The history of "creativity" - Deepstash

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How did creativity become an engine of economic growth?

The history of "creativity"

The history of "creativity"
  • Creativity, as a power belonging to an individual, doesn't go back very far. The first recorded usage of the word creativity came from the Oxford English Dictionary in the 17th century: 'In Creation, we have God and his Creativity.'
  • In the 17th and 18th centuries, the creative power was thought of as divine. The idea of a secular creative ability in the imaginative arts didn't appear until the Romantic Era when the poet William Wordsworth addressed the painter and critic Benjamin Haydon: 'Creative art...demands the service of a mind and heart.'
  • In the 1970s, writers reflected on the newness of the concept of creativity, that it was valuable and in need of encouragement.
  • Before WWII, the word 'creativity' was then expressed as genius, originality, productivity, or even intelligence.

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Describing wonder

Wonder is said to be a childish emotion. However, as adults, we experience it when gaping at something unexpectedly spectacular.

Adam Smith, an 18th-century moral philosopher, describes wonder as something new and singular that is presented, and memory cannot find any image that nearly resembles this unique appearance.

Bodily symptoms

The bodily symptoms of this strange appearance point to three dimensions:

  • Sensory: The marvelous things take hold of our senses - we stare and widen our eyes.
  • Cognitive: We are perplexed because we don't have a past experience to understand them. It leads to a suspension of breath, similar to when we are startled.
  • Spiritual: We look upwards in veneration, which makes our heart swell.
The scale of wonder

At the mild end of this emotion, we talk about things being marvelous. More intense emotions might be described as astonishing. The extreme of this experiences is met with expressions of awe.

Intelligence is not genius
Intelligence is not genius

Genius is not about having an extraordinarily high IQ, or even about being smart. It is not about finishing Mensa exercises in record time or mastering fourteen languages at the age of seven.

Geniuses think productively, not reproductively. They ask "How many different ways can I look at it?" not "What have I been taught by someone else on how to solve this?"

Geniuses and problem solving

Leonardo da Vinci believed you begin by learning how to restructure the problem by looking at it from many different angles.

In order to creatively solve a problem, the thinker should not use the usual approach that is based on past experience. Geniuses use several different perspectives to solve an existing problem and thereby also identify new ones.

Making your thoughts visible

_Galileo Galilei revolutionized science by making his idea visible with diagrams, maps, and drawings. Einstein believed that words and numbers as they are spoken did not play a significant role in his thinking process.

Geniuses seem to develop a skill to display information in visual and spatial forms, rather than only mathematical or verbal lines.

Early History

The connection between genius and possible insanity was first documented in 1891 in the Italian physicians’ book The Man Of Genius.

In 1869, this was taken up by the cousin of Charles Darwin, Francis Galton in his work Hereditary Genius.

Genius and Heredity

In a 1904 study by English physician Havelock Ellis, a list was made of 1030 individuals through extensive research, examining thoroughly the intellectual distinction people had by the various factors like heredity, general health, and social class.


These works established that genius minds are often hereditary.

Genetic Studies Of Genius

A body of work of Stanford psychologist Lewis M. Terman, was an in-depth multi-decade study of gifted individuals, and an attempt to improve the measurement of genius and its association with the degradation of mental stability. This also included an enhanced version of the French IQ (Intelligence Quotient) test.