Journal of Adult Development

, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 1–6 | Cite as

Starting out: The early phases of four creative careers—darwin, van Gogh, Freud, and Shaw

  • Howard E. Gruber


This paper introduces the four that follow it. The others deal with the phase of the creative career we call “starting out.” Of the four individuals discussed in those papers, Darwin moved rather smoothly from an early phase of field work in natural history to a later phase of theoretical biology. His work in natural history became incorporated within the theoretical enterprise, the whole move being accomplished by about the age of 30. van Gogh had a protracted early phase as a mediocre art dealer and then as a failed Christian minister to the poor, rejected and scorned by his co-religionists. At about the age of 30 he made a clear commitment to a career in art and began a long period of training, seeking help from other artists but mainly directing his own development. As with Darwin there was a certain degree of overlap of earlier and later phases, in the sense that his art displayed religious overtones for some time. Freud had brilliant early careers—as a neurologist and as a medical practitioner. He did not move decisively toward psychoanalysis until his early forties. Shaw, too, had brilliant early careers—as a radical orator, as a journalist, and as a music critic. His career as a dramatist did not begin in earnest until his forties. Three of the four produced “initial sketches” that were significant in prefiguring their later careers: Darwin'sJournal of the voyage of theBeagle, Freud'sThe Project, and Shaw's letter,Dear Dorothea. Other topics are taken up as appropriate in one or other of the four cases: the network of enterprise, the ensemble of metaphors, the belief system, and the social web. Taken together with a discussion of the uniqueness of each creative person, they give a sense of the evolving systems approach to creative work.

Key words

Darwin van Gogh Freud Shaw creativity evolving systems development 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  • Howard E. Gruber
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychology, Teachers CollegeColumbia UniversityNew York

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