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July 1964

The Flash of Genius.

Arch Intern Med. 1964;114(1):176-178. doi:10.1001/archinte.1964.03860070222053

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The phrase, flash of genius, has become a commonplace one and also has taken on a parochial connotation. Tn the first case it is used with little discrimination. In the second case, since the use of the phrase in a court decision arising from litigation of a patent, it has taken on a particular technical meaning as a test of inventiveness in patents.

What does a genius do? We, a materialistically oriented culture, say he invents. And in this sense the invention is, or has to do, with things. This is no criticism if we are speaking of things. But our preoccupation with things overrides the most fertile attribute of genius, the creation of concepts, new ideas, new models of thought—different ways of looking at the old.

It is quite widely held that the chance happening—the lucky break—is hardly accidental. Tt is rather the culmination of activities and thoughts which

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