Articles, Blog

The Common Character Trait of Geniuses | James Gleick

October 19, 2019

I’m tempted to say smart, creative people
have no particularly different set of character traits than the rest of us except for being
smart and creative, and those being character traits. Then, on the other hand, I wrote a
biography of Richard Feynman and a biography of Isaac Newton. Now, there are two great
scientific geniuses whose characters were in some superficial ways completely different.
Isaac Newton was solitary, antisocial, I think unpleasant, bitter, fought with his friends
as much as with his enemies. Richard Feynman was gregarious, funny, a great dancer, loved
women. Isaac Newton, I believe, never had sex. Richard Feynman, I believe, had plenty.
So you can’t generalize there. On the other hand, they were both, as I tried
to get in their heads, understand their minds, the nature of their genius, I sort of felt
I was seeing things that they had in common, and they were things that had to do with aloneness.
Newton was much more obviously alone than Feynman, but Feynman didn’t particularly work
well with others. He was known as a great teacher, but he wasn’t a great teacher, I
don’t think, one on one. I think he was a great lecturer. I think he was a great communicator.
But when it came time to make the great discoveries of science, he was alone in his head. Now,
when I say he, I mean both Feynman and Newton, and this applies, also, I think, to the geniuses
that I write about in The Information, Charles Babbage, Alan Turing, Ada Byron. They all
had the ability to concentrate with a sort of intensity that is hard for mortals like
me to grasp, a kind of passion for abstraction that doesn’t lend itself to easy communication,
I don’t think.

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  • Reply L P March 29, 2019 at 9:39 pm

    Some is black too enit ????

  • Reply L P March 29, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    1. Sincerity , good intention…..everything else comes after…Most people see as far as their belly's which means, they will not acquire any knowledge that they cannot see a direct benefit in. Good people acquire knowledge they dont need but if you do that over 20-30 years, suddenly, you begin solving puzzles the other selfish cunts cannot., Russel Brand, forget it mate, you are not selfless or Jesus,therefore, not a genius…move on. …where was I….oh yeah, ….thats all there is to it… natural law, it is impossible for any selfish person to be a genius, even if they have IQ 500………..dats my 2 cents, 2 cents, is all i is got.

  • Reply L P March 29, 2019 at 10:06 pm

    Fuck this shit, I am telepathic….for REALS I TELL YOU

  • Reply MrGriff305 March 31, 2019 at 3:07 am

    I'm a genius, bruh!

  • Reply Burton Matterhorn April 2, 2019 at 12:09 am

    Hey genius, yah. Geniuses think by themselves.

  • Reply The Amchair Philosopher April 3, 2019 at 12:03 am

    Most who think they are a genius, aren't. Also genius comes in many factor. Some geniuses are highly philosophical, while some are artistic.

  • Reply john peter April 3, 2019 at 8:37 am

    Shut up you stupid prevaricating fool. People don`t waste your two minutes….

  • Reply Rod Kelly April 3, 2019 at 1:00 pm

    Me be smart

  • Reply odinsmeadhorn April 4, 2019 at 12:44 am

    Be a genius, put out a rap album.

  • Reply Stella Ercolani April 4, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    I love geniuses and ppl who live in their heads. They are fascinating to me. I could listen to them forever.

  • Reply Fred April 4, 2019 at 4:00 pm

    Yes, we are mostly introverts. Donald Trump is a genius who seems to be an extrovert.

  • Reply Xavier Chan April 4, 2019 at 6:29 pm

    I prefer a wizard to a genius.. more useful. The

  • Reply Stephen H April 5, 2019 at 5:13 pm

    What Dumb Thing has my Smart Friend now done ?

  • Reply SoundCzech April 6, 2019 at 1:02 am

    I really find myself stupid. But then I go to my therapist and he says how my thoughts are really dense and powerful. I don't know. I didn't want to humble brag. Just trying to itch in my own personal thing I guess. Wait, why did I even make this comment and then continue to post it. And why would people only react to that previous sentence if I hadn't typed this one after it. am I predicting to much… Ok I should post this before I go in to a rabbit hole.

  • Reply Kin Hamid April 6, 2019 at 4:12 pm


  • Reply Hugh1 April 7, 2019 at 4:02 pm

    Feynman collaborated effectively with Hans Bethe in the Manhattan project, and was also made a group leader there. Maybe your point is that ingenious reevolutionary breakthroughs in physics aren't collaborations, but don't say Feynman couldn't work with other people.

  • Reply Patricio Vidaurre April 8, 2019 at 3:11 am

    Isaac Newton never had sex?!?! That’s crazy!

  • Reply Petra Kann April 9, 2019 at 12:46 am

    You forgot "luck"

  • Reply Kaleb April 9, 2019 at 10:52 pm

    We are all alone.

  • Reply user_mac01 April 10, 2019 at 1:04 am

    This guy never read Waiting fer Godot.

  • Reply john james April 10, 2019 at 2:48 pm

    firstly, comparing these two distinct personalities is a mistake. they were probably 40 iq points apart and better than 3 centuries. newton was isolated and solitary because of his supernatural intelligence and feynman was well socialized because he was able to straddle the intellectual fence, as it were. be more circumspect in your next comparative analysis, for all of us who discern,carefully..

  • Reply aden light April 11, 2019 at 5:14 am

    I wonder how many "geniuses" are in the comment section?

  • Reply P . M Hansraj April 11, 2019 at 5:47 pm

    Just discovered….I am a genius !! Anti social ……loner ……all I need is the elusive …intense focus !!!

  • Reply Mohd Saqib April 14, 2019 at 3:49 am

    U also consider urself a genius 😁

  • Reply River Todd April 14, 2019 at 11:38 am

    Why is the world a shithole with so many genius… All Bullshit.

  • Reply Mike Fuller April 15, 2019 at 8:40 pm

    My IQ is 180! 1 / 3.5 Million.

  • Reply butthole and also nipple April 16, 2019 at 4:19 am

    i am am infiltrate intellect smart person

  • Reply Rocky Tablason April 16, 2019 at 4:50 am

    Best people are crazy

  • Reply Chris Zablocki April 16, 2019 at 6:31 am

    A. Get exploited by socially adept capitalist or the government.
    B. Play poker.

  • Reply InteryCreeper April 16, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    analyzing the replies to this video message has made me conclude that the key to being a genius is not abiding to peer-pressure..
    thanks, after all these people told me to do so, I will ignore others.

    yes, I will not ignore others and ignore others.

  • Reply imobeus1 April 17, 2019 at 2:00 am

    The common character trait in geniuses…is that they're geniuses. Boom.

  • Reply Jose Diola April 17, 2019 at 5:05 pm

    i think im a genius..
    of getting bullied and friendzoned..

  • Reply panda007 April 18, 2019 at 9:36 am

    Isaac chose not to get laid. This explains his grumpiness.

  • Reply Enea Pane April 18, 2019 at 3:31 pm

    Marie Curie?

  • Reply Crinan the Thane April 18, 2019 at 11:17 pm

    You are my perspiration…..

  • Reply Matthew Nelson April 19, 2019 at 4:13 pm

    The Smartest Person that ever lived : (

  • Reply Donaldo Mac Eachen April 19, 2019 at 5:01 pm

    Now we have a shitload of socially retarded (and probably generally retarded) people thinking they are geniuses

  • Reply Graham Wellington April 20, 2019 at 1:27 am

    I don't think he was being fair to Newton. Never mind putting this Finyman (whoever he was) in the same sentence with Newton. It's the idea that he speaks so critically of him like as if it's just a given that Newton was a miserable scoundrel towards about everyone and it's settled and needn't be questioned.

  • Reply Araniel Official April 22, 2019 at 7:15 am

    When I'm in a creative rush, I can't finish almost until fatigue in a turbo af mode and most people I know get along with me superficially, but when they see my processes, I'm a freak!

  • Reply Svante Ylvinger April 22, 2019 at 8:55 am

    Concentrate really hard on the problem you are trying to solve. Take longer walks thinking only about how to solve it. "Live with the problem" for quite some time. Do not interact socially with others since it is an distraction. If you are lucky your brain will then eventually solve the problem while you are sleeping so make sure to write down the solution when you wake up.

  • Reply Williamtipq April 23, 2019 at 9:16 am

    Today’s famous “intellectuals” have 0 accomplishments.
    da Vinci intelligence is extinct.
    Forget that level, there are great inventors, and innovators today, but they certainly are not cultural figures.
    Famous intellectuals of today are unaccomplished dorks who debate religion and nonsense like that.
    Jaque Fresco is dead
    I think a lot of his ideas could have been too easily abused in the wrong hands, but he was undoubtedly one of the greatest minds until his death.
    You’ve never even heard of Kevin Hay, some Canadian modern Tesla.
    There’s this one Asian dude who invented the floppy disk. . . That guy is fucking inspiring.
    That might be the closest thing to da Vinci intelligence left, along with a few other inventors, and silicone valley fucks no one has ever heard of.
    Guarantee no one has ever heard of them.

  • Reply Divine Zoomer April 23, 2019 at 8:12 pm

    Just remember you don't need to be a genius to be a great person. or even to go down in the history books.

  • Reply Derek Lowe April 24, 2019 at 12:17 am

    Geniuses know that leftists are radical communists and the enemies of liberty

  • Reply Alexandra Ledesman April 24, 2019 at 4:12 am

    In my sociology book, it points out a study that found out thinking by yourself yields better and more creative results in less time than participating in brainstorming with other people. It's just that most people tend to enjoy working with others more and therefore perceive their results more favorable when they work with others.

    I've never liked study groups or group projects for this reason. I learn faster and better on my own. I only like group study if I don't understand anything.

  • Reply Kronus April 24, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    Thank you for stroking my ego, now I can say I'm lonely because I am genius and not because I'm boring as hell and can't carry a 5 minute conversation

  • Reply TheGodEmperorofMankind April 25, 2019 at 7:49 pm

    So I am more like Newton, interesting lol

  • Reply arnob chowdhury May 5, 2019 at 3:21 am

    Everything was a match till he said something about concentrating deeply.

  • Reply hoastbeef May 7, 2019 at 6:12 pm

    You know, this can all be simply explained by saying they had Asperger's Syndrome.

  • Reply billy osullivan May 10, 2019 at 11:09 pm

    Im gay dabo dee dabo die.

  • Reply Alfonso Cantu May 12, 2019 at 5:24 am

    So Newton Was A "Shelton Cooper"..But The Other Guy Was A Very "Smart Tommy Boy"..Luckiest Of All To Be A "Marine Corps Grunt"..That Can Dizzle You With My Brilliants And Baffle you With My Bull Shit..An If I Can Not Convince..I Will Confuse You..Because We Have Been Doing So Much..With So Little…For So Long..That We Can Do Anything..Without Nothing..Yours Very Truely L/CPL Alfonso Cantu USMC

  • Reply b j May 12, 2019 at 10:34 pm

    he looks stupid

  • Reply justmadeit2 May 13, 2019 at 4:44 am

    If you can be happy, have peace of mind and don't suffer depression then you are a genius in my book

  • Reply Island Utopia May 15, 2019 at 3:08 am

    I hate people but I love people. 😝

  • Reply Johnny West May 16, 2019 at 12:22 pm

    The first step to Genius is to reject stupidity like Equality, Diversity, and Tolerance. Then continue from there.

  • Reply yousifmq May 16, 2019 at 10:24 pm

    How do you even make such videos in which people speak but tell you nothing at the same time? It is such a talent to be honest, Disliked

  • Reply Yetzirah Mihael May 17, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    According to Jungian Psychology
    Both Newton and Feynman had Intuition as a dominant cognitive function, but in different orientations.

    Newton had the following cognitive structure
    Dominant Ni: Subjective Intuition (Perspectives, insights)
    Auxiliary Te: Objective Thinking (Effectiveness, Inductive Logic)
    Tertiary Fi: Subjective Values (Authenticity)
    Inferior Se: Objective Sensation
    Other INTJ's: Friedrich Nietzsche, Nikola Tesla, John Nash.

    Feynman had the following cognitive structure
    Dominant Ne: Objective Intuition (Possibilities in the outside world)
    Auxiliary Ti: Subjective Thinking (Internal Logic Structure, Deductive Logic)
    Tertiary Fe: Objective Values (Interpersonal Harmony)
    Inferior Si: Subjective Sensation
    Other ENTP's: Leonardo Da Vinci, Socrates.

  • Reply Tomislav B May 21, 2019 at 11:19 pm

    They where both narcistic and self-centred

  • Reply alpha sting rat May 23, 2019 at 6:14 pm

    Loneliness . Intellectual loneliness but not physical loneliness. My biggest problem is I'm aware of this and have come up with multiple end results all end up pretty much the same .

  • Reply Arisu Tsukiyama May 28, 2019 at 12:43 pm

    Intelligent people don't usually fit in,nand are often solitary.

  • Reply Bnelen May 30, 2019 at 8:10 pm

    Geniuses are like the rest of us. It's their ideas that are interesting. Not trying to be insightful here.

  • Reply Cookies and Cream June 18, 2019 at 1:09 pm

    Genius is are me I yam.

  • Reply Games Cooky June 18, 2019 at 2:28 pm

    So basically if you live in solitude, you're a genius.
    That's the summary of this video.

  • Reply Luke Solomons June 21, 2019 at 9:28 pm

    Dont look for answers…just become and the answers will find you!

  • Reply 4c00h June 22, 2019 at 8:59 pm

    Even the need to feel unique is not unique.

  • Reply dogs aren't dangerous June 23, 2019 at 12:51 am

    Could listen to this guy talk for hours.

  • Reply Optimus Phoenix Prime June 23, 2019 at 7:46 pm

    I'm always in my head 🕵️‍♀️ Dmass LoL
    Why me and technologies hyperDigi

  • Reply Nina Willow June 24, 2019 at 2:16 pm

    Hmm…"INTJ Dyslexia" lead me here.

  • Reply NEON BLUE June 25, 2019 at 11:11 pm

    Dyslexic people are the smartest, 👍

  • Reply joelmgarton June 29, 2019 at 5:15 am

    Being smart and creative aren't character traits. That's like saying being white is a character trait. Character is changeable and influenced by societal mores. Intelligence is genetic. It is stupid statements like that that make geniuses avoid common people.

  • Reply Art Munio July 2, 2019 at 3:55 am

    Feynman is very far from Newton😅

  • Reply EVIGT IMMXRTALISERADE • 7,000 years ago July 9, 2019 at 12:33 am

    Why are we so retarded. Honestly, we know fucking nothing and we likely never will. All we know is a fraction of a fraction of what is possible, and we will never reach that level. It's taken us more than 5,000 years to discover how to effectively fuse the hydrogen atom with efficiency. Its pathetic. We may never know and the answer is right in front of our ignorant faces.

  • Reply Lee Turner July 11, 2019 at 7:29 pm

    sex with themselves maybe!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Reply Yuhua July 14, 2019 at 9:21 am

    I macht all the trayts , I is genious.

  • Reply Johnny Blaze July 20, 2019 at 6:15 pm

    Are we all possibly narcissists

  • Reply Michael Alexander July 21, 2019 at 4:58 am

    I am an INFJ personality type and IQ 157…. we need to time out from people and it is then that we get very creative…so I can relate to what he is saying…well done

  • Reply Leandro de Oliveira July 21, 2019 at 5:29 am


  • Reply Leandro de Oliveira July 21, 2019 at 5:31 am

    Being a genius don't change de fact that we all will desappear…and the time will erase everything you know..

  • Reply Plebian Bargain August 7, 2019 at 7:15 pm

    Sometimes you just get so alone it makes sense

  • Reply Mspaint Art August 9, 2019 at 1:09 pm

    Very hard to understand geniuses. Only they know and feel what goes on in their minds.

  • Reply John Pickup - CDHS August 20, 2019 at 10:43 pm

    In a world where people generously suck, the simpleton human, lacking the desire for their company, considers himself a "genius".

  • Reply garderobert August 22, 2019 at 8:44 pm

    Dont skip school kids. 🖖

  • Reply SC EM August 30, 2019 at 2:19 pm

    “Full of self”

    God’s inconvenient Truth: God told us specifically of this time. Be not surprised. Go see it for yourself.

    2 Timothy 3 King James Version (KJV)

    3 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

    2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

    3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

    4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

    5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

    6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,

    7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.

  • Reply Alfredo Hernández Lara September 1, 2019 at 5:16 am

    Not having a mullet?

  • Reply Rhuth K September 8, 2019 at 3:19 pm

    We as humans would be able to concentrate because we have the power to. unfortunately, that power is reduced by social media which has only made us have the attention of a squirrel. We have lost the power to focus and concentrate on one thing for a long time due to our ficklemindedness. Our biggest creation is the reason why we are losing who we are as humans. It's making us more and more prone to simple things in life and things around us, therefore we never take a keen look into the depth of something. Our curiosity and ability to think, has decreased because of how simple it has become to find answers by just googling it instead of working or thinking to find the answer or solution to a certain problem.

  • Reply Filipenko September 11, 2019 at 8:44 pm

    damn i can relate to these geniuses so much which means im a genius too. yes i came to that conclusion using my genius intelligence and reasoning!

  • Reply moe al September 11, 2019 at 9:41 pm

    everybody is dumb in a way. in a dumb person way yall Don't have l the facts that makes you kinda dumb but I do deserves not even to be known..

  • Reply Kick butoxy September 14, 2019 at 10:15 am

    Isaac Newton is still head fucking us with his theories 😒

  • Reply Kc Cooper September 17, 2019 at 2:35 am

    I just search this up bc I took a test and my IQ is 124

  • Reply Pedro Takahashi Gunderson September 20, 2019 at 10:39 pm

    i'm an excellent driver

  • Reply Ally Cindy Abbaren September 21, 2019 at 1:44 pm

    Society is Changing, and most people today doesn't know what life really is.

  • Reply CessPool Ω September 25, 2019 at 4:14 am

    Take note on how he speaks. Notice how he thinks about what he is saying while he's talking and takes his time. This is how a well read person communicates.

  • Reply Gilberto Hernandez September 29, 2019 at 9:26 am

    im not genius cause i had to look at the last comment to spellit. I will say this, I have a lot of both. I get along with every one and love to tell jokes. at the same time i like to be alone. i think im smart but i also think im dumb. and i sometimes think that i must be from another place. i dont care for grammer as long as i can get my point across. but rarely i do. can you relate? And i searched am i as smart as i think i am? i cant find something to help me tone it down and just be like all the rest. one of the most intresting inventions to me is how wipers on an auto work. it is crazy!

  • Reply Snee Zee October 3, 2019 at 1:47 am

    go ahead, make my day

  • Reply Snee Zee October 3, 2019 at 1:49 am

    grow up

  • Reply Damani Dorsey October 6, 2019 at 9:21 pm


  • Reply Doss Dawson October 7, 2019 at 8:12 am

    I em a genius,

  • Reply Xander Smith October 8, 2019 at 12:03 am

    this guy is comparing Newton to Feynman lol

  • Reply Kono Dutch October 14, 2019 at 6:16 am

    Yeah he's like a genius…. I need to study.

  • Reply Sopho Nax October 17, 2019 at 2:40 am

    Hm. A bit shallow, no?
    The title of the video was promising.

  • Reply rafaeln21 October 18, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    This guys is a genius
    I am gonna wait till he is dead then I am gonna write about him

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