The Nature of Genius

Online Immersion Program

Course Title:
The Nature of Genius

Craig Wright

June 13 - 24, 2021

Meeting Times: (Course meets twice a day)

Sunday, June 13th Welcome Session - Students only 3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. ET
Monday, June 14th 11 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. ET 2:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. ET
Wednesday, June 16th 11 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. ET 2:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. ET
Friday, June 18th 11 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. ET 2:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. ET
Tuesday, June 22nd  11 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. ET 2:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. ET
Wednesday, June 23rd 11 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. ET 2:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. ET
Thursday, June 24th 11 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. ET 2:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. ET

Course Description

What is genius? Is it a myth or a reality, an absolute or a relative designation? In this immersive course, you’ll examine why and how the human psyche produces genius. Spend twelve sessions over two weeks with Henry L. and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Music Emeritus, Craig M. Wright and his special guest lecturers. Your theme of inquiry is inspired by Professor Wright’s popular Yale College course on genius and his recently published book, The Hidden Habits of Genius: Beyond Talent, IQ, and Grit – Unlocking the Secrets of Greatness.  

Yale Alumni Academy brings you this intimate group study experience where you’ll take a deep dive into the minds of the creative geniuses that Professor Wright has spent a lifetime studying. His scholarship began with Mozart and Beethoven, and has extended in more recently decades to Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare, Edison and Tesla, Einstein, Woolf, Picasso, and Churchill. Drawing upon this broad body of work, the charge will be to explore together how geniuses think, what their special character traits are, and how we too might begin to think as they do. 

Through in-depth readings including biography, analyses and contextual sources, you’ll expand your knowledge of the nature of genius, then come together with fellow alumni participants to discuss and wrestle with the truths behind the phenomena. Although the framework will be a traditional “great minds of Western culture” course based on Professor Wright’s half-century of exploration, from it will emerge practical recommendations for how you might make your own life, and those of children and grandchildren, richer, more creative, and more harmonious.

Syllabus & Readings


RECOMMENDED PRE-COURSE READING (Scroll Down to Find Required Readings for Each Session): 

  • Monday, June 14:
    • 11:00 am - 1:30 pm Are You A Genius?
    • Module 1: Are You a Genius? Do You Want to Be? Steve Jobs & Friends
    • Module 2: Celebrity vs. Genius: Who are the Geniuses of Today
    • Module 3: The Changing Face of Genius: From Ancient Greece to the Moderna Lab
    • Module 4: Two Definitions of Genius for Today: Einstein on a Desert Island
    • 2:30 pm - 4:30 pm Gender and Genius: The Game is Rigged
    • Module 1: Evidence for Bias Against Female Accomplishment
    • Module 2: The Importance of Opportunity and Encouragement: Virginia Woolf
    • Module 3: How the Game has been Rigged and Women Denied: From Hatshepsut to Rosalind Franklin
    • Module 4: What is the Problem? Who is the Problem?
  • Monday, June 14: READINGS
  • Wednesday, June 16:
  • 11:00 am - 1:30 pm Genius, Geography and Race 
    • Module 1: Us Genius a Person, A Team, or a Society
    • Module 2: Are There "Ages" of Genius? Newton's London vs. Einstein's Berlin
    • Module 3: Genius, Geography, and Originality: From Athens to Silicon Valley
    • Module 4: Is there a Genius of Race? China vs. Silicon Valley and Singapore vs. Tel Aviv
  • 2:30 pm - 4:30 pm Nature vs. Nurture: Gift or Hard Work: IQ or Many Q's?
    • Module 1: Nature vs. Nurture: Genes and Epigenes
    • Module 2: IQ Testing and SAT Scores: What does if mean to be smart?
    • Module 3: Multiple Intelligences: Beethoven, Picasso, and Darwin
    • Module 4: Every Genius Needs a Fair Start
  • Wednesday, June 16: READINGS
  • Friday, June 18:
  • 11:00 am - 1:30 pm: Childlike Imaginations, Genius, Prodigies, and the Gifted
    • Module 1: "Genius is the Recovery of Childhood at Will"
    • Module 2: Prodigies, Geniuses, and Late Bloomers: Mozart, Picasso, and Einstein
    • Module 3: The Dangers Within the Prodigy Trap: Child Genius and Genius Junior
    • Module 4: What do we do with the Gifted?
  • 2:30 pm - 4:30 pm: Genius, Luck and Money
    • Module 1: Genius: Luck or Self-Made?
    • Module 2: Make that Lucky Move: Beethoven to Vienna, Picasso to Paris, Warhol to New York
    • Module 3: What Geniuses Seem to Think About Money: Michelangelo, Beethoven & Einstein
    • Module 4: Money and Innovation: Discussion with a Venture Capitalist
  • Friday, June 18: READINGS
  • Tuesday, June 22:
  • 11:00 am - 1:30 pm: Curiosity
    • Module 1: Curiosity: A Genetic Gift or a Learned Ability?
    • Module 2: The Most Curious Person in Human History: Leonardo da Vinci
    • Module 3: Voracious Reading: Ben Franklin, Frederick Douglass, Tesla, Musk, Oprah
    • Module 4: Tolerance for Risk: Elizabeth I, Churchill, Newton, Douglass, Jobs
  • 2:30 pm - 4:30 pm: Foxes, Polymaths, Combinative Thinking, and Oppositional Thinking
    • Module 1: Fox or Hedgehog? David Rubinstein
    • Module 2: Polymaths: Hildegard of Bingen, Leonardo, Ben Franklin, Tesla
    • Module 3: Combinative Thinking: Bach, Gauss, and CRISPR
    • Module 4: Donald Mackinnon, "Creativity"
  • Tuesday, June 22: READINGS
  • Wednesday, June 23: 
  • 11:00 am - 1:30 pm: Passion, Persistence, Perspiration, and Longevity
    • Module 1: Passion
    • Module 2: The Passion/Obsession of Marie Curie
    • Module 3: The Perspiration and Productivity of Thomas Edison
    • Module 4: Passion and Longevity: Surprise! Surprise!
  • 2:30 pm - 4:30 pm: Rebels, Creative Destruction, Morality & Genius
    • Module 1: Rebels, Dropouts, and Nonconformists
    • Module 2: Creative Destruction
    • Module 3: Morality & Genius: Hitler, Wagner, Philip Roth
  • Wednesday, June 23: READINGS
  • Thursday, June 24: 
  • 11:00 am - 1:30 pm: Ability, Dis-Ability, and the Moral Dilemma
    • Module 1: Leveraging Difference: Newton, Beethoven, van Gogh, Woolf, Musk
    • Module 2: The Moral Issues: Autism, CRISPR, and Genetic Engineering
  • 2:30 pm - 4:30 pm: Being Creative - Getting the Project Done
    • Module 1: Relaxation: The Key to Creativity, Productivity, and Longevity
    • Module 2: Getting the Work Product Out the Door
  • Thursday, June 24: READINGS

Optional Extra Reading List:

  • Divine Fury: A History of Genius, Darrin M. McMahon
  • The Science of Leonardo: Inside the Mind of the Great Genius of the Renaissance, Fritjof Capra
  • “How to Raise a Genius, Lessons from a 45 Year Longitudinal Study,” Tom Clynes
  • Mr. Churchill's Profession, Peter Clarke
  • My Early Life, Winston Churchill
  • Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell
  • Yale Needs Women, How the First Group of Girls Re-Wrote the Rules of An Ivy League Giant, Anne Gardiner Perkins
  • Van Gogh: The Life (2011) by Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith
  • Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol S. Dweck
  • Fundamentals: Ten Keys to Reality, Frank Wilczek
  • A Beautiful Question: Finding Nature's Deep Design, Frank Wilczek
  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, David Blight
  • Pierre Curie: With Autobiographical Notes by Marie Curie, Marie Curie
  • How to Lead, David Rubenstein
  • The Hungry Mind, Susan Engel
  • The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz, Erik Larson
  • The Bookseller of Florence, Ross King
  • Letters from an Astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson
  • Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  • Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  • Professor Wright's Favorite Books by Walter Isaacson:
    • Albert Einstein
    • Benjamin Franklin
    • Leonardo da Vinci
    • The Code Breaker
    • Steve Jobs
    • The Innovators
  • Peak, Anders Erickson and Robert Pool
  • The Good Story-Exchanges on Truth, Fiction and Psychotherapy, JM Coetzee
  • God's Hotel: A Doctor, a Hospital, and a Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine, Victoria Sweet
  • Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman
  • Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know, Adam Grant
  • The Columbian Orator: Bicentennial Edition, Ed. David W. Blight
  • The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, Matt Ridley

Course Session Links

All course sessions will use the following link:

Join from PC, Mac, Linux, iOS or Android:

    Or Telephone203-432-9666 (2-ZOOM if on-campus) or 646 568 7788

    Meeting ID: 636 617 2111

    International numbers available:

Only registered participants will be admitted to the room. If your Zoom ID name is different from the name you used to register, please notify your teaching assistant. 

Recordings & Downloads

Information Links

Craig Wright
  • About the Professor

Craig Wright

Studied piano and music history at the Eastman School of Music (1962-1966) and went on to earn an M.A. and Ph.D. in musicology at Harvard (1966-1972). While at Harvard he attended numerous Red Sox games, played chess with pianist Robert Levin (still a close friend), and, as a teaching assistant, taught composer John Adams—all survived the experience. After a pleasant year teaching at the University of Kentucky in Lexington (1972-1973), Wright moved to Yale, serving as chair of the School of Music from 1986-1992 and becoming the Henry L. and Lucy G. Moses Professor of Music in 2006. At the undergraduate level he teaches a basic music appreciation course (one of Yale's largest) and the music history course required of majors in Medieval and Renaissance music. His music appreciation course, "Listening to Music" is currently the fourth most popular online course in China. At Yale, Wright has also developed an interdisciplinary course, "Exploring the Nature of Genius," which has attracted a strong...

Terms & Conditions

Info Accordions

The online immersion experience begins as soon as you register and receive your books. You'll join the private online course community where you can meet and connect with fellow alumni scholars in the group and chat virtually about ideas and inspirations from your readings in preparation for the course. By June, you'll be ready for two weeks of intensive study alongside a collegial group of dedicated learners and Professor Wright.

The main course sessions will include a total of 20 hours of small-group sessions led by faculty and guest speakers. Alumni participants will come together for a scholarly endeavor that hearkens to the days of being a student on Yale's campus. Seminar-style discussions provide ample opportunity to engage with experts and peers, informed by comprehensive readings and complementary materials from Yale's collections: galleries, libraries and museums. Special guest speakers add context to the themes of the syllabus, and evening salons create space to share new ideas and understandings from the lectures and readings. This program has been specially designed for Yale Alumni Academy by Professor Wright. We invite you to enjoy the privilege of an intimate and bespoke classroom experience with an excellent faculty leader.

PROGRAM PARTICIPATION The right is retained to decline, to accept, or to retain any person as a member of this program who, in the opinion of the Yale Alumni Association ("YAA") is unfit to participate or whose physical or mental condition may constitute a danger to themselves or to others in the program. Participants must adhere to the participation guidelines throughout the course. In the event of disruptive behavior, the YAA reserves the right to terminate an individual's participation in the course without a refund.

PROPRIETARY PROGRAM INFORMATION Course materials, syllabus, contents and video sessions are proprietary content of the presenters and Yale University and may not be downloaded or recorded, neither may they be shared with anyone who is not registered for the course as a paid participant.

CANCELLATION You may cancel your participation in this program for a full refund within seven (7) calendar days of your confirmed registration. After seven days, you will be subject to a $300 non-refundable administrative fee. All cancellations are non-refundable at 30 days prior to the program start date. Cancellations must be made in writing to YAA, via email at No refunds will be made after the commencement of the course.

PAYMENT SCHEDULE Payment in full is due with your confirmed program registration.

CHANGES IN PROGRAM SCHEDULE AND COSTS The program schedule and syllabus are subject to change at the discretion of the YAA and faculty leaders. Any additional reading materials and course supplies must be purchased separately at the expense of the program participant as outlined in the syllabus.

RESPONSIBILITY CLAUSE YAA reserves the right to accept or decline any person as a participant at any time, or to require any participant to withdraw from The Program at their own expense when such an action is determined by YAA to be in the best interest of the participant's health and safety, or the general welfare of the other participants.

AUTHORITY TO USE IMAGES AND AUDIO RECORDINGS On occasion, YAA obtains, from its staff or from program participants, photographic or video images of program activities. By participating in this online program, you authorize YAA, without providing compensation to you, or obtaining additional approvals from you, to include photographic and video recordings of you, as well as voice recordings included with any videos, in sales, marketing, advertising, publicity and/or training activities.