Cover image for The Edison gene : ADHD and the gift of the hunter child
The Edison gene : ADHD and the gift of the hunter child
Hartmann, Thom, 1951-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Rochester, Vt. : Park Street Press, [2003]

Physical Description:
xviii, 262 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm
General Note:
"A modified version of the chapter "Edison-gene girls and women" first appeared in the anthology Understanding Women with AD/HD, Advantage Books, 2002"--T.p. verso.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
RJ506.H9 H3837 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
RJ506.H9 H3837 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



New scientific research shows how the ADHD gene has been critical to humanity's development for 40,000 years

* Shows how artists, inventors, and innovators carry the gene necessary for the future survival of humanity|

* Explains why children with the Edison gene are so often mislabeled in our public schools as having ADHD

* By the creator of the "hunter/farmer hypothesis" of ADHD

Thomas Edison was thrown out of school for behavior that today would label him as having ADHD, but his mother understood how to salvage his self-esteem and prepare him for a lifetime of success. The quick-thinking and impulsive characteristics of what we term ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder) are not signs of a disorder at all, but rather are parts of a highly adaptive and useful skill set that served our hunting and gathering ancestors very well. In The Edison Gene Thom Hartmann shows that these characteristics have also been critical to the survival and development of our modern civilization and will be vital and necessary as humanity faces new challenges in the future.

Hartmann, creator of the "hunter/farmer hypothesis" of ADHD, examines the latest discoveries confirming the existence of an ADHD gene and the earth-wide catastrophe 40,000 years ago that may well have triggered its development. Citing examples of significant innovators of our modern era, he argues that the brains of the children who possess the Edison gene are wired to give them brilliant success as innovators, inventors, explorers, and entrepreneurs, but that those same qualities often cause them problems in the context of our public schools. Hartmann offers concrete strategies for helping Edison-gene children to reach their full potential and shows that rather than being "problems," they are an important and vital gift to our society and world.

Author Notes

Thom Hartmann is the award-winning, bestselling author of over a dozen books, including Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception, The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight , and Unequal Protection . A former psychotherapist and founder of the Hunter School, a residential and day school for children with ADHD, he lives in central Vermont.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

In his new work, the author, a former psychotherapist who has written previously on attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perspective), recommends techniques for raising children diagnosed with this condition. Although many of the specific strategies will be very useful to parents raising ADHD children, too much of the text is devoted to complex genetic and evolutionary theory. According to Hartmann, ADHD is a trait (referred to here as the Edison gene, because the inventor Thomas Edison is believed to have had the trait) rather than a disorder, because it once provided useful skills for functioning in a hunter-gatherer society. The hunter abilities contrasted sharply with the farmer trait, which carried the skills required in farming societies. For example, hunter children have a short attention span, beneficial in a dangerous world where the environment had to be constantly monitored. The innovative but impatient hunter child is usually placed in special ed classes and is looked on as a disciplinary problem; but Hartman believes that ADHD children should be thought of separately. He provides specific guidelines for parents, partly based on the work of Alfred Adler, which encourage mutual respect between parent and child. Hartmann is not an advocate of drug therapy, and he argues for educational reform and alternative schools or home schooling as better learning situations for ADHD children. Hartmann believes that creative outside-the-box thinking, characteristic of those with ADHD, is a real asset to solving many of the world's serious problems. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Hartmann (a former psychotherapist) explains the attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) gene as one linked to traits that allowed members of hunter/gatherer societies to survive when others perished. He encourages a "think outside the box" approach (common to many with ADHD) when determining what is normal or what is optimal. The title of this book refers to Thomas Edison, the well-known inventor and creative genius who, as an individual with ADHD, not only survived but thrived. Hartmann argues that the ADHD gene results in characteristics that are part of the personality of the inventor, explorer, or entrepreneur. Thus children with ADHD may be enthusiastic, creative, disorganized, scattered, hyperfocused, impulsive, energetic, different, determined, eccentric, and more. Though they may not fit too well into the classroom, with good self-esteem and understanding they can excel in very challenging areas. The goal for educators and parents is not to label these children but to take the extra time to help them succeed during their early years. The payoff may be that they someday save the planet. Hartmann's chapter on Adlerian child raising practices is particularly notable. Well-written and with valuable footnotes and historical data, this book is suitable for all libraries. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. General readers; lower-level undergraduates and above. M. E. Leverence Governors State University



From the Introduction . . . The premise of this book is that children who have what we have come to know as ADHD are an important and vital gift to our society and culture, and, in the largest sense, can be an extraordinary gift to the world. In addition, for those adults who have been similarly diagnosed or defined, this book offers a new way of understanding themselves and their relationship to the world--a way that brings insight, empowerment, and success. Genetics and Differences The long history of the human race, as we'll see in this book, has conferred on us . . . a set of predilections, temperament, and abilities through the medium of our genetic makeup. These skills were ideally suited to life in the ever-changing world of our ancient ancestors and, we have now discovered, are also ideally suited to the quickly changing modern world of cyberspace and widespread ecological and political crises that require rapid response. I will call this genetic gift the Edison gene, after Thomas Edison, who brought us electric lights and phonographs and movies and--literally--ten thousand other inventions. He is the model for the sort of impact a well-nurtured child carrying this gene can have on the world. . . . When Edison's schoolteacher threw him out of school in the third grade for being inattentive, fidgety, and "slow," his mother gave the teacher a piece of her mind, withdrew him from school, and became his teacher from then until the day he went off on his own to work for the railroads (inventing, in his first months of employment, a railroad timing and signaling device that was used for nearly a century). She believed in him, and wasn't going to let the school thrash out of him his own belief in himself. As a result of that one mother's efforts, the world is a very different place. . . . What exactly defines those bearing this genetic makeup? Edison-gene children and adults are by nature: enthusiastic, creative, disorganized, non-linear in their thinking (they leap to new conclusions or observations), innovative, easily distracted (or, to put it differently, easily attracted to new stimuli), capable of extraordinary hyperfocus, understanding of what it means to be an "outsider," determined, eccentric, easily bored, impulsive, entrepreneurial, and energetic. All of these qualities lead them to be natural explorers, inventors, discoverers, and leaders. Those carrying this gene, however, often find themselves in environments where they're coerced, threatened, or shoehorned into a classroom or job that doesn't fit. When Edison-gene children aren't recognized for their gifts but instead are told that they're disordered, broken, or failures, a great emotional and spiritual wounding occurs. This wounding can bring about all sorts of problems for children, for the adults they grow into, and for our society. . . 1993: The Hunter Gene Dozens of studies over the years have demonstrated that ADHD is genetically transmitted to children from their parents or grandparents. From the 1970s, when this link was first indicated, until 1993, when my first book on the topic was published, conventional wisdom held that ADHD, hyperactivity, and the restive need for high stimulation were all indications of a psychiatric illness that should be treated with powerful, mind-altering, stimulant drugs. But could it be that ADHD, this psychiatric "illness" has a positive side? . . . Here's a chart from my first book, Attention Deficit Disorder: A Different Perception , that broadly summarized my 1993 view of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), and that contrasts the hunter-gatherer skill set with the skills of the farmer: The Hunter/Farmer View of ADHD Traits As They Appears in the "Disorder" View: 1. Short attention span, which can become intensely focused for long periods of time 2. Poor planning, disorganization, and impulsiveness (tendency to make snap decisions) 3. Distorted sense of time; lack of awareness of how long it will take to do something 4. Impatience 5. Inability to convert words into concepts and vice versa; a learning disability may or may not be present 6. Difficulty following directions 7. Daydreaming 8. Acting without considering consequences 9. Lacking in social graces Trait As It Appears in the "Hunter" View: 1. Constant monitoring of the environment 2. Ability to enter the chase on a moment's notice 3. Flexibility; a readiness to quickly change strategy 4. Tirelessness; the ability to sustain drive, but only when "hot on the trail" of some goal 5. Visual/concrete thinking; clear sight of a tangible goal even if there are no words for it 6. Independence 7. Becoming bored by mundane tasks; enjoying new ideas, excitement, the "hunt," or being "hot on the trail" 8. Willingness and ability to take risks and face danger 9. "No time for niceties when there are decisions to be made!" "Farmer" Trait: 1. Attention is not easily distracted from the task at hand 2. Ability to sustain a steady, dependable effort 3. Purposeful organization; long-term strategy that's adhered to 4. Awareness of time and timing; tasks are completed "in time," on pace, and with good "staying power" 5. Patience; an awareness that good things take time; a willingness to wait 6. Playing on a team 7. Focusing on follow-through; tending to details and "taking care of business" 8. Taking care to "look before you leap" 9. Nurturing; creating and supporting community values; attuning to whether something will last In 1996, the Journal of Genetic Psychology published an article titled "Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: An Evolutionary Perspective," in which they suggested that, " . . . ADHD may have served an adaptive function and may have been selected by the environment for survival."   Excerpted from The Edison Gene: ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child by Thom Hartmann All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.