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Beautiful Minds: The Enigma of Genius

Date & Time

Saturday, June 4, 2011
8:00 PM - 9:30 PM
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NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts

Immanuel Kant, who coined the term genius in the 1700s, defined it as the rare capacity to independently understand concepts that would normally have to be taught by another person. Since then, the spectrum of abilities that we call genius has widened, but pivotal questions remain: What exactly is genius? Where do the remarkable abilities of genius come from? Is genius something that lives within all of us, or is it a categorically different way of seeing the world that is bestowed upon only a few? With the emergence of new imaging technologies and a fundamental shift in the understanding of how information is spread through our brains, we’re beginning to find some answers. We joined neuroscientists, psychologists, renowned thinkers, and special performers as they untangled the complicated nature of genius, creativity, and exceptionality.

Watch videos from this event now

On the blog: The Other Brain of Genius

This program was part of The Big Ideas Series, made possible with the support of the John Templeton Foundation.


  • Marcus du Sautoy

    Mathematician Mathematician, researcher, writer, and radio presenter Marcus du Sautoy has contributed to the Times, Daily Telegraph, Independent and the Guardian. For several years, he wrote a regular column in the Times called Sexy Science. He is also a frequent commentator on BBC radio and television, and was a presenter for BBC4’s TV game show Mind Games, where he was nominated for the Royal Society of Television’s Best Newcomer to a Network Award. More »
  • R. Douglas Fields

    Neurologist, Author R. Douglas Fields is a developmental neurobiologist and author of The Other Brain, a popular book about the discovery of brain cells (called glia) that communicate without using electricity. More »
  • Philip Glass

    Composer Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Philip Glass is a graduate of the University of Chicago and the Juilliard School. In the early 1960s, Glass spent two years of intensive study in Paris with Nadia Boulanger and while there, earned money by transcribing Ravi Shankar’s Indian music into Western notation. More »
  • Rex Jung

    Neuropsychologist Rex Jung's current work focuses on the manifestation of creativity in the brain—a cognitive capacity perhaps critically dependent upon, yet distinctly different, from intelligence. More »
  • Dean Keith Simonton

    Psychologist Renowned for his groundbreaking contributions to the study of genius, Dean Keith Simonton has provided his expertise to over 400 publications on the topic, including a dozen books. More »
  • Julie Taymor

    Director In 1998, Taymor became the first woman to win the Tony® Award for Best Direction of a Musical, and also won a Tony® for Best Costumes, for her landmark production of The Lion King. The musical has won three Molière Awards including Best Musical and Best Costumes, garnered Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Drama League awards for Taymor's direction, and myriad awards for her original costume, mask and puppet designs. More »