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No. 98: Mar-Apr 1995

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Madness And Creativity

The observation that creativity and genius are often allied with psychiatric problems is an ancient one. More recently, male writers have been shown to have high rates of mood disorders and alcoholism.

Persuing these kinds of correlations further, but with the female sex, A. Ludwig, of the University of Kentucky Medical Center, chose as his "creativity" sample 59 female writers attending a Women Writers Conference. These were compared with 59 non-writers matched in terms of social, demographic, and family factors. Psychiatric problems in both groups were elicited through interviews. As the table below shows, the psychopathological differences between writers and non-writers are large.

Panic attacks225
Eating disorders122
Drug abuse175
Childhood sexual abuse3912

It seems that Dryden, back in the 17th century, was correct when he wrote: "Great Wits are sure to Madness near ally'd."

(Anonymous; "Madness and Creativity Revisited," Science, 266:1483, 1994)

From Science Frontiers #98, MAR-APR 1995. 1995-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987