This is Thoms ninth book about ADHD, which refers to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, often called just ADD. Obviously, Thom has a personal interest in this diagnosis. Indeed, his son was diagnosed with ADHD. Thom is a psychotherapist, and helped found the Hunter School for children with ADHD. He has done a great deal of research on the subject, and knows what he is talking about.
The title explains the theme of The Edison Gene. First of all, ADD has a set of definite characteristics, which include distractibility, needing constant stimulation, and original thinking. There is difficulty in maintaining focus, and a need to switch from one activity to another. Creativity and inventiveness are strong. Children are increasingly diagnosed with ADD, and given drugs to calm them down in the classroom. Thomas Edison, who had so much trouble in school that his mother pulled him out, is given as an example of someone with ADD. What, asks Thom, if he had been given Ritalin, instead of supported and encouraged in his explorations by his mother?
Secondly, there is a set of genes which have been connected with the ADD behavior complex, which is often inherited. Thom subsumes them all under the shorthand, "The Edison Gene." (Ive seen evidence which shows that George H.W. Bush and his four sons all have ADD.)
Thirdly, Thom goes through the three million year history of humanity in the light of earth and climate changes, and of cultural history. In his books, he places our present conditions into a long-range context. His over-riding perception is that we are on the edge of mass catastrophe, and he is always asking, how do we survive as a species? (In fact, as I write, news has just come in that the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is rising much faster than anticipated, and that it is now close to the runaway point.)
Fourthly, the Edison Gene is a correlate of the hunter type, of one who is curious, constantly scanning the environment, risk-taking, impulsive, creative, and flexible. This is the type, says Hartmann, who has the best chance of surviving crisis situations.
Therefore the hunter type, the ADD person, has the best odds to further the survival of the human species through another catastrophe, which seems not only likely, but also certain according to a variety of scientific and historical information. ADD people have great survival value for all of us.
Hartmann amasses evidence for his proposition from many fields, and presents it cogently and in easy-to-read fashion.
He also thoroughly discusses many aspects of ADD, in terms of brain growth, drugs, exercise, nutrition, spirituality, girls and women, and raising the ADD child. He relies on the findings from studies, those which have not been funded by drug companies. This book is worth buying just for its section on fetal and growing brain development.
What about Ritalin? Long-range studies show that those who use it do not have an advantage adjusting as adults, and that in fact their frontal lobes may have shrunk. Thom suggests gentle Mate tea as a substitute for drugs. (I drink mate at times, and really like it.)
The Edison Gene is fascinating reading, whether or not you are acquainted with an ADD-diagnosed person. Thom Hartmann has a talent for seamlessly combining fields of knowledge to make an engrossing and illuminating story about human beings. His hope is that we will encourage the positive potentials of the ADD child, which are many, rather than labeling them as problems and stuffing them with drugs to make them more docile. We may soon need their special qualities.