Dean Keith Simonton, Ph.D.

I have been fortunate enough to have received three Mensa Awards for Excellence in Research. The most recent, received in 2011, was an article on the interrelations among eminence, IQ, achievement domain, and both mental and physical health in 282 historic geniuses — people like Napoleon, Newton, Descartes, Cervantes, Michelangelo and Beethoven! This honor was nicely timed, too, for my coauthor is a former graduate student who will soon go up for tenure at a research university. I am hoping that the Mensa award will help push her over the top!

Only a couple of years earlier, in 2009, another of my articles received an Award for Excellence in Research, only this time for a study of the association between childhood giftedness and adulthood genius in a sample of 291 eminent African Americans. This sample included such notables as Martin Luther King, George Washington Carver, Langston Hughes, Romare Beardon and "Duke" Ellington. Yet to me, my 1986 Mensa award was the most memorable for the simple reason that this was the very first honor I had received since earning my Harvard Ph.D. in 1975. Although many other awards have come my way since then, a first award is like a "first love" — something that is never quite forgotten (even when the prize money was long ago spent). The award-winning paper was a mathematical model concerning the nonlinear relation between intelligence and personal influence in groups.

The article has another unique place in my career. Recently, the so-called "h-index" has emerged as a gauge of a scientist's impact on his or her field. The h-index is simply the largest number h in which these h publications have been cited at least h times. At the time of this writing, my h-index happens to be 47. Out of more than 400 publications, I have 47 that are cited 47 or more times. And guess which publication has been cited exactly 47 times? Yes, that's also the number of citations received by the paper that received the 1986 award. Hence, in a sense, it demarcates the dividing line between my most cited publications and my least cited publications! It will be interesting to see how long that distinctive status continues in the future!

Dean Keith Simonton is a Distinguished Professor in the department of psychology at the University of California, Davis.