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ADHD could have been the key to Leonardo da Vinci's genius

Mario Livio, an astrophysicist and author of “Why? What Makes Us Curious“, explains how some of Leonardo da Vinci’s tendencies might have been signs of ADHD. Following is a transcript of the video.

ADHD, of course, is a situation where, you know, people cannot very well concentrate and they constantly seek for things to ward off boredom.

Leonardo da Vinci famously was very, very bad at actually finishing projects. Of course he finished a few spectacularly so. But many, many of the projects he started he did not finish.

You know, maybe he was suffering from ADHD, because even people with ADHD are found to be able to concentrate for some periods of time on something that really interests them.

At one time we know that in his library were 106 books, which covered almost all topics of knowledge at his time. So this is a person that was not only interested in everything but actually tried to do something in almost every field.

Now, in some sense, you could regard it as an extreme case of what has been termed “diversive curiosity,” which is when you try to learn many things or look at many things at the same time. But at the same time he did not finish many, many projects. It almost looks as if he only worked on something for as long as he is curious about it, but not any longer.

So in that sense — I do not know — you know, we cannot tell today if he had ADHD or not. But clearly there was an element there, which looked as if, OK, he worked on something, he was interested in it, but then he wasn’t particularly interested in necessarily finishing it and he would move to something else. Which is a little bit reminiscent of some sort of an ADHD.

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