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Great Lives Lecture Series: Madness and Greatness

Great Lives Lecture Series: Madness and Greatness

The University of Mary Washington's 2013 Chappell Great Lives Lecture Series continues on Thursday, April 25, with a lecture on Madness and Greatness by Nassir Ghaemi, author of A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness:

According to Dr. Ghaemi, “Most of our heroes are seen as superheroes.  We don’t really know the human beings who were Lincoln and Churchill and King and Gandhi, or even Hitler. They are icons, or devils.”   In this lecture, he will examine who they were psychologically, focusing on their moods: did they have depression or bipolar illness?  He will show evidence for such mood diseases or traits in their lives, and how those moods actually helped them in their abilities as crisis leaders, or how they sometimes harmed them, especially in non-crisis periods.  He will argue that many of their greatest strengths grew out of their weaknesses and that depression and manic symptoms can have positive aspects – that, indeed, those positive aspects are beneficial for crisis leadership.

Find out more about this lecture on the University of Mary Washington's web site.

All lectures in the university's Great Lives series are held at 7:30pm, in Dodd Auditorium, George Washington Hall, and are free and open to the public.

For more on this topic, check out these items from the library:

An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mahatma Gandhi
In this classic autobiography Gandhi recounts the story of his life and how he developed his concept of active nonviolent resistance, which propelled the Indian struggle for independence and countless other nonviolent struggles of the twentieth century. (

A First-Rate Madness: Uncovering the Links Between Leadership and Mental Illness by Nassir Ghaemi
Nassir Ghaemi, director of the Mood Disorders Program at Tufts Medical Center, offers a myth-shattering exploration of the powerful connections between mood illnesses (depression and bipolar disorder) and leadership. (

Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill:  A Brief Account of a Long Life by Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin makes Churchill accessible and meaningful to twenty-first-century readers by analyzing the many contrasting views of the man. (

Hughes, the Private Diaries, Memos, and Letters: The Definitive Biography of the First American Billionaire by Richard Hack
Newly uncovered personal letters and over 100,000 pages of sealed court testimony reveal the man behind the many myths in this story of the secretive billionaire who led a uniquely American life. (

J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and his Secrets by Curt Gentry (book and audiocassette)
From more than 300 interviews and over 100,000 pages of previously classified documents, Gentry reveals exactly how a paranoid director created the fraudulent myth of an invincible, incorruptible FBI.  (

Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
This book will give you an insight into one of the greatest tyrants of [the twentieth] century, his political ideals, beliefs and motivations, and his struggle to consolidate Germany into one nation. (

The library has biographies of other leaders noted in Nassir Ghaemi’s book, among them John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., Franklin D. Roosevelt, William Tecumseh Sherman, Ted Turner, and Abraham Lincoln.  

Biographical essays and literary criticism are available online through the library’s databases.  Visit