Genius and Madness

There is no great genius without a tincture of madness. –Aristotle

I find geniuses and their lives fascinating, and I think Aristotle has identified why that is for me.  It seems that the brainiest among us, and in the annals of history, have another side to them.  Creativity and eccentricity are often intertwined, and hearing about famous thinkers’ quirks is very entertaining to me.  Here are a few recent titles about some groundbreaking figures…geniuses that have a “tincture of madness”.

Mad PotterThe Mad Potter: George E. Ohr, Eccentric Genius by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan. 9781596438101. 2013. Gr. 3-6.

George E. Ohr was a character.  Sporting a long mustache and flowing beard he often tucked into his shirt while working, he proclaimed himself the “Greatest Art Potter on Earth”.  Upon looking at the unique and beautiful pieces of pottery in this book, it is hard to argue with this, but he wasn’t recognized as a brilliant artist until an antiques dealer saw crates of Ohr’s pottery in the 1970s.  He was a showman, trickster, self-promoter, groundbreaking artist, and more.

Electrical Wizard: How Nikola Tesla Lit Up the World by Elizabeth Rusch and Oliver Dominguez (ill.). 9780763658557. 2013. Gr. 2-5.

Nikola Tesla was a precocious and exceedingly curious child.  His fascination with electricity started at age three after petting a cat and observing static electricity.  Much of his life after that moment was spent experimenting with and harnessing the power of electricity.  This book also describes how a meeting with Thomas Edison resulted in a long-standing and legendary rivalry between the two brilliant inventors.  This, paired with showmanship, ego, and off-the-wall ideas gave Tesla a reputation as a stereotypical “mad scientist”.

Tesla’s Attic by Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman. 9781423148036. 2014. Gr. 6-8.

Tesla has enjoyed a recent revival in interest, and his persona has made its way into a fiction title as well as nonfiction titles such as the one outlined above.  In this title, Shusterman uses the mystery and legend of Tesla to construct a fun story that may get readers interested in science and Nikola Tesla.

When Nick moves into an old house, he finds a number of what seems to be antique junk in his attic.  He later realizes that they are actually inventions of Tesla’s that all seem to have mysterious properties. Nick and his group of friends have to try and track down all of these items, while dodging a group of bad guys known as the Accelerati.   This title is a nice mix of mystery, conspiracy, and science.

If this isn’t enough to satisfy your curiosity about some deep thinkers, here are a couple more great titles about geniuses that have been featured in other Books in Bloom blog posts:

The Boy Who Loved Math: The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman 9781596433076. 2013. Gr. 2-5.

On a Beam of Light : A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne. 9780811872355. 2013. Gr 1-4.

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