It’s official.  There are more geniuses in Britain than in any other country.  According to the delightful Daily Telegraph on Monday, British brains dominate a list of the top one hundred geniuses:

“Britain has more living geniuses per head of population than anywhere else in the world, according to a new survey which reveals the country’s influence on science, technology, business and the arts.”

Just what I needed on a Monday morning – confirmation of my Anglo-Saxon superiority.  Read the rest of the article here.

It’s a load of codswallop, of course.  4,ooo “known” Britons were emailed, of whom 600 replied with 1,100 suggestions of living geniuses.  Of these living geniuses, 40% were found to be already dead …  And another 120 were self-nominations but were at least alive …

If you ask only Britons to name their geniuses, it is hardly surprising that they name more Britons than other nationalities.  Nor do we know how “genius” was defined, except that it was broad enough to include Osama Bin Laden (No 43), George Soros (3), and Brian Eno (15).  Brian Eno’s mother was a dinner lady at my primary school, so I must be a genius too.

There’s an amusing report accompanying the list created by Synectics, a global consultancy firm, with a neat biography of every genius listed.  This is an example of the profound ability of Synectics to define their terms, and the excellent English they write:

“What is genius?  Genius is very difficult to define …. Many people argue that a genius can be defined by their contribution, where it turns conventional thinking on its head.”

Thank goodness for the Guardian. Unlike the Telegraph journalist, Marcel Berlins in the Guardian is capable of some critical thinking.  He lets fly at shoddy journalism and, oh, how I wished his pen were mine:

“You’ll have gathered by now that the list is barking mad. So how was it drawn up, and by whom?

The culprit, whose name I will not reveal because it would give the company responsible even more publicity, is described as a “global consultants firm”. A panel of six alleged “experts in creativity and innovation” emailed 4,000 people, all of them Britons, asking for nominations. Some 1,100 replied, many of them obviously deranged. I’m sure, of course, that the nationality of the consultees had nothing to do with the preponderance of British and other English-speaking geniuses in the list.

I do not accept that an exercise so crass in its conception and execution, so bereft of acceptable methodology, so biased towards reaching nonsensical conclusions, can be said to be “just a bit of fun”. I’m dismayed that many newspapers reported the findings as if they came from a respectable source. I am cross that the company that concocted this rubbish has probably gained a lot of publicity. There is a more serious point. The danger is that these insane findings will soon turn into facts, cited in Wikipedia and such-like. Future generations who don’t know any better – and indeed current readers – will genuinely believe that Brian Eno was a musical genius.”

And that, therefore, I am too.

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