Thursday, November 15, 2007

Living Genius

I am in possession of the results of a list of the "Top 100 living geniuses" as compiled by a panel of six "experts" (my quotes) in "creativity and innovation" from Creators Synectics - a self-styled global consultancy. Now, it turns out the source of the names was in fact 4,000 Britons who were solicited to nominate up to ten geniuses. Each nominee was then ranked according to some nebulous criteria like "paradigm shifting" and "cultural importance." Okay, you are saying, the slightly snide attitude here is entirely because I am not on it. Perhaps in part that is true, but aren't all such things manifestly ridiculous?

Interesting to note though that two chemists are in the top six and one of them, Albert Hoffman, is number 1 overall. For those who don't know who Albert Hoffman is, and I admit I had to look it up for he is not the same man as the legitimate genius Roald Hoffman that bestrides organic chemistry like a colossus, he is the chap who discovered the singular properties of LSD. Further reading revealed that he adopted the old-fashioned approach to chemical research by experimenting on himself with the material. Aside from that he has contributed nothing. Does this mean the 4,000 Britons or the Creators Synectics are all latter-day acid heads? Down in fifth equal is Frederick Sanger, one of only a handful of dual Nobel prize winners (and the only one with two in chemistry) so that is perhaps well deserved. Surprisingly, Steven Hawking comes in a comparatively dismal eighth, for he always seems to be synonymous with genius. My rectum clenched slightly at the sight of Richard Dawkins in 20th equal; evidence indeed that being clever with the pen and adopting edgy and controversial attitudes is far more likely to get you noticed than genuine scholarship. And he is a New College man! I am slightly envious of Sebastian Thrun's (32nd equal) given occupation as "probabilistic roboticist:" hard enough to say, let alone do. Wait, did I read this correctly? Osama Bin Laden in 43rd equal! Occupation given as "Islamicist." Enough said.

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