Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics defines wisdom as "intuitive reason combined with scientific knowledge." (We'll ignore his unwise theory that only men are capable of both.)
Calpurnia, wife of Julius Caesar, foresees her husband's assassination and begs him not to go to the senate. Caesar doesn't listen. Several stab wounds and a few famous last words later, he is dead.
hen Ulysses S. Grant is invited to join Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre, Grant's wife, Julia, urges him not to go ("I do not know what possessed me to take such a freak," she later writes). Unlike Caesar, Grant heeds his wife's advice. It soon emerges that he, too, may have been an assassination target that night.
Knobby-kneed and underweight, the racehorse Seabiscuit is a frequent loser—but Buick salesman Charles S. Howard is sure he's buying a future champ. Howard pairs him with a new trainer and jockey—and the Biscuit retires in 1940 as racing's all-time prizewinner.
Winston Churchill is dining at 10 Downing Street when a German bomb hits nearby. He orders his staff to leave the kitchen. Moments later another bomb falls, obliterating—you guessed it—the kitchen.
Avid people-watchers Katharine Cook Briggs and daughter Isabel Briggs Myers develop a questionnaire to measure personality preferences, initially aimed at women entering the wartime workforce. The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which counts intuition among the most important facets of a person's nature, becomes one of the most widely used personality tests of all time.
Ray Kroc's "funny-bone instinct" becomes the stuff of business legend when he ignores his lawyers' advice and borrows $2.7 million to buy out the modest fast-food franchise he helped build. Now more than 47 million people a day sit down—or drive up—for one of his McMeals.
After Madeleine L'Engle's fantasy novel for children is rejected by roughly 40 publishers, her agent gives up and returns the manuscript. But when L'Engle meets John Farrar, of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, he gives it a read and decides to publish it—though FSG doesn't publish children's titles. The novel, A Wrinkle in Time, goes on to sell some ten million copies.
Paul McCartney hears a tune in a dream—"the most magic thing!"—but it's so unlike anything he's written, he worries he's recalling someone else's song. McCartney plays it for anyone who will listen, but no one can identify it. So the Beatles record the track and title it "Yesterday."
Photo: Courtesy of Back Bay Books
Seeming to intuit readers' fascination with intuition, Malcolm Gladwell publishes Blink,
an examination of the mental processes and social factors that inform our snap decisions. The book goes on to sell more than two million copies and inspire a steady stream of similarly intuition-obsessed titles.
The Transportation Security Administration announces plans to beef up airport security with a dose of good old-fashioned human insight, supplementing metal detectors with more "behavior detection officers" trained to size up airline passengers for "hostile intent." (No word yet on what they're doing to combat government jargon.)
Photo: Courtesy of The Pillsbury Bake-Off
While clipping coupons, Sue Compton sees a Pillsbury Bake-Off ad and senses fate. Inventing by instinct ("I just let my mind relax, not knowing what was next"), she makes a single batch of Mini Ice Cream Cookie Cups, submits her recipe—and the Doughboy forks over $1 million. Sweet!
From the August 2011 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.