawn from different disciplines and a useful corrective to at least some conventional thinking."
Barbara Kellerman, in Political
Science Quarterly, on Why Presidents Succeed.
"Simonton's book is well written, well organized, and well documented. The interdisciplinary approach of the book is one of its strongest features.... Simonton's work is likely to be controversial; important works often are. It is well worth reading for the questions it raises and the potential answers it provides."
Donald A. Gross, in Register of the
Kentucky Historical Society, on Why Presidents Succeed.
"All in all, the book is an interesting and sometimes surprising compendium of information.... [T]he book accomplishes a great deal and should be of interest to any scholar of presidential politics."
Donald McQuarie, in Psychohistory
Review, on Why Presidents Succeed.
"As a presidential election approaches, this volume is likely to attract a respectable audience among followers of the political process."
BOOKLIST: The Professional Multimedia
Evaluation Service, on Why Presidents Succeed.
"[Simonton] offers something new in his role as 'political psychologist,' studying such oft-ignored factors as motivation, cognitive style, intelligence, childhood experiences, age, attitudes, and environmental stimuli.... Heavy-going stuff from academe, but likely to hold up well next to its predecessors."
Kirkus Reviews, on Why Presidents
"Few topics have been as fascinating to scholars, professionals, and laypeople as creativity, but most social scientists believe that it is beyond the ken of empirical study. One notable exception is D. K. Simonton, who in his recent book, Creativity in Science: Chance, Logic, Genius, and Zeitgeist, presents a systematic view of scientific creativity. He gives primary emphasis to chance as an explanatory concept .... Simonton builds a strong case for the chance perspective. His arguments are clear and often persuasive."
Vera John-Steiner, in the American
Journal of Psychology, on Creativity in Science.
"if a review of the literature on the characteristics of successful scientists is what you seek, this book may be for you."
Morton Schatzman, in New Scientist,
on Scientific Genius.
"Meant for a broad audience, the book investigates creativity in general. More specifically, education planners could use its insights in mapping out the curricula for the budding scientists of the 1990's."
Jan Erickson, in Brain/Mind Bulletin,
on Scientific Genius.
"'Great Psychologists and their times' is a fine example of the skilful application of psychology’s scientific arsenal to a field where idiographic methods still dominate. In that, it is original and creative, an example of the book’s very subject matter. If you are interested in methodology and in nomothetic creativity research, this book will be valuable for you."
Jürgen Klecker, in Metapsychology,
on Great Psychologist and Their Times.
"Simonton should be applauded for showing how we can apply an underused resource, historic cases, to conduct quantitative studies of leadership and creativity. In fact, the studies summarized from this book indicate that the empirical relations established through application of this approach may provide a powerful tool for initial theory development. "
Michael Mumford, on Psychology,
Science, and History.
"This engaging and insightful book explores the four candidates that traditionally have been suggested to explain creativity in science. Recommended."
R.M. Davis, in CHOICE, on Creativity
"Simonton is a very clear writer, and the empirical support he marshals is impressive. Although the book begins with an advisement of mathematical formulae to be used, Simonton does not bog the reader down with equations. Instead, he affirms the superiority of the change approach as an overarching explanation to scientific creativity with a thorough account of how the causal predictions based on the logic, genius, and zeitgeist perspectives ultimately contradict available data."
Christopher H. Ramey, in Philosophical
Psychology, on Creativity in Science.
"Overall, this is a solidly written book and considerably more interesting than the average history and systems book. The author has gone to great pains to compile such a substantial and complete work. This will be a wonderful book for undergraduates and graduate students and has earned a well deserved place in the field of psychology."
Doody's Review Service, on Great
Psychologists and Their Times
"Finally, the power and value of movies is undergoing rigorous, scientific inquiry. In this extraordinary volume, Kaufman and Simonton bring together top researchers to explore the best that science has to offer in helping us understand what goes into successful movies, the role of each cinematic element, and the importance of our own perceptions. They bring the science of the world's most engaging art-form right into your hands. Highly recommended!"
Ryan M. Niemiec, on The Social
Science of Cinema
"Over the past decade, the social science of cinema has emerged as an exciting area of research, due in large part to the scholars whose work appears in this volume. This research gives us new insights into film-making, the creative process, audience interaction with movies, and the films themselves. The breadth and high quality of the collected chapters ensure that this book will be the key resource for researchers and students working in the social science of cinema for years to come."
Jonathan Plucker, on The Social
Science of Cinema
“This is not a typical work on the history of psychology but prides itself as a work based largely on ‘historiometric methods.’ … Historiometrics is the use of archival data in almost any available form and bringing it to bear on questions of greatness or eminence in a particular field or fields. Hence, one can study the greatness of scientists, politicians, literary figures, and so on by counting their works, citations, analyzing the content of their works for various components, examining generational factors, biographical factors, personal factors, and so on. Technical details are few and the book reads somewhat like an advanced undergraduate textbook that of course enhances its accessibility but occasionally leads to rather superficial analyses. … Despite these quibbles, it does stand as a solid representative of the historiometric tradition (sometimes also referred to as bibliometrics or scientometrics …). Among certain social science historians, this way of proceeding has pride of place for it grants historical analysis a scientific legitimacy. One measures facets of the historical record, enters these into various kinds of metric analyses, and draws the appropriate conclusions.”
Henderikus J. Stam in Canadian
Psychology on Great Psychologists and Their Times
"Riteniamo, in altri termini, che il volume di Simonton possa contribuire significativamente anche alla discusione tra paradigmi di ricerca diversi; dalla convergenza dei quali dovrebbe risultare precisata e rafforzata la validità delle prospettive di indagine."
Valeria Biasi, in Rassegna di
Psicologia, on Genius and Creativity.
Honors Publications Received
Complete Publication List
Last updated: March 18, 2014