BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Howard Gardner, author of "Extraordinary Minds," where did you get the
idea for this book?
Professor HOWARD GARDNER, AUTHOR, "EXTRAORDINARY MINDS": I've been studying extraordinary people for about 15 or 20 years and I've done careful studies of at least 25 or 30. And then I actually got an invitation to write a short book, which would sort of summarize my
recent thinking. And I said, `Let me see if I can pull it all together and talk about what the rest of us might learn from people who are sufficiently extraordinary. We're unlikely to be just like them.'
LAMB: What do you call extraordinary?
Prof. GARDNER: I have a fairly simple definition. A person's extraordinary to the extent that he or she really changes the way work goes on in a certain domain. So if you're an extraordinary scientist--say, a physicist--physics is different after Einstein. If you're an extraordinary composer, say, like Stravinsky or The Beatles, music is different after you. So it's leaving an leaving impact on your culture, maybe on other cultures as well. That's what makes a person extraordinary.
LAMB: And you pick four extraordinary people for this book. Who are they?
Prof. GARDNER: They are Mozart, composer; Sigmund Freud, the psychoanalyst; Virginia Woolf, the British novelist; and Mahatma Gandhi, who I often say my kids think is Ben Kingsley because that's how most of us see Gandhi, but he, of course, the great Indian religious and political leader.
LAMB: In this book, put out by Basic Books, in the very beginning of it, it says that this is something called a MasterMinds series. What is that?
Prof. GARDNER: The idea of the MasterMinds series was to ask people who are scholars to write something that's relatively brief--this book's fewer than 200 pages--and synthetic; that rather than being a whole new line of work, that kind of summarizes the work that the scholar has done over the past however many years or decades. And it's the second series, it's a series called Science Masters, which focuses particularly on work in biology, physics, that kind of area.
And this is--MasterMinds is more general. My close colleague, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, who has written about flow, has one of the first books in the series. Sherry Turkle, a computer analyst of especially how people redefine themselves in terms of computers, is another person in the series. But you mentioned Basic Books, and the last series has to go on beyond Basic Books because that publishing house no longer exists.
LAMB: What was your reaction when you heard that they were gonna kill it?
Prof. GARDNER: I was actually in Washington, DC, on May 21st, which was the day that the book "Extraordinary Minds" was published, and I picked up the newspaper and there in The Washington Post it said, `HarperCollins folds Basic Books.' I was shocked. But nowadays what's
called serious trade publishing is having difficulty and one way in which conglomerates deal with that is they put to rest divisions which they think aren't making enough money. I happen to think it was a foolish decision. On the other hand, I've had 11 books with Basic Books, so I'm not a disinterested party.
LAMB: And of those 11, what's the most general book you've written for the most general of audiences?
Prof. GARDNER: The book that's best known is a book called "Frames of Mind." The subtitle is "The Theory of Multiple Intelligences." It came out in 1983. And in that book I was one of
the first people to take the idea of intelligence, as measured by the IQ test, and says, `This doesn't make sense.' It may predict certain things about school, but if you think about all the things that the human mind can do and all the ways in which people can be extraordinary, the IQ test doesn't scratch the surface. And in that book, "Frames of Mind," I described seven different kinds of human intelligence, and we've had some inflation since then, so we now talk about eight and a half different intelligences. That's probably the book that's best known.
But my blessing or curse is that I like to write about different topics, so I've written about the arts, I've written about cognitive science, I've written a lot about education, written about human
development. My first book was about structuralism, Piaget and Levi-Strauss. So I've covered the waterfront in my books.
LAMB: Where do you teach?
Prof. GARDNER: I teach at Harvard. I teach in the School of Education. I teach what's called human development, which is basically child development, learning, intelligence. How can we take what's been learned about the human mind and help us to have kids who learn better and thrive in school? That's...
LAMB: How long have you been there?
Prof. GARDNER: I've actually been at Harvard for over 30 years, but I started there as an undergraduate in the '60s and then went through the whole regime of graduate student, researcher and then, for the last dozen years, as a professor in the education school. So I'm an old-timer.
LAMB: Of all the extraordinary minds you've written about or thought about, who would you like to meet?
Prof. GARDNER: Well, I wrote a book called "Creating Minds" and in there I looked at seven people who, in a sense, remade the consciousness in this century, people who were outstanding in different domains, like Einstein and Freud. And I must say of the people whom I studied in that book, the person who I found personally most fascinating was Stravinsky, the composer. But I asked myself the question you just asked myself, and I realized that Stravinsky would probably have had absolutely no use for me at all.
And so the question of who you'd like to meet--it's a question of whether you think you could have a relationship with them. Stalin, somebody who I studied in a book about leadership, is certainly a fascinating individual, and it would be wonderful to have been able to occupy his mind for a period of time. But on the other hand, again--and even if you forget about the language and culture barriers, you know, the fact that he might want to hang around an intellectual who studies people is not very likely.
LAMB: Go back to Igor Stravinsky. Who was he?
Prof. GARDNER: Stravinsky is the person early in this century who essentially undid music which we would call melodic or harmonic. He did this through a series of works written in the second decade and particularly a work called "The Rite of Spring," which, I think, people can now listen to without going nuts, in part because it was one of the themes in Disney's "Fantasia" of 1940s. But at the time when "The Rite of Spring" was played, it struck people as being so
dissonant, so jarring that it almost seemed like a cruel joke. And Stravinsky and the audience was pelted with the literal and figurative tomatoes and cabbages and so on.
But while classical music has never become completely atonal, which was not what Stravinsky was striving to do anyway, the notion that you didn't have to stay in a certain key and use kind of a classical symphonic form is really, I think, due more to Stravinsky than anybody else.
But my fascination with him is not only that I love his music, but he was a real cosmopolitan intellectual, knew everybody, had relationships with all sorts of fantastic people, grew up in Russia at the end of the 19th century. His teacher was Rimsky-Korsakov, one of the great composers that time. Then, because he was a so-called White Russian, he had to go to Western Europe during the war. In fact, I don't think he went back to Russia until very late in his life because it was the Soviet Union and he was not welcome there.
He spent the '40s in Hollywood, where he actually wrote some music for movies and for theater and became more pop, though there's a great story about that. He wrote a piece which was probably somewhat popular, and Billy Rose, who was, at that time, the great showman and
impresario, said, `Your piece is a great success. It could be even a greater success if you
allowed instrumentation by Richard Rodney Bennett,' who was the arranger for The Boston Pops and took stuff that was sort of classical and made it more popular. And Stravinsky wired back, `Am satisfied with great success,' meaning, `Don't you touch my work.'
He--in the '50s, when he was already 60 or 70--I think this is another reason why I'm so fascinated by Stravinsky--he became an atonal composer. He had a young friend--this man's still alive--named Robert Craft, who introduced him to music, which he'd always been interested in but had been afraid of touching because it was by his great rival, Arnold Schoenberg. But Schoenberg died in 1951 and somehow it was safe for Stravinsky. So at a time when most people are belonging to the AARP, he began to write in a wholly new idiom, and some of his works that he wrote in his 70s and 80s are still being performed today.
So I think it's the combination of the many worlds that he lived in, touched, and the fact that he was such a live wire. And Craft has a whole series of books called "Conversations With Stravinsky," where you really get a feeling that this guy missed nothing.
LAMB: What years did he live?
Prof. GARDNER: He was born in 1882 and died in 1971. He was buried in Venice, which was the city he loved the most. But he didn't make...
Prof. GARDNER: But he didn't make "Extraordinary Minds" 'cause Mozart is even a more extraordinary composer, and he's the one I chosen --chose to write about in this most recent book.
LAMB: Politicians--have there been many that you've studied that have extraordinary minds?
Prof. GARDNER: Well, I include in my notion of extraordinary minds people who have tremendous influence without compelling obedience. I mean, if you have a tyrant--a Hitler or a Stalin--who makes you do something, then in a sense, they're-- they--you know, they're just leveraging you by their sheer power.
I'm very interested in people who, through their persuasiveness and through the way they live, have that kind of influence. And Gandhi, for me, is--he's not only the most remarkable man of this century, I think in some ways he may be the most remarkable man of the millennium because Gandhi had no weapons, didn't even have a full suit of clothing. But by simply believing so deeply that people could dispute without destroying one another; that, in fact, they could be
strengthened--both sides in a dispute--by putting forth what they believed in, be willing to take the consequences, including jailing and maybe even being killed, I think he set an incredible moral example. And as far as I'm concerned, that's an extraordinary mind.
If you look not only at India today, which remains a democracy after 50 tumultuous years, but you look at the civil rights movement in America, you look at the various political movements in China, in Russia and you think about Nelson Mandela, these are all individuals who, I think, were, in a way, made possible by Gandhi and his example. So that's a politician who I put right up there with the great religious leaders of the past: Buddha, Christ, Mohammed, Moses.
LAMB: Mahatma Gandhi--how do you know he had an extraordinary mind?
Prof. GARDNER: Because I think he was able to go to fundamentals. And one of the hardest things in the world, particularly in the flux of daily life, is to be able to see clearly what the forces are and what needs to be done to change something, to kind of get rid of all the thickets and the shrubbery.
I mean, here was a guy who was born in India, in a fairly obscure part of India, was not at all worldly in his background, defying everybody in his own circle. He went to England--in fact, he was told, `Don't bother to come back.' And he learned how to be a lawyer there, then went to South Africa for 25 years, came back to India when he was about 50.
So you can see how much different kinds of experiences he had in his ex--in his life, and this is at a time when it wasn't very mobile. And he came back to India, and his--Nehru, his follower,
said, `He psychoanalyzed the Indian nation,' which would include, in this particular case, Britain, because Britain was very much a part of the Indian psyche--and he figured out what it would take to essentially impress the British and the world that the continual colonization of India by the British just didn't make sense.
And even though, of course, there was some bloodshed, it was infinitely less bloodshed than there would have been without Gandhi. And that's a reason I compare him with Mandela, because very few of us would have thought even as recently as 10 years ago that there could
be a relatively peaceful transition in South Africa. And when Nelson Mandela was sworn in as president, he had sitting in his--the first row his jailer. This is a quintessential Gandhian move. It's a move of forgiveness. It says, `We were enemies. We had very, very different views of things. Things are not going to improve unless we can bury the hatchet.' It's a kind of thinking which we haven't had in the Middle East for a long time.
And you might say, `Well, the--in a sense, --that's very simplistic,' or you say it's the Golden Rule, which is at least simple. But what Gandhi did is he built an organization and he actually built a kind of an algebra, by which I mean he didn't just say, you know, `We're gonna do this and either it's gonna work or not.' He thought through every possible consequence of his going on a hunger strike. For example, he wouldn't go on a hunger strike if there wasn't a telegraph around because he knew that the word of his hunger strike had to go all around the world so that people would pressure, you know, the British.
So you might say he was a master military strategist without having an army except an army of human beings. His going around half-naked was quite deliberate. It was saying, `This is what I am. I'm a human being. You may have guns, you may be able to, you know, shoot and kill everybody, but morally you'll be bankrupt.'
However, we have to say at the same time Gandhi chose his enemies shrewdly. During the beginning of the second World War he wrote letters to Hitler trying to say, you know, `We'll forgive you if you're just a nice guy.' Hitler--I think I write in the book that Hitler's response is not recorded, but, of course, there are certain people who would just laugh at that kind of thing. On the other hand, I guess if India had been--had belonged to Germany and Gandhi had given himself the same task, he would have gone about it in a very different way.
LAMB: When was Gandhi at his peak performance? When did he have the most followers and how was it demonstrated? You talked about at one point where he had--you know, he took off on a couple-hundred-mile hike and had two miles of people behind him.
Prof. GARDNER: Yeah. I think most people would say that in the last years of his time in South Africa and the first years of his time in India, which would be roughly from 1910 to 1930, he really had a power of galvanizing people and of embodying his own message in the way he lived, which just put people absolutely at awe of him. I think as he got older, some of his ideas were fussier and, in a sense, events took him over--I mean, took--thence took over.
Nonetheless, when he was almost 80, before he was assassinated, he was still the only person in India who could bring rival factions, which at that time was the Muslims and the Hindus, together again. So his moral authority didn't wane, but I think his agility in--at the prime of his life would probably have been most striking, though, in that 20-year period.
But one of the things, Brian, about extraordinary individuals is that they tend not to be flashes in the pan; they tend not to, you know, do something once or twice and then sink into obscurity. In fact, it's the regularity of their accomplishments. And then when they're defeated, they just keep right on going. That's what really is striking. So I think when I think about extraordinary people and someone says, `Well, did they have periods of down?' the answer is, `Of course.' But are there long periods where they didn't do anything? The answer is usually no.
Freud, one of the people I studied, said, `When inspiration doesn't come to me, I go halfway to meet it,' meaning he was gonna be there thinking and reading and writing even if he didn't have the inspiration which he liked to have.
LAMB: You said in the beginning that you've studied--What?--25 people up close?
Prof. GARDNER: Yeah.
LAMB: How many of those are American politicians?
Prof. GARDNER: When we you talk about politicians, it --depends --to an extent on how broad the definition is. I've studied both Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan, and I--they certainly are politicians. But I also studied people like George Marshall, who is one of the most extraordinary Americans of this century. The-- he was not only the chief of the Army during the
second World War but both secretary of state and secretary of defense after the war. And I think he was a man of incredible achievement, also a man of incredible rectitude. He wasn't a politician in the sense that he ran for office.
I studied Alfred Sloan, who was the most important person in the making of General Motors. Again, I wouldn't want to call him a political type, and yet, a --in those days they used to say what was good for General Motors was good for the country. So there was a kind of identification between General Motors and the country, which we might now analogize to the computer industry, particularly in the heyday of Microsoft.
LAMB: What are some of the characteristics of George Marshall?
Prof. GARDNER: Well, one very interesting one, which I wasn't expecting at all, was that here was a man who was really quite reserved, not at all flamboyant, not at all confrontational when you met him. And yet, from early on in life, when he saw something which he thought was wrong or didn't make sense, he would speak up about it. He showed willingness to confront authority and even to risk his own stature in doing so, which turns out to be a marker of extraordinary people in general.
Now if I told you it was a marker, say, of Hitler or Lenin, that wouldn't surprise you because there's obviously people who thrived on confrontation. But when someone like Marshall, who is
seen as being, as it were, above this fray when he, too--the first time he met General Pershing, who was the head of the forces in the first World War and Marshall was quite young at that time, he told him off, and a few months later Marshall was actually hired by Pershing to be his own chief.
And then the first time that Marshall met Franklin Roosevelt, which was 15, 20 years later, he--Marshall, of course, was well in middle age by that time--he told Roosevelt off at a Cabinet meeting. And after the meeting Henry Morgenthau, who was secretary of Treasury, went up to Marshall and sort of said, in an empathic way, `Nice knowing you, George, 'cause you didn't confront Franklin D. Roosevelt in the first public meeting in front of a Cabinet.' And the same thing happened that happened with Pershing. A few months later Marshall was offered to be the chief of staff of the Army.
And so I think that one very striking feature not only of Marshall but extraordinary people in general is they analyze the situation, they empathize to a certain extent with the person who's in authority and they say, `Hey, you haven't got it right. You ought to be taking account of this.' Now obviously if they're too fresh, if they're too in-your-face or if there's--they're dealing with someone who can't take criticism, they can be finished. I mean, I wouldn't speak up to Saddam Hussein --if I didn't see things the same way that he did. But if there's someone who you can gauge as being open to that kind of thing, it's a way of making a very big impact on them.
And a funny thing is in studying highly creative individuals, people whom you would think of as being artists or scholars, I first thought, `Well, those people are not confrontational,' because, in
fact, they don't typically tell off their teachers or maybe--or even their parents. But I realized that was a superficial reading. In fact, what the creators of the Einstein, Freud, Picasso, Martha Graham type is they tell off their teachers and mentors through the work that they do. I mean, Einstein writes about relativity and he essentially blows all of his professors out of the water because it's an entirely different way of thinking about the physical world.
So I make a distinction between indirect leaders or indirect extraordinary individuals who--the details of whose life are not that important but whose work is directly challenging, the way we were talking about Stravinsky. Stravinsky basically said, you know, `Western music doesn't have to be the way it does. You don't have to be able to sing it and stick in--and stick in tune. It can be very, very different. Rhythm, assonance can be the essence of music.' They do their confrontation through the work, whereas political types tend to do it through face-to-face confrontation.
Be interesting to think about Gingrich and Clinton in that respect. I think Clinton is somebody who has basically avoided face-to-face challenges in his life. Gingrich seems to be somebody
who has thrived on it, though I--perhaps more so when he is doing the challenging than when he is--when he's being challenged. But those are different kinds of leadership styles.
LAMB: Are they extraordinary minds?
Prof. GARDNER: I would say at this point no. When I say `at this point,' one of the things about being a historian as I am is that it's nice to have a few decades pass so you can see the impact of
individuals. A good comparison, I would say, would be Reagan and Thatcher. I think at the time when they were leaders, they were seen as being fairly similar and as trying to bring about the same things in their nations. I think 100 years from now Reagan will be a footnote in history; I think Margaret Thatcher will be a very important person. But I think that becomes clearer with time. My own guess is that the flaws of both Clinton and Gingrich suffice to make them not extraordinary, but I'm prepared to be wrong.
LAMB: Why will Margaret Thatcher be more extraordinary than Ronald Reagan?
Prof. GARDNER: Because I think that Margaret Thatcher not only did the kind of analysis of what was wrong in Britain, by her lights, and what needed to be done to change it, but she was absolutely persistent in pushing that program. Moreover, the way in which she lived--the term I use is the way in which she embodied her story or her message--was very, very compelling. I think that Reagan was not as consistent and I think his own life, in a sense, in a way, wasn't as
strong an argument for what he was trying to bring about as Thatcher's were.
Also, I think Reagan, in many ways, was politically above the fray, whereas Margaret Thatcher wasn't. And a good way for Americans who aren't necessarily very close to this comparison to think about it is that both Reagan and Thatcher have been out of office for the same period of time. In the most recent elections in America, Reagan is not even mentioned, he's not a factor. In the most recent election in Britain, which was in May of '97, Thatcher was still the major person around whom both Tony Blair and John Major based their--based their campaigns.
I think she really defined issues, whereas I think Reagan'll be seen part of a movement which goes back to Goldwater, which Gingrich and his crew currently embody, a general shift to the--to
the right. I think Reagan is a good emblem of it, but I don't think that personally his--either his analytic powers or his ability to built an organization compares with that of Margaret
LAMB: Is there a difference between being an extraordinary mind and being an extraordinary person?
Prof. GARDNER: I think that--yes, I think that there is. When I'm talking about extraordinary minds, I'm talking about people who, by virtue of some kind of analysis, some kind of a thinking, bring about a change in a domain. Now I have a very broad notion of thinking. I have a broad notion of intelligence. So to me, you don't have to be able to do it in words. Some of my most creative individuals do it through works of art.
I think you could have an extraordinary mind as an athlete. I don't think that's the norm. And certainly, you could be the--you know, the best weight lifter or shot-putter in the world, but if you did it like everybody else, I don't think you would count as extraordinary. If, however, you were able to analyze what it took to be a weight lifter or a shot-putter--and I'm talking about something I have no--don't have any firsthand experience in--and really people from then on would do it differently because of an insight you had in what it to--took to be really good, the way, say, Roger Bannister analyzed what it meant to run the first four-minute mile, then I think I would include you under the extraordinary minds. So in a sense, your understanding of what you're doing and what is deficient in the current practice and how it has to be changed, I think, would be very vital.
I think maybe a good way to think about it would be heavyweight boxers. Obviously, to be a heavyweight boxer, you've gotta be very strong and be able to pack a good wallop. However, there are certain heavyweight boxers who, in one way or another, really changed the nature of the domain. I think Muhammad Ali, probably both because of the way he fought but also because of the kind of persona he had, really did affect boxing for a while. We might say that the King-Tyson duo now are affecting it in a way which is probably less desirable from the point of view of those who care about heavyweight fighting.
LAMB: When did you first get interested in all this?
Prof. GARDNER: As a youngster I loved biography, and through my--out my life I've always been interested in reading biographies, both fictionalized versions and, of course, bi--real biographies and autobiographies. But I think I would never have actually moved into it analytically if two things hadn't happened. First of all, as a student many years ago in--at college, I was...
Prof. GARDNER: At Harvard college--I was lucky enough to study with Erik Erikson, who was a great psychoanalyst, a student of Freud and who himself had studied some extraordinary people, including, as it happens, Gandhi, but other people like Eleanor Roosevelt, Woodrow
Wilson, Joan of Arc, people who were what he called ideological innovators. So the notion that one could study people's lives systematically was part of my own training.
But for 20 years I was sort of a typical laboratory researcher. I worked with children and with brain-damaged adults trying to understand the nature of their--of their cognition. And it was out of that empirical work as a so-called bench-topper lab scientist that I became convinced that the notion of intelligence as being a single thing which people either have or doesn't couldn't be right. And I developed a notion instead of there being these different kinds of intelligence like linguistic intelligence, spatial intelligence, musical intelligence, interpersonal intelligence and the like.
Having done that study of intelligence, a lot of people said to me and I also said to myself, `Well, what does this have to say about creativity?' If there is a --if--there isn't a single kind of intelligence but just people are intelligent in different ways. I mean, Reagan was often written off as being dumb, but that's because he wasn't intelligent in the way that most people in Washington seem to put on the pedestal, I would call the legal kind of mind. But he had plenty of other kinds of intelligence, which is why I think he was an effective, though not an extraordinary, leader.
So I said, `Well, if there's different kinds of intelligences, maybe there's different kinds of creativity.' So I decided to study people who had very different strength and different intelligences, people like Einstein, who had what I call logical mathematical intelligence; the painter Picasso, who was spatial intelligence; Gandhi, I had an example of interpersonal intelligence, somebody who understood other people very, very well.
And this got me back into the--my interest in biography and also in the social science interest in seeing whether you can find some system in extraordinary people. That's really what the book
"Extraordinary Minds" is about. We all--many of us love to read about the rich and the famous and the good and the ugly and the kinds of things they can do. I mean, People magazine is sort of a late 20th century tribute to our fascination with people who are unusual in one way or the other. But usually we don't search for generalizations.
The endeavor that I'm pushing in my books "Creating Minds," "Leading Minds" and now "Extraordinary Minds" is: Are there some underlying rules and regulations? It's as if I were a naturalist and I discovered a new species, namely that tiny portion of humanity--1/10th of 1/100th of 1 percent--that actually changes life afterwards. Napoleon--his impact is felt today.
And so if you take people like Napoleon or Hitler or Gandhi in the area of politics in the military, or you take people like Martha Graham or Virginia Woolf or Igor Stravinsky in the area of the arts, and you say, `Are these just people who have no connection to one another, each of them has entirely their own biography, or there--are there some through lines? Are there some things which really run through their lives?' And that's what I'm trying to do in these studies of extraordinary people.
And the other thing I'm trying to do in "Extraordinary Minds" is to say, `Well, most of us are not gonna be Freud and most of us are not gonna be Martha Graham. But are there some lessons which we can learn from extraordinary people which might make us more effective as just
ordinary people trying to have a decent life and perhaps to make a little positive difference in the world?'
LAMB: Where did you grow up?
Prof. GARDNER: I grew up in Scranton, Pennsylvania. I'm the son of German Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, and probably the--those shadows are visible in my work.
LAMB: Did they survive?
Prof. GARDNER: Yeah. They're still--they're still...
LAMB: And are they still alive?
Prof. GARDNER: They're still alive. They live with my sister and me now in--in Boston. I don't mean in the same home, but they--but the whole family is now living in Boston.
LAMB: How interested were they in biography back in those early years?
Prof. GARDNER: Funny, --no one's ever asked me that before. I think my father has always been interested in biography and, even till this day, still likes to read and talk about people. He's almost 90. My mother probably has the deeper interest in human beings. She's quite a remarkable social animal. In the town where they lived for 50 years and where I grew up, she was one of the people who really mattered in the human community. And I think it was because of an interest in the ability to understand other people and to be helpful for them. So I guess the human dimension was important in my growing up, and I think it --turned out to be important in my family as a whole. A lot of psychologists there, and I guess you don't go into psychology unless you have some interest in human beings.
At the same time--and this is really just about me personally--I think I've always valued the distance of looking at human beings as a social scientist rather than, say, as a clinician who is actually involved in day-to-day helping of people. And the kind of psychology which I've done, until very recently, is what's called cognitive psychology, which means it focuses more on thinking and problem-solving than on affect and emotions. I've been both impressed and kind of stunned by the fascination and emotional intelligence, particularly due to Dan Goldman's book of a few years ago, and realized that I was always skirting around that, but I never really went into it in the kind of depth that he and others are doing now.
And I said `until now' because one of the things I'm doing now is studying the Holocaust, something I've always been, I guess, frightened of doing because it sort of hit too close to home. By studying it, it makes it a little bit easier for me, but it also--you know, you can't--if you're--you know, if you're--a child of a family who--you know, was in Nazi Germany and many of whose members ended up being--being killed, that's going to be a very charged issue for you. It's not something that you can be too clinical about.
LAMB: You mentioned IQ earlier. What is it?
Prof. GARDNER: IQ is a number which is given to people because of their performance on a test. It's typically a test which takes an hour or less. It usually asks for short answers, and it's based on the assumption that everybody has a chronological age, which is clearly true, but everybody also has a mental age, which I guess, in a vernacular, would say is how smart you are. Now if you're 10 years old and you also behave like other 10-year-olds -on this test, you will have an IQ of 1, which we multiply by 100 just for--because it's, I guess, a rounded number, and then you have an IQ of 100. And in any population, that's what the average should be.
Things get interesting if you are--have the mental age of a 13-year-old but you're only 10 chronologically. Then the ratio is 1.3:1. Your IQ is 130. And on the other side of the bell curve, as they say, if you are chronologically 10 but you only do as well as 7-year-olds, then your IQ is 70 and you are at risk for a lot of problems in school.
The IQ test was invited by a very ingenious French psychologist named Binet. People have probably heard of the Stanford-Binet test that's based upon his name. Binet was trying to predict 100 years ago who would have trouble in school, and so he just put together lots of items and saw who--that did well on these items would do well in school, and if they did poorly on these items would do poorly in school, and that became the IQ. When I give talks, I often quip that Binet could have saved us all a lot of trouble if he'd simply looked at last year's grades because last year's grades are, by far, the best way of predicting how you're going to do in school next year.
But particularly in America, the IQ test has had a very long and healthy run, and I think it's because we love numbers. And the notion that we can peg people as being so much smarter or dumber than other people is very exciting to us. And, you know, as many viewers will know, there's a lot of effort now to produce even shorter intelligence tests, maybe ones which just look at brain waves, and to predict from even birth how smart you're going to be.
I find all of this anathema, and a lot of my personal crusade is to-- attempts to undercut this very simplistic notion of intelligence. And if you think about the people whom I studied in the book "Extraordinary Minds," Gandhi was a very indifferent student. Neither Mozart nor Virginia Woolf went to school at all. Virginia Woolf grew up in England at the turn of the century. Her
brothers went to Cambridge, but her parents didn't bother to send her to school. Now they had a stimulating household, but they didn't go to school. Freud was the terrific student.
But, you know, the fact that you do well in school will probably predict that you'll be happy in school. I was happy in school and I stayed in school, so I never had a chance to find out where I was stupid. But once you go out and look at the world, people who are CEOs, people who start religious movements, people who are good at either getting their way or at settling disputes, the psychometric IQ--I mean, how well you do on questions like remembering numbers backwards--has nothing to do with it. So it's a rather parochial view of what intelligence is.
LAMB: Did you ever take an IQ test?
Prof. GARDNER: I'm sure I did, but I'm happy to say that I don't know how I--how I did on it.
LAMB: So you don't know what your IQ is.
Prof. GARDNER: No. I took SAT kinds of tests, which are--you know, I was a good test taker. One of my colleagues, Bob Sternberg, who has a theory of intelligence, says that he did very
poorly on those tests, and that's one reason why he is an opponent. I do have an anecdote in this regard.
When I was about 13 years of age my parents had me as a, quote-unquote, "bright" young son. And because they hadn't go--didn't have higher education themselves and hadn't gone to school in America, they didn't know quite what to do. So we drove to Hoboken, New Jersey, which was a couple hours from where I grew up in Pennsylvania. We went to Stevens Institute of Technology, and I was tested for a week. It cost $300 or $400, which sounds like nothing now, but it was probably like $3,000 or $4,000.
So they spent a lot of time to try to figure out how to place this kid who other people said was bright. Anyway, at the end of it all, they called my parents and me in and they said, `Well, you
know, your son's pretty competent. He could probably do most things. But his greatest strength is in the clerical area,' by which they didn't mean that I could be a minister or a rabbi someday,
but rather that I was really good at going through lists and crossing off the numbers that didn't belong there. And I said to myself, `God, if this is what you get from all this investment of time and money, there ought to be a better way of thinking about human strengths.' So in--that's a biographical possible key to some of my skepticism about standard tests.
LAMB: In your book you have the four people you profile, but then you define them. And I want to go through that with you; that Mozart is called a master. What's a master?
Prof. GARDNER: A master is somebody who works in a domain which already exists in this society, and a domain is any enterprise from being a scientist to being a composer, to being a naturalist, to being a chess player. And the person's goal as the master is to absolutely do the most outstanding work in that domain. However, the master, Mozart, is distinguished from what I call the maker, Freud, because the master does not have a particular pressure to do things in an
innovative way. Mozart was not interested in making pieces of music which were different from everybody else's. He just wanted to write great music and all of the genres of his era.
Freud went from one domain to another. He started out in philosophy. He went to medical school. He did neuroanatomy. He did neurology. He did aphasiology. He did psychology, but he always wanted to make a mark. And he finally realized the best way to make a mark was to
create his own domain, called psychoanalysis, to decide who could be a member of it, to make the rules of it. And, of course, psychoanalysis exists till this day, and people can still trace themselves back to Freud by whether or not their own teacher or analyst had been--had--had been trained by somebody who was trained by Freud.
Nowadays a lot of people say, `Well, why do you study Freud? And, you know, he's been disproved.' That's a very narrow reading of Freud's contribution. As--as Auden said in a famous poem about Freud, is really--it's a whole culture. It's a whole way of thinking about the world. And many of the people who criticize Freud the most vociferously actually engage in all sorts of
arguments which would be inconceivable before Freud. I mean, Freud was the one who talked about the importance of early experience for our later character. Freud was the person who talked about unconscious motivation, about doing things without knowing the reasons why. And these are contributions which go way beyond whether a particular description of a patient was accurate or not.
Almost all the pioneers in domains make initial mistakes, but where a man like Freud is so different from a man like Mozart is Freud was preoccupied with being original, with starting something new. In Frank Sulloway's terms, he was `born to rebel.' He wanted to shake things up. Darwin was the same kind of character; Einstein. Mozart wasn't. He just wanted to write beautiful music. But paradoxically, masters have a perverse effect on their domain because they do things so beautifully that it makes it impossible for other people to do it as well. And so they actually have huge changes in the domain because they force people to go off in a new direction.
Beethoven listened to Mozart, said, `I could never do that, but I can do something different.' So from a fairly simplistic point of view, Mozart made Beethoven possible. And I think that the most exquisite masters, people like George Eliot and Henry James, at the end of the 19th century brought the novel to such a high point of view, people said, `We couldn't do this,' and they began to write different kinds of literature works.
LAMB: The introspector, Virginia Woolf.
Prof. GARDNER: Both the makers and the masters are individuals who deal with the world of objects and the words of--world of symbols. They create works in writing which have effect on other people. Now certainly Virginia Woolf did this as well, but Virginia Woolf, like Gandhi, was a person who was most interested in the develop--in the domain of human beings. I call Virginia Woolf because she was interested in herself. I call Gandhi an influencer because he was
interested in influencing other people.
Now everybody knows that Virginia Woolf wrote about her own experience as a woman living in England early in the century being mad, manic depressive kind of illness. And so like other writers, she was concerned with her own autobiography. But I picked Virginia Woolf to write about because she also introspected about what it was like to be conscious. She is one of the few literary artists in history who really tried to capture and succeeded in capturing in her work the
nature of consciousness. She wanted to see what it was like to live in the moment, to be a living, thinking, feeling, free association stream of consciousness kind of human being. So she was introspecting not just about a woman's need for a room of her own, a very important thing, she was introspecting what it was like to be conscious, to be alive. And so I think she's an exquisite example --of an introspector.
LAMB: Could you have--in Virginia Woolf's case, could there have been somebody else that you could have put in that spot in your book easily, or is she the best?
Prof. GARDNER: Well, -- when you think about people who are--in writing, the people who she's always compared with are James Joyce and Proust. But I think she's more unusual, in part, because of the fact that she's a woman and because she not only wrote about her experience as a woman, she opened the door forever for women's experiences to be the first-person topic of what they wrote about. This is incredible, Brian, but it's been said to me--and no one's ever said it to me that it's wrong--that Virginia Woolf is the first essayist ever who was a woman in English. She clearly wasn't the first woman writer, and there were great women writers, though sometimes they gave themselves men's names, like George Eliot, you know, Jane Austen and...
LAMB: What was George Eliot's real name?
Prof. GARDNER: Mary Ann Evans. But Virginia Woolf was able to wrote about `I' as a woman. She was able to use her own voice. Now, of course, half of all the op-eds and columns and essays are by women--maybe more than half--and nobody--there's certainly--there's no reason why women can't write as well or better as men. But if you'd been living 75 years ago and you'd been in the Athenaeum Club in Britain, you might have said, `Well, you know, women can't write
essays.' And, of course, they could. They didn't because they couldn't write in their own voice.
LAMB: What years did she live?
Prof. GARDNER: She was born in 18--I feel like there's a little test going on here. I think I do know her date. She was born in 1882, actually the same year as Stravinsky, and then she killed herself in 1941. She committed suicide after the war broke out and she was very depressed.
LAMB: Had she been married?
Prof. GARDNER: Yeah, she was married to a man named Leonard Woolf, who survived her by 25 years, who, in fact, you know, was a great support to her and edited her papers. And together they had something called the Hogarth Press, which, as it happened, printed all of Freud in England. Freud was published by Hogarth. I think the--in this day and age, --one would seem to be malpracticed if one didn't also point out that Virginia Woolf's marriage was not based on sex.
She discovered that she didn't enjoy sex, at least with men, when she was--when she was first married. So they had, from all intents and purposes, a good marriage, but not a marriage based
on sexual ties. She clearly had some attraction to women, and most people think she may have had one or two consummated affairs. But I think like some other extraordinary people, she probably not being very sexual, being asexual would be a description. Newton is probably the most famous example, the physicist Isaac Newton, of someone whom somehow the notion of sex life doesn't seem to really -- blend very well. And in a way, many people say Virginia Woolf's most autobiographical book is called "Orlando," which is a crazy book where the chief character oscillates between being a man and a woman, and I --one has the feeling that Virginia Woolf saw herself that way.
One of the characteristics of some extraordinary people--in particular, Mozart, Shakespeare, Keats are often used as examples. These individuals are said to have negative capability. What negative capability means is that rather than having a strong personality themselves, they have an incredible ability to pick up the personalities of individuals around them and to be able to capture that in their works. So you read all of Shakespeare's plays and his sonnets and you say, `God, how could anybody have known so much about so many kinds of people?'--you know, military people, kings, queens, lawyers, ordinary people. And then you say, `Well, which one was Shakespeare?' Or you read Keats's poetry or you listen to Mozart's music, and they're not there. Beethoven is right there. You know exactly what he's like and what he wouldn't do.
I think that Virginia Woolf is one of these people who took on the coloration of the people whom she knew, whom she loved, whom she hated, whom she corresponded with. She has incredible diaries, correspondence and so on. And she was--I think she had multiple sexual identifications. And while I certainly wouldn't say the majority of extraordinary people have, you know--are not,
shall we say, the model heterosexual, many of them have bisexual identifications. And a colleague of mine, Mihichik Sant Mahein, his studies of ordinary people--of extraordinary people finds that they often go through periods of great sexual exploration or explosion and then periods of great asceticism, and that may relate to their work.
You know, when they're really deeply into their work, that's what they want--that's what they want to do. And then when they finish their work, their binge is to explore with one or more--one or more partners. So the whole notion of sexuality and extraordinariness is--it's not a--it's not a preoccupation of mine, but in this day and age one has to at least touch on those issues.
LAMB: You talked about the master, Mozart; the maker, Freud; introspector, Woolf; and the influencer, Gandhi. American, again--back to the--because we talk so much about politics on this
network, the American politician, American leader, which of these categories would you put him or her in?
Prof. GARDNER: Well, I think most of them, almost by definition, are influencers. But--but...
LAMB: Any of them makers?
Prof. GARDNER: ...but s--but some of them are not very successful influencers. But, of course, I guess it's much easier to aspire to want to influence people than it is to be--than it is to be successful. I think in this century, we look at our presidents, probably Franklin Roosevelt was the most effective influencer, not only for his "times," quote, unquote, but if we take a look at what the--you know, Margaret Thatcher since--one of the things that people are debating now, they're debating the New Deal as they've been debating it for many, many years. I mean, where do we draw the line between government's role in things and private roles?
Are any of the political leaders here makers? I think that, in fact, the--and this is a little bit embarrassing to say--but I think, in fact, a lot of the innovations in American public life have really been in the public relations area. I mean, the notion, for example, of direct mail and figuring out exact--and focus groups figuring out, in a scientific basis as possible, exactly what is it that people want, not only to make you look good but to make your opponent look bad, and those makers are people whom we don't even know the names of. I mean, people like Richard Viguerie's names are mentioned here.
One thing that is fascinating to contemplate is that public relations was actually invented in the lifetime of people who are watching this program. It was invented by a man named Edward Bernays in the 1920s in the United States. He was the first person to realize that you could really manipulate public opinion, political purposes, for advertising purposes. And Bernays was the maiden name of Freud's wife and also her sister, of course, who some people think Freud had a
And it's kind of interesting to think about Freud's interest in the unconscious and people not being aware of why they buy one cigarette or one soap rather than the other and how this went through Edward Bernays, who said, `You know, you can actually control how people think and behave on the basis of an understanding of their psyche.' And, yeah, Hitler was not at all ignorant of these kinds of things. He was a master propagandist and he...
LAMB: Was Mr. Bernays an extraordinary mind?
Prof. GARDNER: He may well have been. I actually met him. He lived to be over 100, and so he just died a few years ago. But I I simply don't know enough about him to be able to know to I mean, one question one always has in this business is: What's the difference between somebody's own public relations and whether they're actually doing the thinking that's involved? And we were talking about direct mail a few moments ago. There are certain names which get through the media as the people who are behind those ideas, but if you don't go and study the area carefully, you don't know to what extent somebody arrogated credit to themselves as opposed to really being the architect. And I wouldn't want to call someone a maker unless he or she was clearly the architect of that domain.
LAMB: Now how would you--I mean, if we saw you in your laboratory--and I don't even know what I mean by your laboratory, anything from an office to wherever your --you know, your home is--how do you go about finding what you call an extraordinary mind? Physically, how do you find it?
Prof. GARDNER: Well, I think I would be disingenuous if I didn't say that I start with people who interest me and who fascinate me, sometimes in terms of pathology, sometimes in terms
of my actual liking of them. And usually the first thing I do is I go out and I read some biographies to see whether there's enough information on these people, and also whether my--you know, Edward Bernays is a good example--whether when one pokes around a bit, one finds out that, in fact, he actually was the person who was doing it or there was somebody else--his wife, for all I know--who was actually the mastermind, so to speak.
And, you know, I've devoted quite a bit of attention to people before finally deciding that I wasn't going to look at them. Reagan was somebody who I thought I would write about. I ended up writing about Margaret Thatcher because I came to the conclusion that so t--so to speak, there was more Thatcher there than there was Reagan there. There's probably 20 times as much stuff written about Reagan, but I don't feel that he was extraordinary, as I've come to feel that Margaret Thatcher was, in part for what we're talking about.
I mean, Reagan, in many ways, was the product of a tremendous amount of spin, first from very wealthy Californians who picked him up in the '50s and who saw him as a wonderful spokesman for certain conservative ideas at a time when he was probably still a Democrat, but then also
you know, the masterful people in the White House who scripted every moment of what he did. And so with Margaret Thatcher, one has the feeling that she was calling the shots.
After I've made a commitment to study somebody --for the purpose of writing a book, I then first read the secondary sources and then I read the primary sources--I mean, their speeches or their autobiographies or their interviews. I read as much as I can. I tend to pick people who are recent enough that their films or videotapes--Margaret--Martha Graham, I went to Lincoln Center and I looked at all the videos they had of her, and I borrowed ones from friends and so on. So--for T.S. Eliot, somebody else who I wrote about, getting the early editions of his works and the revisions
and so on was very important. I'm, in fact, carrying around in my briefcase today a new book of his, "Druvinalia," most of which was never published. It just came out in 1997. That wasn't available at the time, but --it's that kind of stuff which allows me to go beyond sort of -the public record.
But the work is only half over when I've done the biography, and often the biography strikes people as being a fairly familiar one if they know a lot about the person. The real work begins when I try to look for patterns and parallels, which go across individuals. And that is a-- hypothesis generation and checking process. I mean, I use a simple example. How many people had one or more parents who died when they were young? I mean, that's an easy thing to count, and you can see whether that's a factor or not. How many people grew up in a small town and then moved to a big city? Those are easy things to measure.
On the other hand, when I studied leaders one of the questions was: Were they good storytellers? That's a harder thing to study, and you have to pay a lot of attention to: How are the people at time listen to them--you know, Lincoln-Douglas kinds of reportage tells you a lot about the--you know, the ability of people to hold the attention of others, the extent to which they relied on speech writers, stuff like that. In the back of "Leading Mind," which is my book that came out in 1995, I decided to lay out all my data. So I've got about 50 pages of appendices where I take the people whom I studied, and I actually show all of the evidence for each of the
claims I'm making. And that was done because I think I see myself as developing a method for studying extraordinariness, and in "Extraordinary Minds" I say I think we are at the beginning of a science of extraordinariness.
Let me use one example because its--a fun example. I put forth a portrait in the book of --the exemplary creative type and of the exemplary leader type maker --and influencer. And I once did that publicly, and somebody came up to me and said, `You know, I can think of somebody who is actually a refutation of everything you said.' This tends to get one's attention, right? And, in fact, the person said, `I think that Ludwig Wittgenstein, the Viennese philosopher, it wa--is an exception to what you said.' So I said, `Well, I don't know a lot about Wittgenstein. I'll spend some time reading about him.'
And so I spent some time reading about him, and I discovered that, in some ways, he fit the pattern; in some ways, he didn't. And that was helpful to me because I'm trying to build a theory, so it has to be able to count for the exceptions as rather than the rules. But the interesting thing about Wittgenstein was this. Typically, the extraordinary people whom I've met were sort of born in the--on the periphery, in the boondocks, so to speak. But as soon as they were young and growing up and had a chance to go to the city, they did. And they met other people like them, and they sort of made common causes, Young Turks.
Wittgenstein was born right in the center of things. His home was Saloh, in Vienna where all the greats gathered, so he didn't have to move. But what happened as soon as he grew up? He got as far away from Vienna as he could, never went back, went up to Norway, went to England and so on.
So I then realized what we really need to do when you turn 18 or 20 is you need to get away from where you were, so if you were in the periphery, you want to go to the center; if you were in the center, you want to go to the periphery.
I'm carrying around in my valise a wonderful biography of Darwin by Janet Brown. Darwin is Wittgenstein. Darwin grew up in England, in London, early in the 19th century. He knew everybody. His family was at least as central--it was Wedgwoods, Darwins, you know, really,
the establishment of-- Britain. What did Darwin do as soon as he grew up? He goes in the Beagle for five years. He goes on a boat, and he goes to places nobody's ever been to. He's getting away.
So when Gardner starts out, he says, `Extraordinary people, you know, tend to come from the periphery, and then they go to the center and meet others,' but now I can say something that I think is a better generalization, which is extraordinary people grow up in one kind of environment, and then they need to shake the cobwebs out and go to a very different kind of place.
LAMB: Are you born differently in your -I mean, in other words, are minds different when people are born? And can you grow a mind or are you given something at birth that, you know, is
different than everybody else? I'm not asking it very well. I think you know where I'm headed.
Prof. GARDNER: Yeah, sure. No, it's a favorite question for all of us in the--in this business. I think when it --when you talk about people who are highly intelligent in an area, like people are highly linguistic intelligence or highly musically intelligent, they probably have a nervous system which is at promise for being very, very good. At promise means simply that if you take
100 people and you teach them all to play chess, some of them are going to be winning steadily, some of them are going to be losing steadily because some people have better nervous systems for learning whatever it is to take--to be good in chess.
As soon as you move, though, from just being good into something--being good in something to being creative or to being a leader--and basically the people who I'm studying are either people
who are creative in a domain or who are trying to influence other people--I think biology doesn't get you very far. I think these people are made. They're made by an infinite number of factors, which means you can't simply decide, `I'm going to make my kid into a creative person,' or, `I'm going to make my kid into a leader.' However, there are all sorts of things you can do to prevent that from happening, and I'm interested in the preventive things as well as the facilitatory things.
But I know this literature as well as anybody, which is only to say that not many people have asked the question about the brains or the genes of extraordinary people. And I just don't think
there's any credible evidence that people who eventually change domains are different from people who don't. I do think there's credible evidence that people who learn to master a domain very quickly have different brains than those who don't. Mozart's brain is not the same as mine, alas for me.
LAMB: The actual book is 161 pages. How did you keep it so short?
Prof. GARDNER: I think that when you know something very well and you say, `Here's my chance to really bring it to a new state of readiness,' the book almost writes itself. Another way of putting it is let's say I was writing a book about Napoleon. I would--probably my first draft would have to be 1,000 pages because I was getting to know about Napoleon. There's so much to do. If I'd been spending a lifetime studying Napoleon the way, say, David Donald has spent a lifetime studying Lincoln, you really know what the high points are, the summits, what--not only the most important things to say, but the most important things to say at this historical moment, given what is on everybody else's mind.
So, for example, one thing I talk a lot about in--in "Extraordinary Minds" is: Why do we have so much antipathy nowadays toward heroes? Why are we made uncomfortable by people who are seen as extraordinary? Why is it seen as being politically incorrect? Fifty years ago when so many books were written in this spirit, that's not a point that I would have perseverated on.
So I think it's both having a--I guess I'll say a command of your subject and having a command of the moment which I think enables you to write a short book. I mean, there's a phrase which
has been attributed to everybody--I always attribute it to Voltaire--is if I had a time enough, I'd be brief. And in this sense, I've had 20 or 25 years to draw on this, and so I can be much more synthetic and summative than if I was writing my first book about extraordinary people.
LAMB: Our guest has been Howard Gardner, a professor at Harvard, and the title of the book is "Extraordinary Minds," and it's one of the last of the Basic Books. Thank you very much for joining us.
Prof. GARDNER: Thank you, Brian.
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