Dean Simonton

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In existographies, Dean Simonton (7- BE) (1948- BCM) (CR:22) (LH:7) (TL:29) is an American psychologist and genius studies scholar, noted for []


A summary of Simonton's 1983 study, showing that formal education, past bachelor's degree, shows a negative correlation in respect to the future ranked eminence of geniuses who make things.

In 1980s, Simonton began to do research in genius studies.

In 1991, Simonton, in his “When Giftedness Becomes Genius: How Does Talent Achieve Eminence?”, having studied the patterns of a large number of geniuses, reported that early parental death, being first born, and various educational anomalies, are three top commonalities unique to a large percentage of historical geniuses.[1]

In 2002, Simonton, in his Great Psychologists and Their Times, gave a partial list of scientists, philosophers, and psychologists, common to the phenomenon of early parental death and genius.[2]

In 2016, Simonton, in his “Reverse Engineering Genius: Historiometric Studies of Superlative Talent”, discusses the "historiometric method" of calculating the IQs of historical geniuses.[3]

Murray 4000

In 1997, Charles Murray, being influenced by the genius studies of Simonton, whose works “fill a shelf” in Murray’s library, began to amass names, from a variety of bibliographic works, thinking originally that the Greeks would dominate; he worked exclusively on this over the course of the next 6-years, completing the project in end 2002, with a total of 4,139-persons (see: Murray 4000) and a list of events and ponders 20 top persons in each of 21 categories: nine scientific, three philosophic, and nine artistic fields.


Quotes | By

The following are quotes by Simonton:

“These days it is virtually impossible to get anywhere in these fields without a JD, MD, or PhD. On the other hand, most artistic creators, revolutionary scientists, and other more unconventional achievers may have much to lose and little to gain form continuing with more than a smattering of higher education. They may need enough formal training to acquire certain basic knowledge and skills, such as the ability to write well and to carry on an informed conversation. Beyond that, the increased inculcation of more specialized disciplinary preoccupations may only interfere with more important pursuits. For instance, success in many fields is strongly correlated with voracious and omnivorous reading, and undisciplined activity that may suffer under academic demands.”
— Dean Simonton (1983), “Formal Education, Eminence, and Dogmatism: the Curvilinear Relationship” [4]
“Parental loss and orphanhood: Exceptionally achieving individuals in virtually every human endeavor are more likely to have lost a parent [in youth], and especially both, relative to any reasonable baseline (Albert 1971; Eiduson 1962; Eisenstadt 1978; Goertzel et al. 1978; Illingworth & lllingworth 1969; Martindale 1972; Walberg et al. 1980). Lenin was a teenager when his father died; Napoleon was around 15 when he lost his father; and Beethoven's mother died when he was 16, his father when he was 18. To show that these are not isolated instances, Eisenstadt (1978) examined 699 eminent personalities (about 14% of whom were scientists) from almost all eras and nationalities: 61% lost a parent before age 31, 52% before 26, and 45% before 21. Albert (1971) looked at the geniuses, both creators and leaders, who qualified for membership in the Cox (1926) sample and discovered that parental loss was characteristic of between 22 and 31%. Another investigation using a slightly overlapping sample of famous persons from all walks of life found that almost one-third of them had lost their fathers early in life (Walberg et al. 1980). This "orphanhood effect" has been most consistently demonstrated for literary creators: Martindale (1972) observed the absence of the father in 30% of a sample of poets. and more dramatically. Brown (1968) noted that 55% of his sample of writers had lost a parent before age 15. This same effect may hold for distinguished scientists as well: Newton's father died before Newton was even born, and though not nearly so dramatic, Boyle, Huygens, Lavoisier, Count Rumford. Lord Kelvin, Maxwell, and Marie Curie all lost a parent early in their lives (Price 1963, p. 109).”
— Dean Simonton (1998), Scientific Genius: a Psychology of Science [5]
“Now comes the bad news: None of them grew up to become what many people would consider unambiguous exemplars of genius. Their extraordinary intelligence was channeled into somewhat more ordinary endeavors as professors, doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers, and other professionals. Furthermore, many Termites failed to become highly successful in any intellectual capacity. These comparative failures were far less likely to graduate from college or to attain professional or graduate degrees, and far more likely to enter occupations that required no higher education whatsoever. We’re talking only of the males here, too. It would be unfair to consider the females who were born at a time in which all women were expected to become homemakers, no matter how bright. Whatever their differences, intelligence’ was not a determining factor in those who made it and those who didn’t.”
— Dean Simonton (2018), “Your IQ Matters Less Than You Think” [6]

End matter


  1. Simonton, Dean. (1991). “When Giftedness Becomes Genius: How Does Talent Achieve Eminence?”; in: Handbook of Gifted Education (editors: Nicholas Colangelo and Gary Davis) (pg. 343);. Allyn and Bacon.
  2. Simonton, Dean K. (2002). Great Psychologists and Their Times (Table 9.2). APA Books.
  3. Simonton, Dean. (2016), “Reverse Engineering Genius: Historiometric Studies of Superlative Talent” (pdf), Annals of the New York Academy of Science, xxxx:1-7.
  4. Simonton, Dean K. (1983). “Formal Education, Eminence, and Dogmatism: the Curvilinear Relationship” (abs), Journal of Creative Behavior, 17(figure 1):152.
  5. Simonton, Dean. (1998). Scientific Genius: a Psychology of Science (§: Parental loss and orphanhood, pgs. 108-). Cambridge.
  6. Simonton, Dean. (2018). “Your IQ Matters Less Than You Think: In studies of children and historical figures, IQ falls short as a measure of success”, Nautilus, Oct 4.

Further reading

  • Simonton, Dean. (2013). “After Einstein: Scientific Genius is Extinct” (txt), Nature, 493:602 Jan 30.
  • Simonton, Dean. (2014). “If You Think You’re a Genius, You’re Crazy: Both Geniuses and Madman Pay Attention to What Others Ignore” (txt), Nautilus, Oct 30.

External links

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