David Becker

Creativity Unlocked

27 Sep - 1 Dec

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Human ingenuity and inventiveness has continually moved our world forward.  From beautiful art works to works of literature, space shuttles to scientific leaps forward, at the heart of progress and change is a spark of creativity.  

But an idea need not be artistic or world-changing to count as creative. Life requires daily acts of ingenuity and novel workarounds.  What is creativity and are all humans creative?  And so, what are the conditions that inspire creativity?  

Could creativity be what makes humans so successful as a species?  In this Series, we will learn about the history of creativity and deepen our understanding of the conditions that give birth to creative ideas and inventions.  We will consider whether science is as creative as the arts and whether the brain is wired to always be seeking new ideas. 

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Dates27 Sep - 1 Dec
Talks structure30 minute lecture20 minute Q&A

7 talks in this Garden Series



Art & Entertainment
Society & Politics
Does artistic genius exist?

51 mins

Great artists are often described as geniuses. But what is artistic genius and would we know it if we saw it? Where does artistic creativity come from? From God, from imagination, or from hard work? Read more

Dr. James Fox

University of Cambridge

James Fox is a Cambridge art historian, writer, public speaker, curator and award-winning, BAFTA-nominated, broadcaster.

James fell in love with art at the age of six and hasn't looked back since. The first person in his family to go to university, he graduated with a starred first in History of Art at the University of Cambridge in 2004.

After completing an MPhil and PhD in the subject, as well as stints at Harvard and Yale, James took up a Fellowship in Cambridge in 2011. He specialises in modern art, British art, and the cultural history of colour.

He is currently Director of Studies in History of Art at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, Director of Education at the Jeffrey Rubinoff Sculpture Park in Canada, and President of the Friends of the Stanley Spencer Gallery.

Convinced of art's huge social importance, James works with museums, schools, charities and the media to engage broader audiences in this most life-enhancing of subjects.

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Psychology & Behaviour
Are creatives born or made?

55 mins

What makes someone a creative genius? Dean Keith Simonton, the godfather of creativity, will share his decades of research on how our genes and our environment contribute to everyday creativity and the emergence of genius. Read more

Prof. Dean Keith Simonton

University of California, Davis

Dean Keith Simonton has devoted his career as a social psychologist investigating the origins of and evolution of genius, creativity and talent. He has researched the personal, social, cultural, developmental, and cognitive factors that contribute to greatness in the arts, the humanities, and especially the sciences.

Over five decades, he has been at the forefront of research on creativity with hundreds of peer reviewed publications and a number of best selling books including "Origins of Genius: Darwinian Perspectives on Creativity'. He has featured on TV programmes covering genius, creativity, leadership, and talent for the Discovery Channel, CNN, ABC and most recently, an episode on “Genius” for The UnXplained with William Shatner for the History Channel. 

Simonton received the William James Book Award, Sir Francis Galton Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Study of Creativity, the Rudolf Arnheim Award for Outstanding Achievement in Psychology and the Arts, and the Joseph B. Gittler Award for “the most scholarly contribution to the philosophical foundation of psychological knowledge.” 

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Science & Nature
Is maths an art?

47 mins

What jumps to your mind when thinking about creativity? Chances are it wouldn't be maths. Philosophers, scientists and mathematicians used creativity to solve seemingly impossible problems. Could maths actually be as creative as the arts? Read more

Dr Eugenia Cheng

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Eugenia Cheng is a mathematician and concert pianist. She is Scientist In Residence at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and won tenure at the University of Sheffield, UK. She previously taught at the universities of Cambridge, Chicago and Nice and holds a PhD in pure mathematics from the University of Cambridge.

Alongside her research in Category Theory and undergraduate teaching her aim is to rid the world of "maths phobia". Eugenia was an early pioneer of maths on YouTube and her videos have been viewed over 20 million times to date. She has also assisted with mathematics in elementary, middle and high schools for 20 years.

Her first popular maths book "How to Bake Pi" was featured on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and "Beyond Infinity" was shortlisted for the Royal Society Science Book Prize 2017. She also writes the Everyday Math column for the Wall Street Journal, has completed several mathematical art commissions, and is also a commissioned composer, including for GRAMMY nominated soprano Laura Strickling.

She is the founder of the Liederstube, an intimate oasis for art song based in Chicago. She has also written "The Art of Logic", "x + y : A mathematician's manifesto for re-thinking gender", and two children's books. Her next book "The Joy of Abstraction" is out in October 2022, and "Is Maths Real?" in 2023.

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Society & Politics
Is there creative power in paradox?

54 mins

Could those moments where uncertainty or contradictions exist foster creativity? Dr. Wendy Smith will share how dilemmas and paradoxes can create the conditions for creativity and innovation and how this exists in all our lives. Read more

Dr. Wendy Smith

Wendy K. Smith is the Dana J. Johnson Professor of Management and faculty director of the Women’s Leadership Initiative at the Lerner College of Business and Economics, University of Delaware. She earned her PhD in organizational behavior at Harvard Business School, where she began her intensive research on strategic paradoxes—how leaders and senior teams effectively respond to contradictory, yet interdependent demands. Wendy stumbled into studying paradoxes because she found herself creating a forced either/or with so many of her own career and life decisions.

Working with executives and scholars globally, she received the Web of Science Highly Cited Research Award (2019, 2020 and 2021) for being among the 1 percent most-cited researchers in her field and received the Decade Award (2021) from the Academy of Management Review for the most cited paper in the past 10 years. Her work has been published in such journals as Academy of Management Journal, Administrative Science Quarterly, Harvard Business Review, Organization Science, and Management Science. She integrates her research into her book Both/And Thinking: Embracing Creative Tensions to Solve Your Toughest Problems.

She has taught at the University of Delaware, Harvard University, and the University of Pennsylvania–Wharton while helping senior leaders and middle managers all over the world address issues of interpersonal dynamics, team performance, organizational change, and innovation. Wendy lives in Philadelphia with her husband, three children, and the family dog.

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Science & Nature
Psychology & Behaviour
Could psychedelics unlock our creativity?

50 mins

Psychedelics might have unique qualities that can foster our inner creativity. But exactly what hidden mechanisms can these drugs unlock in our brains? and could we replicate these effects without taking these drugs? Read more

Dr. David Luke

University of Greenwich

Few people have explored altered states of mind as much as David. His research led him into an adventure in one of the world’s most fascinating subjects: consciousness. From running clinical drug trials with LSD, to conducting DMT field experiments to observing apparent weather control with Mexican shamans, he is involved in a variety of fascinating activities. He also studied techniques of consciousness alteration from South America to India, from the perspective of scientists, shamans and Shivaites. 

David is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Greenwich, where he has been teaching an undergraduate course on the Psychology of Exceptional Human Experience since 2009. These days, you will most likely find him in Sussex connecting with the land and building pirate tree houses. If not there, you will need to wait for him to come back from one of his expeditions exploring exotic trance rituals, psychedelic indigenous tribes or one of his shamanic pilgrimages across mountains and deserts.

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Art & Entertainment
Are creativity and madness historically interlinked?

47 mins

Throughout history, the myriad forms of art have revealed much about the lived experience of those with mental health issues and, it can be key to helping us better understand the relationship between mental health and creativity. Read more

Anna Jamieson head shot

Dr Anna Jamieson

Birkbeck, University of London

Anna Jamieson is an interdisciplinary art historian specialising in visual and material cultures of the eighteenth and nineteenth century, with a particular interest in the cultural history of women’s mental illness. She is a lecturer in History of Art at Birkbeck, University of London, and a postdoctoral fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre of British Art. 

After studying History of Art at the University of Leeds, Anna spent a few years working in the contemporary art world before returning to academia. During her Masters, she became fascinated in ‘Dark Tourism’ and tracing the parallels between past and present visiting practices at ‘Dark’ sites. Her doctoral research explored representations of female insanity in England between 1770-1833. After completing her PhD in 2020, she is now working on a book exploring asylum tourism between 1770-1845. 

Anna has held research fellowships at the Lewis Walpole Library (Yale University), the John Rylands Research Institute (University of Manchester) and the Northern Network for Medical Humanities Research. She is an Associate Editor at The Polyphony, a leading medical humanities website, and was recently a contributor on the BBC2 documentary ‘Lucy Worsley Investigates: The Madness of King George’.

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Psychology & Behaviour
Society & Politics
How can we unlock our brain's creative potential?

48 mins

How can I be more creative? This is the question Professor Anna Abraham is most often asked and in this fireside conversation, she will be sharing the answer to this question, grounded in her research on creativity and the brain. Read more

Prof. Anna Abraham

University of Georgia

Anna Abraham is the E. Paul Torrance Professor and Director of the Torrance Center for Creativity and Talent Development at the University of Georgia. She currently leads the Creativity & Imagination Lab at UGA.

Anna studies the psychological and neurophysiological basis of creativity and other aspects of the human imagination including the reality-fiction distinction, mental time travel, self-referential and social cognition, and mental state reasoning.  Her educational and professional training has been within the disciplines of Psychology and Neuroscience but she works in a cross-disciplinary way to understand creativity, imagination and the human mind.

I have been smitten by the world of creativity - whether through film, books, music or sports - ever since I can remember. The opportunity to study the creativity and the imagination was a serendipitous gift. And the lens of sheer possibility is one through which I process virtually everything in the world.

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