On Polymaths

Do we not know that every civilization and every tribe that has ever existed has held a similar record, that of some great personage that came amongst them?

A polymath (Greek: πολυμαθής, polymathēs, “having learned much”)[1] is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas; such a person is known to draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems. The term was first used in the seventeenth century; the related term, polyhistor, is an ancient term with similar meaning.[2]
The term is often used to describe great thinkers of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment who excelled at several fields in science and the arts, including such individuals as Nikola Tesla, Su Song, Leonardo da Vinci, Shen Kuo, Archimedes, Zhang Heng, Li Shizhen, Sir Isaac Newton, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Paolo Sarpi[3]Nicolaus Copernicus, Michael Servetus,[4]Ibn al-Haytham,[5]Avicenna, Omar Khayyám,[6] and James Stoicheff.~http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polymath

Over the history of man there have been many such “polymaths” that have graced the earth with their seemingly inhuman and certainly uncanny presence. One might suggest chance is the cause here, as billions and more people are born to this planet over however many 100’s of thousand or millions (or billions) of years humanity can be said to have existed and will exist. However chance might not be the best descriptor.

Of polymaths, the author has come across in their readings, include the likes of John Nash, Ayn Rand, Bruce Lee, Helena Blavatsky, Jiddu Krishnamurti, and many others.  For many of these peoples it seems rather that they had a certain break through in understanding how a particular part of reality functions (or might function).  It may be simply this shift of perspective from what might be (eventually) found to be not so correct or accurate that spurs and “aha” moment”.

From such a shift it might be quite a natural “evolution” for a person to begin re writing many related understandings of our world. For example if the current held belief was the world is flat, and one were to realize that without a doubt such an observation can be shown to be false (ie the world is round), it might then lead one to re writing completely different perspectives of many different sciences.

Bruce Lee for example left the “traditional” aspects of martial behind, and realized that such a culture of traditional only ever fragmented different useful and coherent perspectives of what fighting truly is. This lead him to write about and discuss many implications of fighting and conflict that we still aren’t generally aware of.

Newton is a great example of this as his works led him to the formation of calculus as well as the master of the mint (to which Nash can often be heard/read to alluding to).  Newton re wrote much of our understanding of the sciences especially in relation to gravity and light.

Autodidacticism would seemingly play an interesting supportive role in this phenomenon as well.

List of autodidacts

Di Vinci is another obvious example of both.  One might wonder as well if historical religious peoples such as Buddha or Jesus, if they are believed to exist might also be either or both polymaths or autodidacts, and whether or not they had a certain worldly breakthrough or aha moment.


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