“If it takes a village to raise a child … it takes a city to raise a genius.” That’s the case Eric Weiner makes in his latest book, which explores how history’s greatest thinkers were (and are) shaped by their surroundings. A sampling:
The city’s “openness to foreign goods, odd people [and] strange ideas” made it a bastion of creative thought, giving birth to Socrates and Aristotle.
SONG DYNASTY, HANGZHOU, CHINA
From A.D. 969 to 1276, China’s emperor-poets created a culture of generalists, especially in Hangzhou, then one of the world’s biggest, richest cities. That led to advances in woodblock printing, compasses and more.
Patrons like the Medicis thought they could save themselves from damnation by sponsoring religious artwork, launching Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci.
The tech hub has become the ultimate “talent magnet” for digital disrupters.
This appears in the March 28, 2016 issue of TIME.