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in Roman religion, guardian spirit of a man, a family, or a state. In some instances, a place, a city, or an institution had its genius. As the guardian spirit of an individual, the genius (corresponding to the Greek demon) was largely the force of one's natural desires. The genius of the paterfamilias was honored in familial worship as a household god and was thought to perpetuate a family through many generations. Notable achievements or high intellectual powers of an individual were attributed to his genius, and ultimately a man of achievements was said to have genius or to be a genius.



the highest level of manifestation of man’s creative forces. The term “genius” is used both to indicate a man’s creative ability and to evaluate the results of his activities. Assuming an innate capability to productive endeavors in some field, genius, as opposed to talent, not only represents the highest degree of giftedness but also is connected with the creation of qualitatively new works and with the discovery of previously unknown creative methods. The activities of genius are achieved in a definite historical context of life in human society, on which genius draws for its creativity.

In the psychology of creativity, genius is studied as a function of individual personal characteristics, such as psychological make-up and abilities, and of various factors affecting creativity. From the psychological point of view, genius cannot be considered a particular personality type. Various attempts to isolate a particular general psychological or psychopathological feature of genius have been unsatisfactory: geniuses exhibit significant individual differences in giftedness, character, culture, interests, habits, and so on. The creative process in geniuses does not differ in principle from the creative process in other gifted persons. A number of concepts of genius, beginning with that of C. Lombroso, postulated a connection between genius and psychological imbalance. This theory did not receive general acceptance because, while disharmony in spiritual life or a proclivity to disharmony is found in many persons of genius, it is not invariably the companion of genius.

Historical concepts of the nature of genius and its evaluation are related to a general understanding of the creative process. The ancients (Plato and, later, Neoplatonists) viewed genius as a type of irrational, “divine inspiration.” With the Renaissance (Leonardo da Vinci, G. Vasari, J. Scaliger) came the cult of genius as creative individuality, which reached its apogee in the romantic period, as exemplified by the preromantic Sturm und Drang in Germany, romanticism, and the theories, evolved from romanticism and characterized by the opposition of genius and the masses, of T. Carlyle and F. Neitzsche. The concept of genius in the contemporary meaning of the word developed in the 18th century. It became a fundamental aesthetic concept in A. Shaftesbury’s system: genius creates in a like manner to the forces of nature; its creations are original, in contrast to imitative artists. I. Kant also emphasized the originality and naturalness of creative genius: genius is the “natural endowment of the soul …, through which nature gives order to art” (Soch., vol. 5, Moscow, 1966, p. 323). F. Schiller described the nature of genius through the concept of naïveté as the instinctive following of artless nature and the ability to grasp the world spontaneously.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, psychological (including psychiatric), sociopsychological, and sociological investigations have been made into various aspects of genius and creativity.


Gruzenberg, S. O. Genii i tvorchestvo. Leningrad, 1924.
Zholi, G. Psikhologiia velikikh liudei. St. Petersburg, 1894.
Ostwald, W. Velikie liudi. St. Petersburg, 1910. (Translated from German.)
Wolf, H. Versuch einer Geschichte des Geniebegriffes. Heidelberg, 1923.
Genetic Studies of Genius, 2nd ed., vols. 1-4. Edited by L. M. Terman. [Stanford, Calif.] 1926-47.
Kretschmer, E. Geniale Menschen, 5th ed. Berlin, 1958.


See also Wisdom.
Aquinas, St. Thomas
(1225–1274) preeminent mind of medieval church. [Eur. Hist.: Bishop, 273–274]
(384–322 B. C.) famous Greek philosopher of a priori reasoning. [Gk. Hist.: NCE, 147]
Aronnax, Prof.
scholarly mental giant; Capt. Nemo’s captive guest. [Fr. Lit.: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea]
musical prodigy who, in an adventurous life, becomes a world-famous musician. [Fr. Lit.: Romain Rolland Jean-Christophe; Magill I, 439]
Leverkühn, Adrian
a composer who imagines he has made a pact with the devil, and achieves greatness. [Ger. Lit.: Thomas Mann Doctor Faustus]
Nemo, Captain
epitome of the genius in science fiction; inventor and creator of fabulous submarine, Nautilus. [Fr. Lit.: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea]


1. Roman myth
a. the guiding spirit who attends a person from birth to death
b. the guardian spirit of a place, group of people, or institution
2. Arabic myth a demon; jinn
References in classic literature ?
Genius is a light which makes the darkness visible, like the lightning's flash, which perchance shatters the temple of knowledge itself--and not a taper lighted at the hearthstone of the race, which pales before the light of common day.
Conceive of the ingenious devilishness of that queen: she had a special hatred for this prisoner, and she had INVENTED all those funer- als herself, to scorch his heart with; and the sublimest stroke of genius of the whole thing was leaving the family-invoice a funeral SHORT, so as to let him wear his poor old soul out guessing.
She is not a genius, you see, but just a normal child; they all make mistakes of that sort.
All who had seen the catastrophe were describing it at once, and each trying to talk louder than his neighbor; and one youth of a superior genius ran a little way up the hill, called attention, tripped, fell, rolled down among us, and thus triumphantly showed exactly how the thing had been done.
The greatest military genius our world ever produced was a brick-layer from somewhere back of Boston - died during the Revolution - by the name of Absalom Jones.
Dave's just an all-round genius-- a genius of the first water, gentlemen; a great scientist running to seed here in this village, a prophet with the kind of honor that prophets generally get at home--for here they don't give shucks for his scientifics, and they call his skull a notion factory--hey, Dave, ain't it so?
The lads came gayly back and went at their sports again with a will, chattering all the time about Tom's stupendous plan and admiring the genius of it.
Aurelia's experience of genius, as exemplified in the deceased Lorenzo de Medici led her into a greater admiration of plain, every-day common sense, a quality in which Rebecca, it must be confessed, seemed sometimes painfully deficient.
I do not pretend to Emma's genius for foretelling and guessing.
if he should be so far stimulated by your genius as to learn to draw himself, how delightful it would be
I cannot tell whether Miss Ingram was a genius, but she was self-conscious--remarkably self- conscious indeed.
Heathcliff; yet, I'll venture to say, that, surrounded by your family, and with your amiable lady as the presiding genius over your home and heart - '