Are geniuses born or made?

The Mutter Museum in Philadelphia houses an array of singular medical specimens. On the lower level the fused livers of 19th-century conjoined twins Chang and Eng float in a glass vessel. Nearby, visitors can gawk at the bladder stones of Chief Justice John Marshall, and a thighbone from a Civil War soldier with the wounding bullet still in place. But there’s one exhibit near the entrance that elicits unmatchable awe. You can see smudge marks left by museumgoers pressing their foreheads against the glass.

The object that fascinates them is a small wooden box containing 46 microscope slides, each displaying a slice of Albert Einstein’s brain. These remnants of tissue are mesmerizing even though — or perhaps because — they reveal little about the physicist’s vaunted powers of cognition. Other displays in the museum show disease and disfigurement. Einstein’s brain represents potential, the ability of one exceptional mind to catapult ahead of everyone else.

Throughout history, rare individuals have stood out for their meteoric contributions to a field. Lady Murasaki for her literary inventiveness. Michelangelo for his masterful touch. Marie Curie for her scientific acuity. “The genius,” wrote German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, “lights on his age like a comet into the …read more

Source:: The Week – Science

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