Attention and Famous People

Famous thinkers have always had their giftedness and attentiveness combined in the most peculiar proportions. It is impossible to create something significant without being attentive to the environment. It's the ability to grasp the smallest imperfections and errors or unapparent resemblance that stimulates the invention of new devices, poetic description of seemingly unimportant aspects of life, development of new strategies, and interaction techniques. However, by no means all attention characteristics of gifted people are equally good. Some lack attention stability, while the others cannot switch their attention easily or may have a small attention span. At the same time, all these drawbacks are normally outside the sphere of application of their

David Hofstein

David Hofstein (8/6/1889-8/12/1952), Jewish poet, was born in the Zhitomir region of Ukraine, to a farmer's family. He studied in heder, a traditional Jewish school, with private tutors. He served in the army and, at the same time, managed to pass his high school exams without attending classes. Later he studied at the Kiev Commercial Institute. All this proves that Hofstein was a capable student and specialized in many areas. However, his contemporaries pointed out his phenomenal absent-mindedness among his other qualities. He used to forget his belongings on the tram, mixed up his kids' birthdays, and left home in other guests' coats. This astonished even his relatives, as well as his incidental acquaintances. Once his wife caught him in the hallway wearing her shoes. Hofstein attempted to turn it into a joke saying that the shoes fit him. Later he confessed that he had left his own shoes on a commuter train the day before.

Fyodor Tyutchev

Absent-mindedness is a common thing in a creative person's daily life. Fyodor Tyutchev (12/5/1803 – 7/27/1873) was a Russian poet, who was also known for his abstractedness and dreaminess. He had a high social status and was engaged in administrative activity. In 1867, Tyutchev was working in the Print Council and was the head of the Foreign Literature Censorship Committee. According to his contemporaries, Tyutchev often daydreamed during his work in the Council. He often got distracted or scribbled something on a sheet of paper. P. Kapnist looked through the paper Tyutchev had left after the meeting and noticed several poems instead of the meeting notes. Count Kapnist kept those poems, and they survive to this day.

Bud Powell

However, disorder of attention isn't always just a sweet childishness or spontaneity. Bud Powell(9/27/1924 – 7/31/1966) was a brilliant American jazz pianist and one of the originators of bebop. Bud was born in Harlem. By the time he turned 7 he already was joining the local musicians at their concerts and the audience adored him. He made his first recording when he was 19. However, America of that day sunk into the mire of racism and segregation. Drugs became Powell's means of escape from reality and a way to sort out his inner contradictions. It was the compulsory treatment in mental hospitals that had the most destructive impact on his personality. Having gone through treatment in 1945 and 1947 Bud Powell ended up with terrible migraines and became so absent-minded he often couldn't recognize his friends and rumbled into digression.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky


Fyodor Dostoyevsky, (11/11/1821 – 2/9/1881), Russian writer, suffered a chronic brain disorder called epilepsy. An epileptic person may not have all possible irreversible personality disorders; however, Dostoevsky's stiff thinking, attention, and fixation on details and overvalued ideas are particularly reflected in his work. People with this disorder have difficulties in switching their attention, "letting go" of events and situations, and considering different opinions. Among manifestations of this "stiffness" were his numerous statements about the clerisy's vanity and worthlessness, speculations about the Russians' unique love for their tsar despite their anguish. Author's "Jewish issue" occurred to be even more "stiff" — it absorbed him for a period of one and a half decades.

Thomas Alva Edison


Thoroughness, constant returning to the same thing and stubbornness were also typical of Thomas Alva Edison (2/11/1847 — 10/18/1931), USA. However, they helped him achieve commercial success and make a lot of amazing discoveries. Throughout his life, Edison sealed 1093 patents of inventions including modernization of telephone and telegraph, invention of phonograph, and the first power plant. Edison went to school only for 3 months when he was a child and was claimed to be learning-disabled. Edison's colleagues described him as grumpy, obstinate, serious, and extremely tedious. He went into the tiniest details and could return to the same thing endlessly.

Alexander Aliohin

Alexander Aliohin, (10/31/1892 – 3/24/1946), the chess king (the Russian Empire, Soviet Russia, France), was famous for his peculiar combination of super-attention and absent-mindedness often pointed out by his contemporaries. Thus, in his teens, Aliohin once answered distantly to his math teacher when he was asked if he had finished his test: "Yes, I sacrifice the knight and… white wins." Such inattentiveness to the environment was combined with an outstanding chess memory, ability to play dozens of parallel tournaments, track the changes on opponents' boards and adjust the game strategy.