A sweeping cultural survey.
This book examines the rare individuals in human history who have been the great creators, who have discovered truths about the workings of the universe, written words that illuminate the human condition and put sounds and colours together in ways that touch our deepest emotions, from the age of Homer to our own time.
The people covered have been essential to the story of the visual arts, literature, music, philosophy, astronomy, biology, chemistry, the earth sciences, physics, mathematics, medicine and technology. There are 4,138 of these individuals who are rated by their eminence in their field.
The ratings are defined not by Charles Murray's opinion but by the place these people have attained in the scholarly works on their fields. The references to these eminent achievers in reputable books have been carefully tabulated by Murray and the results are evident in a series of two colour tables, an important feature of the text.
The heart of 'Human Accomplishment' is a series of enthralling descriptive chapters on each field, whether literature, music, art or science. What are the landmark achievements, the meta-inventions, the great works of art in each era of the past?
Murray suggests that some people are more intelligent than other people and that such a thing as excellence exists. And that of the elite thinkers and artists in human history, the elite has been very small. Only a few thousand people are responsible for the major achievements in art and science. And of those few thousand a handful stand apart from everyone else. This book celebrates that magnificent inequality of achievement in our history.
Finally two questions are posed and answered. First, why has human accomplishment been so concentrated in a few places and a few countries? And second, why has human accomplishment recently been declining? The patterns of history can be inexorable, even for creativity, and have implications for where the US and Europe stand at the outset of the 21st century. Throughout the book march the great creators in an exciting narrative of their signal achievements.