Hard work, perseverance and self-confidence are the keys to becoming a "genius", a leading expert said yesterday, dismissing the notion of the born prodigy.
Professor Michael Howe, from the University of Exeter, believes geniuses are re-markable but neither miraculous nor magical. "We are failing to learn the lessons from geniuses which we could apply to ourselves and our children. Nobody is born a genius," he said.
He has found that throughout history, people with extraordinary achievements have shared a common temperament rather than special mental powers. "They are highly socialised people with high levels of determination and a stubbornness to succeed. They are seen as a kind of race apart and a mystery. But geniuses are far from being a separate breed, they have much in common with everyone else."
He said that most geniuses struggle on when other people would give up, and that they rarely find their achievements easy.
"Most geniuses have made enormous efforts to equip themselves with special qualities. They all work extremely hard. To believe otherwise it to sell geniuses short by undervaluing their truly heroic accomplishments."
Professor Howe, author of Genius Explained, found that virtually all geniuses have a firm sense of purpose. He said that they usually are very certain about how to use their powers and are extremely self-confident.
"Parents and teachers have become obsessed about children's early progress. Of course it is remarkable to see young children succeeding at A-level school exams and it can be helpful to make a good start. But it takes far more than that to become a genius. Parents would do better to give their children lots of self-confidence and boost their self-esteem rather than force them to study hard if they want to create a genius."
Professor Howe has examined the lives of hundreds of geniuses and has attempted to dispel some myths. Charles Darwin, for example, is wrongly believed to have been an aimless young man who unaccountably turned into a genius; in fact he was one of the best prepared young scientists of his generation.
Albert Einstein is often said to have been a failure at school but this is false. He did well and came from a family with strong scientific interests. Likewise, the BrontÃ« sisters did not suddenly begin writing novels, but perfected their skills over many years.
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