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Who Makes History and Why

Dean Keith Simonton, PhD


List Price: 53.00*
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Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (5/20/1994)


What do Madonna, Confucius, and Jackie Robinson have in common? What does it take to go down in history as a great political leader? Why do revolutions occur, riots break out, and lynch mobs assemble? Which events do people find the most shocking or memorable?

This path-breaking work offers the first comprehensive examination of the important personalities and events that have influenced the course of history. It discusses whether people who go down in history are different from the rest of us; whether specific personality traits predispose certain people to become world leaders, movie stars, scientific geniuses, and athletes, while others are relegated to ordinary lives. In exploring the psychology of greatness, this volume sheds light on the characteristics that any of us may share with history-making people.

Throughout, the book addresses two broad questions: what sorts of people are responsible for historic events and achievements, and what kinds of events are most likely to be seen as history-making at their time of occurrence. Providing a wealth of examples, the text probes the lives of important figures, from charismatic political and military leaders to famous writers, Nobel Prize winners, child prodigies, and Olympic athletes. The book covers history-making events such as international crises, technological innovations and scientific breakthroughs, popular TV shows, natural disasters, and many more.

With unerring insight, Simonton examines the full range of phenomena associated with greatness--everything from genetic inheritance, intuition, aesthetic appreciation, and birth order, to formal education, sexual orientation, aging, IQ, and alcohol and drug abuse. The work embeds psychological topics in the larger contexts of science, art, politics, and history to essentially define a new interdisciplinary field of study: the psychology of history.

Written in an engaging style, and offering the first in-depth examination of a topic with universal appeal, GREATNESS will be welcomed by everyone interested in the people and events that have made the world what it is today.

Praise For Greatness: Who Makes History and Why

"This is a book that might be used as a text or as a reference but here's the great part: It can be read for enjoyment!...Simonton has created a monument to completeness and complexity, but it is highly readable. The book is replete with fascinating tables, lists, and charts about individuals deemed as great who share a common characteristic....The book is very well written, full of examples and creative interpretation, persuasive, and up to date. This is a great book about greatness." --Malcolm James Ree in Personnel Psychology

"Simonton's book is so comprehensive and so engagingly written that, if major research universities regularly offered courses in the psychology of history, Greatness: Who Makes History and Why would be widely adopted as a text. The book is, in short, a tour de force: spirited, erudite, and entertaining - well within the reach of advanced undergraduates." --Philip E. Tetlock

"Fascinating, thorough, varied, readable, good text for students." --Joel Funk, Plymouth State College, New Hampshire

"Everything you wanted to know--and more--about the great historical figures who have shaped culture and society, Dean K. Simonton, our most prolific psychologist in the field of creativity studies, has assembled here a treasure-trove of facts and observations that will delight the reader, and serve as a useful reference for many years to come." --Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Ph.D., The University of Chicago, author of FLOW: The Psychology of Optimal Experience

"Dean Simonton's book on Greatness is a tour de force that explores the many aspects of greatness, including intelligence, creativity, leadership, social forces, and more. The book combines Simonton's own pathbreaking analyses of greatness with those of others, providing essential reading for anyone interested in what makes some people stand out from the rest. The book is written in a lucid, engaging style that will interest laypeople as well as professionals in all disciplines who wish to know what makes some people stand out from the rest." --Robert J. Sternberg, Ph.D., Yale University, author of The Nature Of Creativity

"Dean Keith Simonton has long been esteemed within the social sciences for his pioneering studies of creativity, leadership, and genius. Now he has produced a fascinating, accessible, and authoritative survey of work in this area. Students and seasoned experts are equally in his debt." --Howard Gardner, Ph.D., Harvard University, Graduate School of Education

"Only a great book could do justice to greatness throughout the ages, and Simonton has produced one."
— Readings

The Guilford Press, 9780898622010, 502pp.

Publication Date: May 21, 1994

About the Author

Dean Keith Simonton, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of California at Davis, has published more than 100 articles and five books on various aspects of history-making personalities and events.