What do the geeks of history have in common?

Written by: Samantha Wolhuter

Like it or not, almost every major discovery in human history responsible for shaping our society and philosophies is due to the tireless efforts of geeks. Shock, horror! Some people consider inventors and creators of history’s finest and most important technologies and theories as ‘geeks’ and those who adopt these discoveries as ‘everyone else’. This is certainly true for Sir Isaac Newton’s discovery and study of gravity — one geek figured it out and the rest of us are bound to its laws.

Newton is a good place to start when talking about the common traits of history’s most successful geeks as he pretty much encompassed all that is considered geekish. He had them all. He was highly devoted, almost a slave to his work and studies and spent the majority of his days (sometimes days on end uninterrupted) in his laboratory and office, testing his findings and theorising his thoughts. He didn’t have very much time for other people as he considered them a distraction to his work. Much like most geeks of past and present, he portrayed obsessive-compulsive tendencies. He was a man devoted to science as modern day geeks are devoted to the latest tech trends.

Bobby Fischer, arguably the world’s greatest chess Grandmaster, was so committed to his geek cause that he perfected the game by the age of 6 and became the world’s youngest grandmaster by age 15. He famously won 20 world chess titles simultaneously and was considered by many to be a genius. Fischer was the ultimate geek as he portrayed many of the geekish tendencies: socially awkward, besotted with a particular field of expertise (chess, obviously) and was overwhelmingly committed to learning every conceivable move and strategy germaine to his preferred field of fanaticism.

Nikola Tesla was responsible for inventing and discovering alternating current and electricity, partly. He is also responsible for inventing X-Rays, the Tesla Coil, wireless technology, three-phase electric power, the violet ray and induction motor, among many others. Tesla was an introvert, highly intelligent and obsessive about his work. He devoted much of his life to his work and ignored the social norms of his time in favour of his work.

The commonalities among these men are rife. And these traits are shared by many others. Beethoven, Alan Turing, Da Vinci, Bill Gates and even Elon Musk all share most if not all of these tendencies. They were obsessive about their work, highly devoted individuals whose commitment to their chosen field of expertise resulted in the technological and psychological betterment of society. It almost seems as though human advancement relies upon these personality traits. Today some people deem these characteristics strange and amusing, but these are the characteristics which helped develop the world in which we live today. Without these obsessive individuals devoted to their work, we may very well still be reading this on inked paper by candlelight.

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Samantha Wolhuter
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Samantha Wolhuter
Sam is in charge of writing a big portion of WeAreBrain’s creative content. She is a digital nomad always on the go, inspiring us with her words from some of the world's most beautiful locations.