Talk:Polymath/Archive 1

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Organize by period[edit]

Organised polymaths into periods, approximately;

  • Ancient — pre 1500
  • Renaissance — 1500 - 1750
  • Classical — 1750 - 1900
  • Modern — post 1900

The thinking being that it is easier to be a polymath at certain times. In particular the modern period polymaths and ancient polymaths appear qualitatively different from those of the Renaissance - Solipsist 16:43, 20 Mar 2004 (UTC)

What about Brian May? He's an astrophysicist and renowned guitar player. Moreover, he designed his own guitar. He can be considered as one. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Hulg (talkcontribs) 09:08, 10 December 2007 (UTC)

SOMEONE ADD GOETHE —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:22, 19 March 2008 (UTC)

I know this is not serious enough for entry but a picture of "Wilson" from the TV show "home improvement" might convey the message simply. -lowbrow59101

Not sure about the number of mathematician/physicists in this list. I would really rather see more diverse interests to qualify as a polymath. - Solipsist 16:47, 20 Mar 2004 (UTC)

What about Umberto Eco? I guess he is a prime example for a polymath ;) --PhilipP 21:52, 21 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Or Buckminster Fuller?! -- practically the definition of polymath.
Any chance for Daniel Kahneman? mathematics, economics, and psychology, cognitive science.
Be bold -- Solipsist 21:40, 15 Jul 2004 (UTC)
Be bold, but also be verifiable. It would be a good idea to find a source you can cite that calls Kahneman "a polymath". Dpbsmith (talk) 20:39, 20 September 2006 (UTC)
Or Ray Kurzweil? I would support Ray Kurzweil. Seems to be branding himself as a futurologist these days, but he has had an interesting history in electronic music, speech synthesis and disability aids. -- Solipsist 21:40, 15 Jul 2004 (UTC)
Or Alfred Korzybski for the many disciplines he researched to produce 'Science and Sanity'?
Or John von Neumann for the Computer ,Physics, economis, etc reference ->
You've cited a reference that calls John von Neumann a polymath, so go ahead and put him in... with that reference. Dpbsmith (talk) 20:38, 20 September 2006 (UTC)
Here are some more: Isaac Newton, Bertrand Russell, Alfred North Whitehead, Avicenna (ibn Sīnā), René Descartes, Galileo Galilei, Pythagoras --Mavaddat 18:29, 12 December 2006 (UTC)
For what it's worth, in Carl Sagan's Dragons of Eden he gives this list of 20th century polymaths: Bertrand Russell, A. N. Whitehead, J. B. S. Haldane, J. D. Bernal, and Jacob Bronowski. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Martschink (talkcontribs) 14:12, 17 January 2007 (UTC).
I think Freya Stark might qualify--she was a self-taught cartographer and student of Arabic, and she was also a spy against the Nazis in the Middle East. Maybe someone else who knows more about her might make a more informed decision. --EKP on 2/16/07 —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 15:37, 16 February 2007 (UTC).
Without question, Charles Sanders Peirce should go down as a polymath. He produced original ideas in mathematics, logic, geodesy, spectroscopy (in fact, several areas of the physical sciences), psychology, philosophy, semeiotics, and more. He was particularly important as a logician, and is considered to be a co-founder of semeiotics. Plotinus 21:59, 12 August 2007 (UTC)

What about Nikola Tesla? I'm not an expert, but I was surprised that he's not mentioned anywhere in this article. I'd always got the impression that Tesla was considered one of the only polymaths in recent history.

The note about women is irrelevant[edit]

Actually, Hypatia was female, so the list of polymaths no longer implies that polymaths are males. Also, it should be noted in the article, that in some time periods it was easier to be polymath.

Brush up on your basic, gyno-critical feminism, friend. You aren't understanding the issue.

Thanks, Aaron 4.9.2006 14:59, 5 September 2006 (UTC)

Polymath = Renaissance Man = Uomo Universale?[edit]

Should this article be merged with renaissance man? - Fuelbottle | Talk 23:40, 2 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Only an RM would know enough to answer the question ... and there aren't any. Seriously though, I think one might possibly get away with the overt sexism of RM within a polymath article (i.e., RM is an obsolescent type of definition of polymathy). This is worth considering, in conjunction with taking out a list of polymaths and making it free-standing. Certainly not a good idea to redirect polymath to Renaissance man. Charles Matthews 11:29, 6 Sep 2004 (UTC)

An anonymous user has created an article called Uomo universale (originally Uomo Universalis—I moved it). Currently that article is a very unsatisfactory stub. Maybe Renaissance man could be redirected to Uomo universale (or vice versa) and the lemma could be used to deal more specifically with the renaissance ideal of doing and learnbing as many things as possible.--Thomas Ruefner 16:46, 20 Apr 2005 (UTC)

I found this article most unuseful. I was reading about the renaissance and so looked up renaissance man. - A man who can do more than one thing... unsatisfactory. Also when reading about the renaissance is clearly a term used in reference to the ITALIAN renaissance so the list of persians/iraqis for 900BC is unhelpful. Have a list of people from the Islamic golden age and something seperate for the European renaissance. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Diamondlights (talkcontribs) 01:10, 10 March 2008 (UTC)

Newton as theologian?[edit]

Isaac Newton is identified as, among other things, a theologian. My understanding is that his theological writings were published only posthumously and had no influence. He was a unitarian in that he disbelieved in the Trinity, and I think that means he would have denied that Jesus was an incarnation of God. Did he in any way influence later unitarian thinking? Michael Hardy 18:38, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Actually, he did a good bit of theology, and Newton considered it more important than his mathematical innovations. Rodney Stark mentioned this in one of his books--I don't have it handy. He also hypothesizes that Newton's later (presumably atheist) editors intentionally downplayed his theological bent, much as Karl Marx's apologists downplayed his antisemitism, for what it's worth. Jclemens (talk) 03:27, 1 June 2008 (UTC)


Over at Category:Orphaned categories, we're trying to figure out what to do with Category:Polymaths. Help by those who know what this is about would be appreciated. [[User:Aranel|Aranel ("Sarah")]] 23:27, 19 Oct 2004 (UTC)

It should be in some category such as [[Category:Intellectual life]]. Charles Matthews 09:27, 20 Oct 2004 (UTC)

I've been struggling with this one too, especially that I'm responsible for some of its population. For now I've dumped it under Category:People by occupation just so not to leave it orphaned, but polymathy is hardly an occupation. Goes with prodigies, multilingual people, psychological exceptions, genius, etc. Good luck....! — Bill 11:12, 20 Oct 2004 (UTC)

Narrow Definition[edit]

I have always been under the impression that a polymath was someone who had a working knowledge of a very extensive range of subjects, and the ability to apply that knowledge to almost any situation. Until I read the listing here about a polymath, I did not realize there was such a narrow definition. It seems that the listings of polymaths here are genuises in just a few fields. I also did not think that a polymath had to be a genuis in any field.

I'd certainly go along with you, Anonymous friend. A polymath need not be a genius or even anyone with very original ideas — although then again they do need to be very intelligent etc.... I'm also with you in that, by my own lights, some of the people discussed here are not polymaths. I like to think of polymaths as being people who have deep knowledge about very disparate disciplines: a poet/musician/songwriter/singer is not a polymath, but someone like Hedy Lamarr, who owned patents on WWII cryptographic devices that became even more important in the electronic age, might very well qualify, or at least with one or two more things thrown in, say Sanskrit and shellfish. — Bill 21:48, 27 Oct 2004 (UTC)

A proposed differentiation between polymath and Renaissance Man (and possibly a Universal Man) would be that a Polymath has created, or has/had demonstrated the capacity of learning necessary to create seminal works (not merely primary sources) in at least two disparate fields. Possibly would also need to demonstrate competency in at least one other field. Also seems to indicate (as stated elsewhere here) mastery of the theory/logic of multiple fields (an RM could know what is commonly known (mimicry to an extent), or have an inate grasp w/o the ability to identify or communicate the theoretical underpinnings of what they have mastery of -- whether said communication is via words/diagrams/models/etc...).

A Renaissance Man need only demonstrate peer-accepted competency/mastery in multiple fields (difficult enough). This also seems to have a distinct arts connotation as well. Significantly closer to a Jack of many trades.

Thus one could have a broad enough range of skills and interestes to be an RM and enough depth of knowledge in some of those fileds to also qualify as a polymath. One could also be just an RM (insufficient expertise to qualify as a polymath), or just a polymath (just sciences and/or social sciences, no art). -- 18:55, 27 July 2005 (UTC)

As an example: The Pretender (TV series) would be an RM (or possibly Universal Man), not a polymath, as he didn't really take the time to develop the capacity for qualitatively original insights into any of the disciplines he learned, though he did develop a profound competency.-- 20:35, 27 July 2005 (UTC)

To me, "Renaissance Man" seems to be a very colloquial term often thrown around as a compliment from one individual to another, whereas "polymath" is a real word, a technical term with a real meaning. But it is not easy to show convincingly that my impression is correct. Hi There 16:22, 13 July 2006 (UTC)

Ken Jennings as a Polymath[edit]

List your name below if you think Ken Jennings should be listed as a polymath.

Richard Selby

Toni Selby

  • I don't think he fits the description, sorry. He definately has an impressive knowledge of trivia, but there's more to it than that. Have a look at the other people on the list. --fvw* 09:15, 2005 Jan 2 (UTC)
  • No. Bacchiad 11:35, 2 Feb 2005 (UTC)
  • Absolutely not. A comprehensive grasp on trivia does not denote expertise within the subject.

I think you are misunderstanding the point. Polymaths are not only well-educated: they can add, revise and strengthen the trajectory of their subjects.

Ken Jennings certainly is well-read on an array of topics. I doubt Jennings could seriously contribute - creatively - to any of them.

So, because I can memorize a lot of random trivia, I'm a polymath? No.

☻I am only here because the Vulcans want to know when they should come☻ (talk) 17:20, 26 November 2007 (UTC)

vs jack of all trades[edit]

Would polymath = jack of all trades, or would two articles be required?

Polymath appears more artsy/theoretical, while a Jack tends to be more craftsman/builder and at closest engineer--ZayZayEM 09:19, 8 Feb 2005 (UTC)

'Jack of all trades' is usually followed by 'and master of none' while a polymath is supposed to excel in multiple fields. I think this would argue against the equivalence though there are similarities. Further a polymath usually excels in Several fields while a jack of ALL trades would be asked to work in many (a large number of) fields. RJFJR 17:49, Mar 4, 2005 (UTC)

Jack of all trades only implies versatility. There are a few such terms, like man of letters, which are have no real positive or negative connotations. Polymathy ought to be more positive, I suppose. Charles Matthews 19:18, 4 Mar 2005 (UTC)

In Enneagram theory, 'Jack of all trades' is in general reference to type 7, Polymath is in general reference to type 5. Potential interrelation relevance vis-a-vis the lines of integration and disintegration. -- 19:21, 26 July 2005 (UTC)-- 18:54, 26 July 2005 (UTC)


An Anon changed the opening sentence to A polymath (also known as a polyhistor - the two refer to qualitatively different kinds of knowledge and understanding) is a person who excels in multiple fields,

I am moving it here for discussion (please expand, in what way do the words differ? Are there people who honestly confuse the two words?) and reverting the change. Strike out is a bad way to handle this. RJFJR 23:36, July 27, 2005 (UTC)

Note, polyhistor is currently a redirect to polymath. RJFJR 23:39, July 27, 2005 (UTC)

I, the Anon, have since expanded some of my reasoning onto the page. Personally it's predicated on differing epistemological orientations of psychologically different characters. I also think I met the NPOV criteria too (to an extent: "Two conceivable..." could be misread as implying these are the only two conceivable). -- 03:48, 28 July 2005 (UTC)

"With the addition of potential ancillary meanings derived from cognates, possible differentiation is even more pronounced." I considered this sentence important, as the cognates of manthánein in Old Icelandic, Old High German, and Gothic (and further back to the Indo-European *men(s)-dhē-), specifically, add additional differentiation as to what the two terms math and histor focus on. All of these cognates from the Chamber's book. I have no expertise in etymology (thus not initially wanting to phrase the article to an etymological bent).
My expertise in personality theory is also somewhat idiosyncratic (neutral wording -- the same way Einstein's original math on relativity was idiosyncratic), thus I may not be seen as a specialist by others who have official credentials in the psychology of personality. It's possible a significant portion of professional psychologists/personality theorists who also happen to use the two words (and have given insufficient thought to what the vocabulary they are using actually indicates) may also incorrectly be using the terms as synonyms (thus my usage of "possibly" in the original draft). Though I do know at least one professional personality theorist who makes the same/similar differentiation as I do (Don Riso and/or Russ Hudson). -- 23:20, 28 July 2005 (UTC)

Now! will the real Polyhistor please stand up![edit]

"Polyhistor" is simply a synonym of "polymath" —as the elaborately attempted distinctions without differences so clumsily presented in this current article demonstrate by egregious example. The only sensible post-sophmore ever employing Polyhistor will be found to be discussing Lucius Cornelius Alexander Polyhistor (died 35 BCE), who was brought to Rome after the Mithridatic War, and impressed his literary colleagues with so many works on philosophy, geography, and history, that he received the cognomen Polyhistor. Anyone substituting "polyhistor" for "polymath" in an English sentence is just showing off. As simple as that. The word is a distraction, which turns attention from the subject improperly to the writer, thus a vulgarism. Note how the paragraph headed Etymological differentiation between Polymath and Polyhistor draws attention from Leonardo. --Wetman 05:06, 28 July 2005 (UTC)

Yes. I'm aware my attempted distinction (vis-a-vis the no original research policy of wikipedia) was cluttered and is less than desirable. This was as much an attempt at communication on my part as it was an attempt to non-synonymize the two terms. They aren't fully synonyms, no matter what the idiot (usage 3 in modern english) editors at the Oxford English and Merriam-Webster dictionaries say. Your synonymizing of the two terms is a fairly obvious mistake those who lack sufficient expertise in psychology and personality theory commonly make. et tu, Voltaire? -- 06:36, 28 July 2005 (UTC)
Given those most likely to be polyhistors (as opposed to polymaths) do tend toward sophistication in usage and moral superiority (Jung's extraverted Thinker and extraverted Feeler (eg. Jonathan Swift??? and Maureen Dowd)), vulgarism is not off the mark. Given Leonardo is an example, and Polymath and Polyhistor as terms are what the wikipedia entry is about, your comparison is messed up. -- 07:27, 28 July 2005 (UTC)
And given that polyhistor and polymath deal with specific kinds of intellectual orientations in humans, a sufficient grasp of personality differences (whether through psychology or via personal observation) is necessary to understand the terms.

Einstein - not a polymath[edit]

I think the example of Einstein not being a polymath might be slightly unfair. Einstein was an accomplished violin player, almost on the level of a professional. One music critic, having heard him play, and not knowing the real reason for his fame commented "Einstein's violin playing is excellent, but he does not deserve his world fame, there are many others just as good." For sources, simply google, but I can look up a biography if needs be. Eoin 13:11, 28 January 2006 (UTC)

Not a polymath, though. I don't think musical skill counts. Charles Matthews 13:42, 28 January 2006 (UTC)
I think what Charles means is that Einstein's musical skill and his math and physics skills don't quite qualify him as a polymath. Fresheneesz 21:57, 6 March 2006 (UTC)
Musical skill absolutely counts as a possible dimension in which one can excel or be a genius.
"a person who excels in multiple fields, particularly in both arts and sciences" Note the highlighted word. If maths and physics are different fields, then he's a polymath, even if he never even looked at a violin.--Dweller 07:16, 27 June 2006 (UTC)
I concur. Einstein is a polymath. —Nightstallion (?) 10:09, 30 June 2006 (UTC)
Einstein may have been a brilliant man, but he was no polymath. He had several talents, that is for sure, but the definition of a polymath is being used very lightly in this case. It would be more precice if he excelled beyond normally human ingenuity in several fields, but as is, he was a genius in several fields of science, and merely quite good at the art of the Violin. I vote no. Leif902 01:42, 14 February 2007 (UTC)

No, I'd say that's distorting the idea to get in one example. He was outstanding in mathematical physics, but that's it, really. --Charles Matthews 12:11, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

So, there's maths, there's physics and there's mathematical physics; three different disciplines? --Dweller 12:50, 30 June 2006 (UTC)

Einstein totally changed our perspective of time, space, gravity, light etc. He contributed so much to science, probably more than any other scientist that he definitely deserves the title as a polymath. Unlike the 1500 and 1600's it is impossible to be an actual polymath these days. The fields of science have grown to enormous sizes that one can only focus on very few fields. The def. of polymath is a waste of time to argue about as well:) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:50, 28 May 2008 (UTC)

Homo universalis[edit]

I don't think polymath is the same as Homo universalis. The goal of the Homo universalis was to combine all existing human knowledge, that's a lot more than to excell in multiple fields. Until the early renaissance acquiring all existing human knowledge was more or less possible. At this moment it is not just unlikely but impossible. Even an introduction to all fields of human knowledge would take more than a lifetime. None of these contemporary polymaths could rightfully be called a Homo universalis, so I don't think the words are synonyms. I think Homo universalis should have its own article. Piet 11:23, 2 February 2006 (UTC)

Merge with List of Polymaths[edit]

Since the "List of Polymaths" article is becoming unwieldy/ridiculous, it has been proposed before now that we merge the list with this article, or perhaps more accurately, simply delete the list and leave this article as is, as a number of the most notable polymaths are already listed - Da Vinci, etcetera. Anyone wanting to list random polymaths can equally add them to the Category : Polymaths, which does equally well for the task. Gravelrash 16:12, 28 July 2006 (UTC)

  • Oppose Merge. Your solution to the ""List of Polymaths" article is becoming unwieldy/ridiculous" is to increase it's size by merging it here? Ridiculous. Would you want all Genius' merged with Genius? Or all high IQ people merged into intelligence? Think it through man.--Tstrobaugh 17:44, 1 August 2006 (UTC)

Competant Man?[edit]

Speaking of mergings, what makes the Heinlein style hero that much different than a Polymath? Is it the difference between knowledge and skills? (ie. when James Bond knows how to fly the space shuttle he's a Competant Man, but when he figures out the type of nuclear bomb Goldfinger is using he's a Polymath?)

Proposed merger with Universal Genius[edit]

Universal Genius is almost a DICDEF, but contains a little bit of information not included in Polymath. Also, the term Universal genius (different capitalization) already redirects to Polymath, so merger and redirect would provide more consistency. --Thanatosil 14:03, 28 July 2006 (UTC)

  • Oppose Merge. Genius is an inherited trait and knowledge, even in many feilds is learned. This is an apptitude v acheivement or Nature v Nurture, a merge would nullify the distinction.--Tstrobaugh 01:30, 31 July 2006 (UTC)
  • Oppose Merge, recommend revers merge.--Tstrobaugh 17:42, 1 August 2006 (UTC)
  • Oppose -- another careless watering-down. John Reid 23:59, 2 August 2006 (UTC)

Unsourced list of polymaths[edit]

The List of polymaths article is probably headed for deletion, mostly because of being totally unsourced. The list is preserved here and may suggest worthy additions to the "list of polymaths" section of the article. Nothing from this list should be put into the article unless accompanied by a verifiable source citation that uses the word "polymath." If the source has a list of fields of accomplishments, that should be quoted too. By the way, note that the list below is outrageously overlinked; words should be linked only on their first appearance in an article.

The "list of polymaths" section absolutely must not be a "list of people whom Wikipedia editors believe ought to be considered as polymaths based on a list of their fields of accomplishment." Dpbsmith (talk) 09:49, 1 August 2006 (UTC)

Ancient and mediæval[edit]


Enlightenment and early post-Enlightenment[edit]

A to J[edit]

K to S[edit]

T to Z[edit]


A to D[edit]

E to K[edit]

L to R[edit]

S to Z[edit]

Legendary/Culture Heroes/Fictional[edit]

Note: Some legendary figures might be based on actual polymaths whose history is not well-recorded. They do not belong in the main list because their existence is uncertain, but they are mentioned in the event that elements of their story prove true.

List of Polymaths or Noted Polymaths or Quintessential[edit]

The list of Polymaths was put back in this article as "Quintessential Polymaths" with the notable names such as da Vinci, Goethe and Aristotle. Cites would be nice for the few listed there, but admittedly, some of the names are universally recognied with or without. Someone changed it to "List of Polymaths" and started adding, however, even with cites, what we want to avoid is this thing becoming a long list again as the "List of Polymaths" article ended up. Apologies to whoever added Fry, even with citation, but someone who's remembered more as a sportsman than all else probably shouldn't be amongst the handful of quintessential names. And this will be further debated, I'm sure, but we shouldn't be adding what they were noted for, either. (I'm remembering the connoisseiur (sp?) of 500 wines and Victorian dress, for example.) It's unnecessary to the article at hand. A name and link to wiki article on the personage should be sufficient. And a Quintessential list shouldn't need to be much larger than the following set, give or take a few names. That's for others to debate, of course.

  • Plato
  • Aristotle
  • Benjamin Franklin
  • Goethe
  • Alexander von Humboldt
  • Gottfried Leibniz
  • Leonardo da Vinci

--Gravelrash 16:55 (EST) 2 August 2006.

Look, if someone (who?) decided to say that the criteria for entry in the list is that a "reputable source" called the person a "Polymath", you can't conveniently override that criteria when you don't like it. Fry was **the** quintessential Victorian polymath. Read the definition of polymath again and you'll see he was a polymath just for his sporting prowess alone. But top that with his other scholastic, publishing and teaching achievements and there's no doubt. I thought that the whole purpose of finding citations was to remove personal preference. He's not your personal preference? Unlucky. He's a definitive polymath. --Dweller 10:47, 2 August 2006 (UTC)

Citing a reputable source is just basic Wikipedia policy: WP:V, WP:CITE, WP:RS.
I don't see how one can set even reasonably objective standards for deciding who is a "quintessential" polymath. Nor do I see how one can set even reasonably objective standards for deciding who is a "polymath" (what degree of achievement in how many fields? Do some fields count more than others), beyond the basic: the person has been called a "polymath."
Having cited a source that call a person a "polymath," one can certainly add brief quotations of whatever else the source says about them. If the source says "quintessential polymath" fine, quote it. If it says something like "the model of the Renaissance man" quote it too, and let the reader decide for himself whether that amounts to the same thing as "quintessential." Dpbsmith (talk) 12:10, 2 August 2006 (UTC)
No, mate. This is different. If someone is demonstrably a polymath, using reliable sources, that should be sufficient according to Wikipedia principles. Incidentally, I found innumerable sources calling Stephen Fry a polymath, while searching for a good one for CB.
Please tell me how one can demonstrably show that someone "excels" in "multiple" fields, absent a good, bright-line definition of "excel" and "multiple?"
As always, if someone is in fact a polymath, it seems very likely that someone, somewhere, at some time has called him or her a "polymath," so what's the issue with requiring the citation... other than that it takes work?
On the the other hand, if someone is a polymath but nobody has called him or her that before, than it's an original observation. It might well be true, but it cannot receive its first publication in Wikipedia because of the no original research policy. Dpbsmith (talk) 14:49, 2 August 2006 (UTC)
You could be right. Either way, CB's in. --Dweller 15:11, 2 August 2006 (UTC)
Works for me. Dpbsmith (talk) 16:46, 2 August 2006 (UTC)

As I'm looking at this, there's already 20 in there who have no cites/sources. This looks just like the List_of_Polymaths article all over again! In the interests of keeping the article at a moderate size, maybe a serious cleanup is needed (again/still?). Is this the short of thing we're trying to avoid? As I'm looking at this, there's already 20 in there who have no cites/sources. This looks just like the List_of_Polymaths article all over again! In the interests of keeping the article at a moderate size, maybe a serious cleanup is needed (again/still?). Is this the short of thing we're trying to avoid? 5:18PM, 2 August 2006 (UTC)

They were all added in a series of rapid edits by a non-logged-in user, without discussion here and without any explanation in the edit comments; e.g. 22:52, 2 August 2006 (Talk | block) (→Polymaths). I've rolled it back to the previous state, which consisted of about a dozen entries, of which five are properly sourced and the others are such obvious polymaths that there's really no doubt they will get sourced as soon as someone can spare five or ten minutes for each of them. I've removed them. Dpbsmith (talk) 09:49, 3 August 2006 (UTC)

C.B. Fry[edit]

It is evident that the person has a very rabid fan who INSISTS on denominating Frye a polymath, for reason not readily apparent. The justification given is this article: and the relevant quote is as follows "(Reggie Duff) was most picturesquely described by the English captain and polymath C. B. Fry: 'Reggie Duff, who had a face like a good-looking brown trout, and was full of Australian sunshine, was an entertaining batsman of excellent class.'" A sportwriter once decribed Dennis Rodman as a "genius" and that description, like the description of Fry as a polymath, can only be construed as a joke, irrespective of whether is was originally meant as one or not. Hi There 17:43, 4 August 2006 (UTC)

I don't think you can or should impose your own interpretation of the source. I can't tell from a reading of the source whether it's intended ironically or not. On the face of it, we have a verifiable source that characterizes Fry as a "polymath." Let the reader read the source and decide, don't decide for the reader. P. S. I've found another source, one which describes him as a "polymath sportman," presumably somebody good at several different sports.
Let's stick to a nice, clear, objective definition. Someone's a polymath if and only if there's a source citation that uses the word "polymath." Removing someone described as a "polymath" because you wouldn't describe him that way is just as problematical as it would be to add someone who hasn't been described as a polymath because you think the person is entitled to that description. That way lies endless instability. Dpbsmith (talk) 19:12, 4 August 2006 (UTC)
If you want to add every Sporting polymath just because a 2 bit journalist describes a sports person as a polymath then we need to place Maxwell Woosnam ahead of Fry.Max Woosnam. I doubt Woosnam will enjoy the accolade of being a polymath even though I have a cited source. Worse still looking at the dictionary meaning being multi-talented in sports is different to being multitalented in knowledge (as defined by the stricter definition of the word). I think the easy test here is how does Fry compare to the other polymaths listed here? Unfortunately he sticks out like a sore thumb! Einstein does not get a guernsey even though he was talented in Chemistry, Physics and (possibly) music. In Physics he was knowledgable in more fields then the average higher learning institute can even offer (Thermodynamics, Surface Tension, General Relativity, Special relativity, Brownian motion, and Mathematics, I am sure I forgot some). Many sources claim he was not a polymath just a genius in a single field. Calling Physics a single field is like saying sports is a single field. Ergot, Fry it could be argued was just a sporting genius and as he showed average talent elsewhere (or it could be argued madness) he was not a polymath just a good sportsman. Einstein however, won the Nobel Prize for Physics (argueably he should have won three of these) and was cited as a nominee for the peace prize as well, . Further if Einstein was not a polymath given his breadth of physics knowledge he knew, then consider the test the OED uses for defining words. How is it used? The phrase "I am no Einstein" could be substituted as "I am no polymath". Being an Einstein would implied a genius in a single field without a great knowledge in another therefore the phrase would implied I am not smart in that field of knowedge, rather than the commonly held meaning of "I am no polymath"...

-- 15:57, 12 October 2006 (UTC)

Fry was no common or garden sportsman. In addition to being world class at several sports, he was also a notable politician/statesman, author, youth leader, publisher etc and was offered the throne of Albania. He would have deserved Wikipedia articles for his work in each of several different fields. This has been debated and debated. There's been consensus here for some time that Fry fits the criteria. Sorry if you're not happy about it. --Dweller 16:41, 12 October 2006 (UTC)
The source you cite justifies adding Max Woosman to the list of "sporting polymaths" and I will do so. The criterion I am using is that there be a source citation showing that a reliable source has described the person using the word "polymath." Such a source has been found for C. B. Fry. If you want Einstein on the list, find a source that calls him a polymath. Your arguments that he deserves to be called a polymath are not important. If he really deserves to be called one, the chances are excellent that someone has published something calling him that. Find the source, and add him to the list with the citation.
We have a list of "polymath sportsmen" because there are sources using such a term. It is distinct from "polymath." There could be a phrase "polymath scientist" for someone whose major contributions are all in the sciences, but in a very wide range of different sciences... but as far as I know, there isn't. There could be a phrase "polymath musician" for someone with famous achievements in several widely different musical fields... but as far as I know, there isn't. There is a phrase "polymath sportsman," hence the section.
C. B. Fry is in the list of "polymaths" rather than "polymath sportsmen" because the Steere quotation makes it clear that this source considers him to be a true polymath, with accomplishments outside of sports.
As for Fry sticking out like a sore thumb in the current list of polymaths, I agree, but the list is far from complete. As far as it goes, some people might feel that Herbert Simon is not really quite in the same league as Leonardo da Vinci, or that Samuel Taylor Coleridge truly ranks with Aristotle. What they do, however, have in common is that published sources have described all of them using the word "polymath."
Wikipedia is an integrator and synthesizer of work that has been published elsewhere. WIkipedia is not a panel of judges deciding who should be called a "polymath." Wikipedia is a group of editors reporting who has been called a "polymath."
A great advantage in doing it this way is that different editors may disagree about whether Benjamin Franklin deserves to be regarded as a polymath, but everyone can agree that Jehlen and Warner wrote a book saying that Franklin was "A true polymath of the Enlightenment style." Dpbsmith (talk) 18:51, 12 October 2006 (UTC)

C. B. Fry as a sporting polymath (multifaceted athlete?)[edit]

Is it possible that there in athletic circles there's a restricted meaning of the word "polymath" to mean someone who's good at more than one sport? If so, that usage should be verified and documented in the article. I see that this source[1] says that "Denis Compton played cricket and war-time football for England; Geoff Hurst managed a brief term for Essex and didn't do a bad job for Alf Ramsey; C B Fry represented his country at three different disciplines and was offered the throne of Albania. But no sporting polymath comes even close to Hunt's achievement: world champion in motor racing and budgie-breeding." The context seems clear: Denis Compton, Geoff Hurst, Alf Ramsey and C. B. Fry are all regarded as "sporting polymaths." Dpbsmith (talk) 19:06, 4 August 2006 (UTC)
More evidence for a restricted usage: The Encyclopedia of British Football has a chapter on "all-rounders" which says at one point "Similar claims for the title of sporting polymath could have been made for Howard Baker."[2].
Another example: "In contrast to Tupper, Wilson was a sporting polymath."[3]
If you want to start a separate article about "sporting polymaths" that's a different matter altogether. However, this article is about polymaths as people who are, as an example, quite literally "walking encyclopedias" or have excelled in all intellectual fields. C. B. Fry might indeed be a "polymath athlete" but I have not seen any reason to think that he is a polymath in the more usual and accepted sense of the term, as used on this article. Hi There 20:29, 4 August 2006 (UTC)
My interest is in making sure the section of the article that lists polymaths doesn't degenerate into a mass of unsourced opinion.
I don't personally care about C. B. Fry. You'd suggested that his name should be removed even though the person who inserted it cited a source. I have a problem with that. You said the source was clearly joking or ironic. I didn't read it that way, and it also struck me as beeing too much in the nature of your own opinion.
So, I did some looking, and found several other references to Fry as sporting polymath or polymath sportsman.
What I currently believe, personally, is that the phrase "sporting polymath" or "polymath sportsman" is a real term in real use, to mean an athlete who excells in very diverse sports. I believe that the article that simply called him a "polymath" meant it to be understood as short for "polymath sportsman."
To my own way of thinking, and based on the references, C. B. Fry was a "polymath sportsman" but was not a "polymath."
Incidentally, all the references I've found so far to athletic "polymaths" are British.
I'm not sure enough about any of this to start writing anything about it. If I do, I'm not at all sure whether it should be a separate article or a separate section of this article. Dpbsmith (talk) 14:42, 5 August 2006 (UTC)

Sublisting Fry is just POV. Fry's sporting achievements are only one side of his (quite incredible) coin. He was also a League of Nations diplomat, a teacher, publisher, editor and writer. He wasn't offered the throne of Albania because he was good at long jump. He was without ANY doubt a "person who excels in multiple fields" - which is the Wikipedia definition of a polymath. Calling him a "sporting polymath" is like saying Ronald Reagen was "a famous actor". --Dweller 11:03, 7 August 2006 (UTC)

It's not a point of view, because I've found and cited two pretty good sources that call him a sporting polymath and polymath sportsman.
The citation you give, , is so clearly in the context of athletics that it is at best ambiguous as to whether Gideon Haigh means "polymath" in the larger sense or whether he is just using it as shorthand for "sporting polymath." I understand that in your opinion the list of fields you judge Fry to have excelled in matches Wikipedia's definition of "polymath." However, Wikipedia is based on citing sources, not on editors' opinions. If Fry was a polymath in the larger sense, someone, somewhere should have said so. Find the citation and cite it--one that says Fry is a polymath, like Sir Isaac Newton, not just an all-round athlete.
Meanwhile, I suggest you tolerate the "sublisting," because I think putting Fry in the main list without a convincing source citation is justing to lead to dispute and instability. Remember, List of polymaths was nominated for deletion and deleted. Dpbsmith (talk) 12:25, 7 August 2006 (UTC)

How about The Times: "Polymath, raconteur, writer and immensely gifted all-round sportsman". The interpolation of some of his other talents make it clear that "polymath" there is not referring to his sportsmanship. --Dweller 12:39, 7 August 2006 (UTC)

Try this "Footballer, cricketer, politician and polymath C.B. Fry, now commander of a Royal Navy training ship", page 51 of "Cricket: The Golden Age" by Duncan Steer, pub. 2003 by Cassell illustrated, ISBN 1-64403-237-K. --Dweller 12:55, 7 August 2006 (UTC)

Given the lack of response to those two sources, I can only assume consensus and will move Fry. --Dweller 09:31, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

  • You shouldn't assume consensus. Lack of response is not response.
  • I agree that the Steer book calls him a polymath, not merely a sporting polymath. I'm not completely happy about the source being a book about cricket. I'd be happier if you had an actual citation for quotation from The Times which you mention above. You really should include it. 09:52, 9 August 2006 (UTC)

I agree with Dweller: from the those quotations, it seems clear that Fry was not only a sporting polymath, but also a general one. You (Dweller) were right to move him up to the general listing. -- Rmrfstar 12:53, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

His quote above from The Times would be perfect, IMHO... if it had a source citation. Dpbsmith (talk) 18:49, 10 August 2006 (UTC)

Einstein vs Edison and Tesla[edit]

Einstein was not a polymath. He was a physics buff, and spent the vast majority of his time pondering the physical nature of the universe. His obsession with physics, and in particular the development of relativity theories including the ever elusive Unified Field Theory, took up far too much of his time for him to become a polymath. Einstein was a specialist.

Edison, on the other hand, was a polymath. He understood and participated in many different fields across the domains of business and science, ranging from chemical engineering to materials science, from mass transportation (the electric car and the electric train) to mass commications (telegraphy and telephony), from the creation and distribution of recordings (phonographs and film) to the production and distribution of energy (electricity and light), from the manufacture and application of concrete to electromagnetic iron ore processing, from industrial research and industrial laboratory management (Menlo Park) to mass production (he used conveyor belt technolgy in both his concrete and iron ore porcessing companies, and he even worked for Henry Ford for a time), from entrepreneurship and business management to botony (he analyzed over 10,000 plant varieties searching for a more economical and efficient source of rubber than the rubber plant). When he was a kid, he wasn't satisfied with merely delivering newspapers, he found an old printing press and printed his own! His reading speed was legendary. His appetite for knowledge was itself common knowledge. As further proof of his exposure and mastery of diverse knowledge is the extraordeinary size of the collection of his personal papers.

Tesla was also a polymath, though his interests were primarily in engineering and science, he mastered many subjects within these fields, contributing in varying degrees to the fields of electricity production and distribution, communication transmission (radio), radiology (X-rays), robotics and remote control, aviation (VTOL), ballistics, computer science, nuclear physics, and theoretical physics. And he was fluently literate (that is, he could speak, read, and write) in nine different languages (Croatian, Serbian, Czech, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, and Latin). --The Polymath 11:08, 14 August 2006 (UTC)

  • A Google Books search on "einstein polymath" seems to bear out the statement that Einstein is not called a polymath. A scan of the first hundred or so hits is all in reference to other polymaths to impinged on Einstein... or who, together with Einstein, impinged on someone else. Einstein doesn't seem to be called a "polymath." Dpbsmith (talk) 12:42, 14 August 2006 (UTC)

Is this good enough?? [4]. If you exclude from the google search the exact phrase "is a prime example of a person widely viewed as a "genius"" the result list changes dramatically. I think there was a source that has used the phrase above and every web site since has referenced it. Also if you are described as a renaissance man does that make you a poly math 17:33, 13 October 2006 (UTC)

I'm going to answer your question with another question. Is this a) a reliable source which b) calls Einstein a "polymath?" I'll tell you what my own answers to these questions are, but they are certainly open discussed. Let's take (a) first. I don't think this meets reliable source standards because it looks to me like it's just some kind of blog or personal web page. I haven't dug into it, but do we know who "chitransu" is or what his credentials are? Is he a historian? Does he sound to you like someone familiar with the concept of "polymath" or like someone who just learned the word recently? If he just learned it recently, are we sure he is knowledgeable about whom to apply it to? b) This is logic-chopping but I don't see anything there saying "Albert Einstein was a polymath." I see "could be called" polymath. Why, exactly, does he use that provisional phrasing? But as I say that's just nit-picking. The real question is whether chitransu can be cited as a reliable source.
As for "genius" and "renaissance man" I'm open to discussion on that, too, but at the moment I think the concensus is that they are not synonyms. But... do you have a source citation that says "Albert Einstein was a renaissance man?" Dpbsmith (talk) 19:07, 13 October 2006 (UTC)

Polymath definition of the article is too narrow[edit]

Polymathy is knowing a lot about many different things. (Someone who has read and can recall the material from an entire encyclopedia is a polymath. Though certain on-line encyclopedias are now too large to read in a lifetime, even for a speedreader, so you could read a large portion of one and still be a polymath.) The problem with this definition is in verifying those who qualify. So we look for accomplishment in multiple fields as mastery of diverse knowledge. But this context, and the treatment the Wikipedia article gives for the topic, painting it as synonomous with "Renaissance man", limits the term "polymath" to merely one of its several contexts. Polymathy is wide and varied learning. Accomplishment in various fields is not a prerequisite, but proof of having diverse knowledge is. --The Polymath 11:11, 14 August 2006 (UTC)

The American Heritage Dictionary definition is short and seems to bear you out:
NOUN: A person of great or varied learning. [5]
Ditto Merriam-Webster:
a person of encyclopedic learning[6]
Clearly the standard is learning, not accomplishment.
I'm not sure that actual usage bears this out, however. (What this means, of course, is that I'm not sure the dictionaries are correct).
Personally, I like this definition:
A person who has been called a "polymath" by a reliable source.
Dpbsmith (talk) 12:36, 14 August 2006 (UTC)

I have just checked the definition from 'The Compact Oxford English Dictionary' (1991) and it says 'Polymath... A person of much or varied learning; one acquainted with various subjects of study'. I always thought it implied original contributions to the subject, but evidently I as wrong. It is irrelevant what the common usage is, wikipedia should use a dictionary definition rather than the vulgar meaning.

Stephen Fry[edit]

Not trying to stir, but there seem to be countless refs to Stephen Fry as a polymath. Any thoughts? --Dweller 10:00, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

I think you're confused. Click the Wikilink in my question. Stephen Fry is decidedly unathletic. --Dweller 11:56, 15 August 2006 (UTC)
Yes, I was. My brain must have been Fryed. I've removed my confused comment, above. I notice that our article on him uses the word "polymath" only to say that Stephen Fry is a relative of the "polymath C. B. Fry."
Personally, I have no objection... hopefully your references are good ones, as our article doesn't strike me as describing someone conspicuously polymathean (if that's the adjective). The list in the article is currently a little strange. My only concern is that it not degenerate into an mass of unsourced names of people whom editors think deserve to be called polymaths, based on an unsourced list of fields in which the editors think the person had significant learning or accomplishments. Dpbsmith (talk) 14:51, 15 August 2006 (UTC)


Someone rearranged the list recently doing it all by first name alphabetical, I've fixed that to surname (or only name where only one name applies - e.g., Aristotle). It looks right, but checking the article on Humboldt, I see that they sometimes call him "von Humboldt" and sometimes simply "Humboldt" - which applies for sorting purposes? I've gone with "von Humboldt" for now. 4:27PM, 21 August 2006 (EST)

  • von Humboldt should be alphabetized under H, for Humboldt... in my opinion. Dpbsmith (talk) 09:58, 14 September 2006 (UTC)


Parking Gandhi here:

Perhaps he could be considered a polymath, but the question is, is he generally considered a polymath—that is, can anyone find a reliable source that calls him "a polymath," using that word? My quick reality check didn't turn one up, so I'm moving the entry here.

"Polymath" doesn't just mean "person famous for one thing who had a surprisingly wide range of other interests." Actually, most people have a surprisingly wide range of interests once you get to know them... Dpbsmith (talk) 09:58, 14 September 2006 (UTC)

Chronological order[edit]

Oops, I guess I should have read the Talk page first. I just finished putting the whole list in chronological order. To me, that's the most natural organization, but I suppose that should be discussed. *sigh* Mdotley 15:51, 15 September 2006 (UTC)

(Shrug) No objection personally, but if you think chronological order is the natural order, then I think you should add each persons' dates following his or her name so that it's clear why they're in the order they're in. I'm sufficiently ignorant that I wouldn't know off the top of my head who should come first, Humboldt or Coleridge.
Of course, "chronological" raises the question of whether you mean chronological by birth date or death date, since there certainly could be cases where a long-lived person could have both an earlier date of birth and a later date of death than a short-lived person. Dpbsmith (talk) 17:10, 15 September 2006 (UTC)
Actually, on checking I see that's precisely the case with Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) and Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834). Dpbsmith (talk) 17:13, 15 September 2006 (UTC)
IIRC, I went by approximate period of activity/flourishing when there was any overlap. Good job filling out the references, btw, I was thrilled to see that! Mdotley 14:53, 18 September 2006 (UTC)


I'm being a little picky here, but I'm moving Ataturk here pending a citation that actually uses the word "polymath." It's not clear to me whether or not Mango actually called Ataturk a "polymath," or whether we as editors are simply judging that his list of accomplishments in diverse fields merits the term. IMHO he would seem to qualify as a polymath... but if he does, then surely someone, somewhere has called him that.

"Has been called a polymath" is a nice, clear, bright-line definition. If we don't stick to it I fear we will soon be on the slippery slope of whether you need to have accomplishments in six fields, or eight, or at least two in the sciences plus five in the humanities, and what constitutes an accomplishment, etc. Dpbsmith (talk) 17:34, 15 September 2006 (UTC)

  • Mustafa Kemal Ataturk "Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was a revolutionary statesman, military commander, historian, linguist, philosopher, mathematician, writer with a universal knowledge"[1]

P. S. I find that a Google search on ataturk polymath seems to yield articles that a) mention some Arab or Muslim "polymath" e.g. Yusuf Ali, and b) separately mention Ataturk without calling him a polymath. Dpbsmith (talk) 17:39, 15 September 2006 (UTC)

  1. ^ Mango, Andrew (2004). Ataturk: The Biography of the founder of Modern Turkey. John Murray. ISBN 0719565928. 

If you continue to search in English, i think you cannot get relevent pages, but instead if you try Turkish translation of polymath you can find reliable sources. The proper translation of polymath is either bilge or çok yönlü. You can check from here [[7]] Mango's Turkish translation includes these words. Then lets put him back to the list. There are also other sources.e104421
OK, go ahead... I'd like you to do it because I'm not sure how to do a Turkish reference properly. Include the notes about the translation of polymath being bilge or çok yönlü and include a source that uses one of those words. Quote the source both in Turkish and in translation... Dpbsmith (talk) 18:19, 15 September 2006 (UTC)
That also raises the question as to whether any Turkish source could be considered NPOV wrt Ataturk, considering the veneration with which he is still generally regarded. My other concern is that in the WP article on Ataturk, ther is no mention of most of those attributes. His military/political leadership seems to be the focus. He is described as promoting Turkish history and the new alphabet, but there is no indication that he did the necessary legwork himself, to substantiate claims to being a "linguist and historian". Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was undoubtedly a gifted leader, with great interest in promoting his country and his culture, but I think to call him a polymath needs much more documentation. Mdotley 15:02, 18 September 2006 (UTC)
Just musing, here. By the same token, people in the United States are probably not neutral as to whether Thomas Jefferson was a polymath.
In principle, I don't think we should be trying to pass judgement ourselves on whether Ataturk was a polymath. We should be trying to determine whether there are reliable sources that say he was (per WP:V). We should of course be open to citation of reliable sources that say he wasn't (per WP:NPOV)... or that his veneration is so high that many things are said about him that non-Turks might not agree with.
The Turkish-language angle does give a twist to it, and if included the phrasing should be something like "In Turkey, Ataturk is regarded as a 'çok yönlü' which is generally translated as 'polymath.'" Assuming a source citation, such a statement would be accurate, and would make it plain to the reader that a) there's a potential issue about the translation, and b) nothing is being said as to whether or not he's called a "polymath" by English-speakers. Dpbsmith (talk) 16:32, 18 September 2006 (UTC)
P.S. Sources in languages other than English is relevant here, i.e. the foreign-language source should be supplied and quoted directly. Dpbsmith (talk) 17:14, 18 September 2006 (UTC)
Hm....mathematician,philosopher,well he might have been skilled in math but that does not mean he was a matematician,to be one you actualy have to publish some things in this domain at the very least,however to be called a polymath as a matematician he .Kemalism may have been an ideology that comprised of several allready existent concepts,(secularim,nationalism...etc) but it still does not qualify him as a phioshoper. I also do not now his writing but i do not know him as an established writer(to be a polymath would require a bit more then simple publishing).And the sources profile makes him look a bit dubiouse(unreliable source),as he was an Englishman that was born in Constantinople(in 1928 when he was born it was still called that way) and wrote exclusifly pro-turkish books to my knowledege.So i really think that we need more sources includin what were his breakthrough inovations in philosophy , mathematics etc... => deleting until we found some proper sources....AdrianCo (talk) 14:27, 24 November 2007 (UTC)AdrianCo
  • Reminder: The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. "Verifiable" in this context means that any reader should be able to check that material added to Wikipedia has already been published by a reliable source. Regards. E104421 19:49, 3 December 2007 (UTC)
*Reminder : Questionable sources are those with a poor reputation for fact-checking. Such sources include websites and publications that express views that are widely acknowledged as extremist, are promotional in nature, or rely heavily on rumors and personal opinions.
Now in particular : how can a doctorate in Persian Literature be an reliable source in a case of history,furthermore how can he be a judge if one is a "mathematician" or philosopher...etc. I would argue that he might have even been a little bit biased in a pro-Ataturk , pro-Turkey way as I said before. And also as before,i would not be bothered with him as a source if someone could source the fact that he was "revolutionary statesman, military commander, philosopher, mathematician, writer with universal knowledge" . His military and political skill is a well sourced fact! But , as said before we do not have any source actualy naming his "discoverys" or "revolutionary reserch".What we do have till now is a turkish-born(not as if it were anything but it just adds to my susspicion) persian literature doctor who worked for the BBC and did not had any qualification to my knowledge in the above-mentioned domanines.Not a reliable source to me! AdrianCo 00:20, 4 December 2007 (UTC)AdrianCo
  • Mango's book is a published work and used as reference in many places. Your conspricy theory on Mango does not apply this case. The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is verifiability, not truth. That statement should stay there unless it's falsified. You should provide sources by mainstream scholars that the information is incorrect. Regards. E104421 11:00, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
  • That may be,i do not whant to start another dispute regarding where was he referenced at. I never mentioned a conspiracy theroy but if you wrote for all your life articles that are in favore of the county were you were born and lived for 14 years (at least) then someone might start to think that you may not be as objective as others say you are. How am i supposed to found an article that states that he was not correct,simply because he is not that knowned (at least outside Turkey) he cannot have any seriouse detractors.But what i urged you is to either find new sources or prove that he was qualified to speak in matters of histry! He was a persian literature doctorate not a historian(or mathematician or philosopher), at least not a renouned one! So now what? If let`s say a economist starst writing a book claiming that Cicero was a great rock and roll star does that make him a reliable source! My strongest argument is that he did not had the required qualification to name him.One more small thing from what your qoute was there isn`t any mention of the word polymath! .I rest my case for the moment! AdrianCo 13:34, 4 December 2007 (UTC)AdrianCo
Thanks to your discussion, I added the missing Hajji Khalifa to the list of polymaths. By this disagreement, you have allowed the article to be improved! :)
Seriously, if Ataturk was a polymath, there would no doubt be English sources stating the case, and frankly only Turkish sources calling him 'bilge or çok yönlü' would not precipitate him being added to the list. I know the amount of reverence paid to this great man in Turkey, and it really doesn't mean he was a polymath just because it is mentioned only in Turkish. Sorry, E104421. Monsieurdl 16:35, 4 December 2007 (UTC)
Hah? I admit I never heard of Hajji Khalifa before but i do think that he should have importnace in some not-humane domain like medicin , engenering , maths etc... but he is not the topic of discousion and i do not have the knowledge to denounce him so for the moment i am going to asume that he is a polymath .PS: nice to see we can cooperate in an article Monsieurdl !AdrianCo 20:57, 4 December 2007 (UTC)AdrianCo
If Bernard Lewis calls him a polymath, then that normally is good enough for me, but my first line was a joke :) Yes, I saw you might need help over here and I did what I could to see what was happening- more of the polymaths here should indeed be sourced! Monsieurdl (talk) 21:32, 4 December 2007 (UTC)

About the word Pantomath[edit]

These webpages show that the word pantomath has been used in the context of polymath:

"In the words of a modern Australian poet, he appears to be "only interested in everything" - thus, less a polymath than a pantomath);" "the essays of W H R Rivers (another pantomathic doctor)" Kevin Jackson, 2004, The Independent on Sunday, [8]

"Well, I forget the rest. But I'd hate you to get the impression that I had nothing of substance to contribute to this stream of "bouncing, heady talk", as Empson once characterised the dazzling conversation of another English pantomath, Humphrey Jennings." Kevin Jackson, 2001, The (London) Independent [9]

"he is not a polymath but a pantomath" Rupert Hart-Davis, 1956 [10]

The word is perhaps extremely obscure, since I could not find it in several dictionaries of obscure words. But two different authors in two different eras have used it. Another Wikipedian 00:47, 19 September 2006 (UTC)

Sir Richard Francis Burton ("Ruffian Dick")[edit]

I believe that Sir Richard Francis Burton must qualify as the greatest polymath in history, if we use a loose definition of the term. Fawn M. Brodie in The Devil Drives (page 14-15) writes: "He was soldier, explorer, ethnologist, archaeologist, poet, translator, and one of the two or three great linguists of his time. He was also an amateur physician, botanist, zoologist, and geologist, and incidentally a celebrated swordsman and superb raconteur."

  • Just find a citable reference that says he was "a polymath," using that word. Given what you say, that shouldn't be too difficult. Dpbsmith (talk) 11:59, 28 September 2006 (UTC)

Actually, we may need another word to describe someone who is both physically and intellectually advanced. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Hellbound Hound (talkcontribs)

Is there consensus that "Polymath" and "Renaissance man" are synonyms?[edit]

In stating the criteria for list inclusion in the "Polymaths" section, should we change it from

The following people have been described as "polymaths"


The following people have been described as "polymaths" or "Renaissance men"?

I don't have strong feelings on this one way or the other. What I do have strong feelings on is that there should be a bright-line criterion, based on source citations, that is well-enough defined that everyone can agree on whether or not the criterion has been met. I don't want to see the list degenerate again into a mass of unsubstantiated personal opinion.

If there's no serious objection, i.e. everybody agrees "Polymath" and "Renaissance man" mean pretty much the same thing, we should probably make the change.

(This was prompted by the recent addition of Athanasius Kircher, with an (sourced but not well cited) quotation identifying him as a "Renaissance man.") Dpbsmith (talk) 16:31, 3 October 2006 (UTC)

Oppose. They are not the same, as the opening paragraphs make clear. I'm not even comfortable with "Renaissance man" being redirected here. Mdotley 14:03, 4 October 2006 (UTC)
OK. Let's leave it as is, then, and if nobody comes up with a description that uses the actual word "Polymath" in regard to Athanasius Kircher, eventually that name should come off the list. Dpbsmith (talk) 15:39, 4 October 2006 (UTC)
Speaking of removing Kircher, I propose reverting back to before the alphabetization. ABC order is good for finding someone on a list, if you know what you are looking for, but chronological order puts the list members in context. Mdotley 15:48, 4 October 2006 (UTC)
I've found a ref that call Kircher a "polymath" and will insert it in due course. (It was easy to find).
As for the order, I don't have a strong preference but I will suggest that if you put it back into chronological order, you add the words "(in chronological order)" somewhere so that people will know that the non-alphabetical order is deliberate, and that you add the birth and death years whereever that's easy to do... so that people adding other names will a) do likewise, and b) know where to put their entry into the list. Dpbsmith (talk) 15:57, 4 October 2006 (UTC)

José Rizal[edit]

  • José Rizal, national hero of the Philippines, was a poet, an amateur architect, artist, educator, amateur economist, amateur ethnologist, scientific farmer, historian, inventor, journalist, mythologist, internationalist, naturalist, novelist, ophthalmologist, physician, propagandist, sculptor, martial artist, amateur sociologist, a hyperpolyglot and a Freemason.

This person can be added to the list of polymaths as soon as someone provides a source citation, to a source meeting the WP:RS guidelines, which calls Rizal a "polymath" (using that word). Dpbsmith (talk) 15:47, 20 October 2006 (UTC)

Albert Schweitzer[edit]

Does anyone believe that Albert Schweitzer should be on the list? After all, he was a theologian, philosopher, excelling organist and musician, humanitarian, explorer, phyisician winner of the nobel peace prize. I believe he should be in the category..Kiske 04:32, 24 October 2006 (UTC)

Do you have a nice, verifiable source citation showing that a reliable source has called him "a polymath?" If so, put him in, with the citation. Dpbsmith (talk) 13:14, 24 October 2006 (UTC) P. S. You could use this one.

On the criteria about adding/removing a polymath to the official list[edit]

I have seen that the criteria to add a polymath to the official list now seems to be just to quote a source which uses the word. We should have higher standards as an encyclopedia. For example, if we can agree that someone was a polymath/universal man/renaissance man, etc. and there is one or several sources that the person in question was an expert in many fields, maybe we should consider his inclusion. This is just my opinion, but I have been researching the word "pantomath" (one who knows all) and I have noted that several not very known persons have been called pantomaths, without much circumspection. Clearly, that's not enough to consider anyone a pantomath, or a polymath. Similarly, any sloppy journalist or an author with a taste for strange words could call anyone a polymath, and that would not make that person a polymath. We should agree on what kind of criteria should be used to add or remove a polymath from the official list, expanding the criteria from just having a quote that says "polymath". If this standard already exists, please excuse me, (I certainly haven't read the whole thread for lack of time, but I will later). I am somewhat skeptic of the current standard, a standard that includes C. B. Fry, because he was a "footballer, cricketer and a politician"?? Is Arnold Schwarzeneger, the "bodybuilder, actor and Republican politician, currently serving as the 38th Governor of California" a polymath?? Skimming through Fry's bio in the Wikipedia, I was not very convinced of his "polymath" status, besides being a politician is not even a formal academic profession that necessarily requires "expertise", it may just need carisma, for example ("In 1952, the Israeli government proposed to Einstein that he take the post of second president", and Einstein, I guess, was not precisely a politician, although he was a pacifist, he may have been give this offer for being a celebrity, I speculate (I don't know), maybe that's why Fry was offered the throne of Albania too, which seems to have made quite an impression on some Wikipedians, who knows -maybe someone who knows can clarify this). And what about H.G. Wells? Is Isaac Asimov a polymath too because he was "a biochemist", and "a highly successful and exceptionally prolific writer best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books" and "Asimov wrote or edited more than 500 volumes and an estimated 90,000 letters or postcards, and he has works in every major category of the Dewey Decimal System except Philosophy"? Maybe both can be included, that's not for me to decide, but where are the standards for that. Quoting someone that said "polymath" is just not enough, in my opinion. Thanks for taking this (hasty and uninformed, but well-intentioned) opinion into consideration.Another Wikipedian 02:10, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

Is everyone a polymath? To support my view that a quote saying "polymath" is not enough, I just seach in Google using:

"was a polymath" -wikipedia
"* is a polymath" -wikipedia

Apparently, many reputable sources appear calling many barely known people "polymaths", (this will have to be researched more closely). The dictionaries do not seem to be wrong when they say a polymath is "a person of great or varied learning; one acquainted with various subjects of study.". That is the use that the quotes seem to support, (please research this). Also see [12] for more and similar examples in written works. It seems that some of us are the ones in error when we think that "polymath" is the same as a universal man, (or a person accomplished or expert in many fields, instead of just knowing about many fields). Maybe we should research the actual use of the word more, and we should look up in the dictionaries again, and decide, if it is justifiable, to split the article if "universal man" is different than "a person with varied knowledge". When one thinks of Da Vinci, Leibniz or Goethe, it is clear that one is not thinking of just "a person with great or varied knowledge" like "my grandpa", for example. So, in concrete, I propose the following: to research what polymath actually means and how the word is actually used, to research what "universal man", "renaissance man" and "universal genius" actually mean, and to make a decision of splitting if necessary. By the way, I also oppose the merge of "universal genius" with "polymath". You may research this, but it may be clear after researching that the actual use of these two terms are very different. (I don't think that there would be any doubt that Fry would not belong to the category of universal genius, for example. The current list of polymaths seem to go more in the direction of universal man, or universal genius. I like this beautiful phrase I found in Amazon with regard to Gell-Mann: "Polymaths can write about everything with authority." Clearly this is the idea that seems to come into our minds when we think of Da Vinci or Goethe, that somehow they had some sort of authority in several fields (or that they were major authorities in at least one field worldwide and had extensive and "authoritative" experience in other fields.) Clearly, as the arts and sciences are becoming more competitive and broad, it is clear why it is becoming ever more difficult to become a "universal genius"). And to the fans of C. B. Fry there's also an extra homework: if the article about universal genius is not created (since the list of polymaths in the article is clearly a list of notable universal men or universal geniuses and not just of people with varied knowledge, else the list will be incredibly long and might include my grandpa), you should show why Fry is a universal man or a universal genius. This might be difficult. But the truth is that even the less strict term "polymath" might not apply: If he is to stand next to Goethe or Leibniz in regard to his varied and encyclopedic or great knowledge, you should at least show what great or varied knowledge he possesed. I read the thread, and the strongest statement of him being a polymath was "In addition to being world class at several sports, he was also a notable politician/statesman, author, youth leader, publisher etc and was offered the throne of Albania." So did he possesed a "great or varied knowledge", let's say beyond what many of us also possess? I don't want to ridicule the view that Fry was a polymath, but what kind of great and varied knowledge does confer being "a notable politician/statesman, author, youth leader, publisher". While Fry's achievements at sport are impressive, I don't think that he "knew a lot" because he was "a notable politician/statesman, author, youth leader, publisher" or "He was also a League of Nations diplomat, a teacher, publisher, editor and writer" or "raconteur, writer and immensely gifted all-round sportsman" or "footballer, cricketer, politician" "now commander of a Royal Navy training ship". I only found these books from him in Amazon:

 Cricket (batsmanship) by Charles Burgess Fry (Unknown Binding - 1912)
 Life worth living,: Some phases of an Englishman, by Charles Burgess Fry (Unknown Binding - 1939)
 Key-book of the League of nations, by Charles Burgess Fry (Unknown Binding - 1923)

and I know that he wrote speeches. But are there any more books from where one can deduce that he was at the very least some sort of erudite or that he possesed an encylopedic knowledge (Merriam-Webster: polymath = a person of encyclopedic learning). Please, Fry's fans, don't come to us with just a quote saying "polymath", otherwise we would have to innundate the list with other equally not notable "polymaths" quoted by "reputable sources". To conclude, I propose to change Dpbsmith's definition of a polymath ("someone who has been called polymath" by a reputable source), and to expand it, to the very least, to someone who has been called a polymath by a source but who also can be shown that he possesed an encyclopedic and a varied knowledge, at least to comply with the dictionary definitions (and what seems to be the actual use of the word, to be researched further). If the new article universal genius is created, then we can discuss again what that term means. Also, the whole polymath article might have to be changed to reflect the actual use of the word, and not the idealistic meaning of the word, which seems to be the meaning that is being reflected for the most part right now. (At the very least, it should say that many (most?) people use the word to describe someone who knows a lot about several fields, and that such is the dictionary definition.) I will also include something like that in the article pantomath, it is clear that a similar situation is occuring there, the current article may be too idealistic and may not reflect the actual use. Another Wikipedian 04:15, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

I do not pretend to be comprehensive, but this is a more expanded list of Fry's books, (as expanded as I could find in several catalogs).

  • Key-book of the League of Nations, with a chapter on The disarmament question, by H.H. Prince Ranjitsinhji. by Charles Burgess Fry - 1923. Theme: League of Nations
  • Life worth living,: Some phases of an Englishman, by Charles Burgess Fry -1939
  • Boys Will be Boys: The Story of Sweeney Todd, Deadwood Dick, Sexton Blake, Billy Bunter, Dick Barton … by Ernest Sackville Turner, Charles Burgess Fry - 1948
  • Cricket Typhoon by Keith Ross Miller, RS Whitington, Charles Burgess Fry - 1955 - Theme: Cricket (Tests, contests, etc); Cricket
  • The Book of Cricket: A Gallery of Famous Players by Charles Burgess Fry - 1899 -Theme: Biography; Cricket; Cricket players (Great Britain)
  • Book of cricket. A gallery of famous players. by Fry, Charles Burgess, 1872 (the same book as above?)
  • The Test Matches of 1953 by Ernest William Swanton, Charles Burgess Fry - 1953 Theme: Cricket; Test matches (Cricket)
  • Cricket: Batsmanship. With... Action Photographs. by Charles Burgess Fry - 1930
  • Great Bowlers and Fielders: Their Methods at a Glance. Illustrated by... Action-photographs. by George William Beldam, Charles Burgess Fry - 1906
  • Real Diabolo by Charles Burgess Fry - Theme: Diabolo
  • Cricket by Fry CB, Charles Burgess - 1903
  • The Athlete in Bronze and Stone by Charles Burgess Fry Theme: Athletes in art; Bronze sculpture
  • Corinthians and Cricketers and Towards a New Sporting Era by Edward Grayson, Charles Burgess Fry, Hubert Doggart, Gary Lineker - 1996 Theme: Soccer (Great Britain); Cricket (Great Britain) ((Was Fry a real author??)

If there are other important works, it would be good to know them. If not, you be the judge of the "variety" of his knowledge based on his written works (remember a polymath knows a lot but also about many subjects). If someone has read some of his books, it would be good to know if his knowledge was also great (and encyclopedic). (Of course, I am controverting that Fry was a "mere" polymath, in regard to his universal genius status, one could compare with the 140 volumes of Goethe or with Da Vinci's dozens of paintings and hundreds of drawings about so many different fields, but of course, it's not just the quantity, but the fact that among these works are some of the best works of all times.) Another Wikipedian 05:17, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

Our definition differs from yours. Our article defines a polymath as "a person who excels in multiple fields". --Dweller 06:28, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
Sure, I know that the definition of the article is not the definition used in the dictionaries. That's my point, that's why I am saying: research the actual use of the word! Apparently the current definition in the article does not reflect what the word actually means in many (most?) cases, it is an idealization of what some editors think a "polymath" should be. I agree that some people use the word to denote a universal man or even a universal genius, buy many people seem to say "polymath" just to denote a person who knows a lot about many subjects or even a person who can be related to many subjects/professions in any way. Please note that we are not here to invent new meanings for words, and at the very least we should explain in the article why "our definition" is so different from the one to be found in common dictionaries. I will attempt a major edition in a few months, (or at least add a new section), but right now I don't have the time. The new section will simply explain, with real life examples, how is it that persons can be related to different fields, ranging from the person who studied several professions (some econophysicists?) or changed professions (E. Sabato going from physics to literature?), passing through the person who has read a lot about several themes (J.L. Borges?) and may even have compiled books about several subjects (I. Asimov?), and coming to the person who has an active commitment (the renaissance ideal implied an active commitment, not a passive, as it happens with just a reader?) with several diferent fields, and to the universal genius who excelled at least at one field worldwide and had an active commitment to other fields (Da Vinci or Goethe, with major works of arts, but enough active commitment to anatomy, for example, to even dissect corpses and make certain dicoveries), and probably mentioning at the very end, the very few people who have made lasting contributions to several fields (von Neumman, perhaps, to pure mathematics, to physics (somewhat lasting), and to economics). I would also try to explain the shift from the universal ideal of knowledge (and relate it to the concept of university) to the most common "hyperspecialization" today. At the very end, I will provide examples of how people use the terms polymath, renaissance man, and universal genius, and anyone will be able to decide by himself what kind of epithet he wants to use to denote a certain person. In theory (and in the most common use?) a universal genius is "more" than a polymath, but I am aware that some people use the word polymath to mean renaissance man or universal genius, and I will also provide examples of this use. The list we now have should be changed to a list of universal geniuses or something like that, in my opinion, so as to prevent the confussing term polymath which is used to mean different things by different persons. Another option is to briefly describe in the article on what criteria the list was formed, (what do we mean when we say list of polymaths), for example "these persons have been called polymaths by external reputable sources, based on their works they had extensive knowledge of several fields (some even made minor contributions to two fields or more), and a few of them (name them), on top of that, even managed to make a lasting historical contribution to one of their fields". My ideal is to make a descriptive definition/descriptions of all the terms in this article and not a prescriptive definition/description of these terms.Another Wikipedian 18:27, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

We have all been missing the point[edit]

It is impossible for us to agree on a list of all polymaths... simply impossible... whatever criteria we use. Even the direct quotation policy raises objections like the above one. What we need is a list of "quintessential" polymaths that everyone can agree on. This list should used to illustrate the article, provide examples, and give up on trying to be definitive. Done.

We already have twice as many names on the list as is necessary for this purpose. I say we cut it in half (or so) to the best examples (don't take this personally) and forbid more inclusion, unless someone comes up with a really good argument why somebody must be on or off the list. The final list should also, I think, be composed primarily of recognizable names, from various time periods, too, so that the examples are more useful. -- Rmrfstar 09:49, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

Good luck with it. It seems that cyclically this article achieves consensus and then every few months the applecart is upset. I think your suggestion is theoretically sensible, but I predict that six months down the line, someone will be affronted and wish to change the system. Perhaps the best way to avoid this is to make the list extremely short and then link to a much broader list that follows Smith's idea of 'with reference' Polymaths. --Dweller 10:52, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
I'd agree with User:Rmrfstar if the phrase "quintessential polymath" were used widely enough that we could make it a list of "people who have been called 'quintessential polymaths,'" but in fact that phrase seems to be quite rare.
So, I disagree with Rmrfstar.
The problem is that there won't be any way for editors with different personal opinions to agree on who is a "quintessential" polymath. However, we can probably get pretty broad agreement on whether or not a reliable source uses the word "polymath" to describe a particular person.
I agree completely with Dweller that if the list becomes too long, we can break it out. Even if we do, we mustn't abandon the requirement for citing a source or the list will once again just become a sandbox for random editors present their personal opinion and/or original research, including anyone they happen to admire.
I say: first, if someone was a polymath, someone, somewhere will have called him that, in print. This is even truer of this topic area than others, because polymaths are so connected with the body of traditional learning that gets into print.
Second, the list isn't too long yet.
Third, when it gets too long, we can break it out. Dpbsmith (talk) 13:54, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

Looks like another wiki entry being railroaded by a minority with an agenda. Facinating the number of good entries that have been removed to ensure CB FRY stays in view. Including José Rizal[13]. Read the book The first Filipino, a biography of José Rizal (Publications of the National Heroes Commission) (Hardcover) by León María Guerrero. You'll find it quick enough. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

I don't see the word "polymath" on the page to which you link. Find a verifiable source that calls Rizal a polymath and I'll support his inclusion in the list. Initially I opposed C. B. Fry because of lack of a convincing source. Someone found a convincing source and I changed my mind. Frankly I think he's borderline, but there's a published source that calls him a polymath in a context that makes it clear that the writer mean "polymath," not "versatile sportsman."
I'm not sure what you think my agenda is, unless you mean the verifiability policy, in which case, OK, sure I have an agenda.
I'm not sure what you mean by a "good entry," but an entry that can't be supported by a published source, per the verifiability policy, isn't a good entry.
I'm all in favor of adding to the list of polymaths, and eventually breaking it out, but my point is that it has to be a published source that calls a person a polymath, not a group of Wikipedia editors making a collective judgement.
My guess is that quite a lot of the entries moved to this page can in fact be sourced, but until someone bothers to source them they shouldn't go into the article. Dpbsmith (talk) 19:29, 25 October 2006 (UTC)
Your personal attack is a little odd, in terms of "removing entries", my major contributions here have been arguing for inclusion of Einstein and Fry. Sorry about Rizal. Why dpbsmith removed Fry from the list of polymaths and asked for a source to back up the inclusion, I went and found one. I'll try to do the same for Rizal. --Dweller 20:11, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

Comments not intend as an personal attack. Actually sarcasm is not cited by wiki as an attack form but I will apologise and will retract and remove the personal comment. I do think being verifiable is a only the first test for some entries and polymath seems to be one of those where additional work is required. A list of cited polymaths helps but does not place a value on the quality of the main entries citations.

The definition here is Wrong[edit]

The cause of this debate is definitional. MY POV is that the definiton should be that a person is not a polymath if anyone objects to there inclusion. A list of sourced polymaths would make sense. As for the list of actual polymaths I suggest we start with Da Vinci and see if any one objects. The list will stay very short with a criteria that excludes any objectionable persons and the debate will be short.—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talkcontribs)

Any comments on only entering agreeable polymaths beginning with Da Vinci?

  • It's a recipe for article instability and edit wars. What would you do if someone said "I object to the inclusion of Da Vinci?" Dpbsmith (talk) 21:35, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

Jose Rizal[edit]

I found a whole bunch of Google hits (c.850) for "Jose Rizal polymath". From them, this ([14]) book review from Japan Today seems as good as any, "...Jose Rizal, the 19th-century polymath celebrated as the father of Philippine independence". --Dweller 20:15, 25 October 2006 (UTC)

Please, let's raise the bar of our research quality!![edit]

To ask for a quote in a reputable source seems like a good criteria at first sight. It avoids subjectivity and permits consensus. And that is very good, but it is insufficient. I have understood that we are not going to reach consensus by ourselves, and perhaps we shouldn't. But we should look for consensus in our own sources, and we shouldn't limit ourselves to a single source, in general. I propose that "our polymaths" should at least pass this test: If they are sought in Google books search AND Amazon books search, several sources should be found mentioning that the person is a polymath. (It's not enough, of course, that the name and the word are in the same book, and extreme care must be taken.) The search keywords should include only the last name of the person, but the references should clearly refer to this person, and not to someone with the same first name. (If the polymath is so important, he should appear even if only his last name is used. If other "polymaths" who share his last name appear first, then we should really doubt that this person is a notable or a famous polymath, since the chances that there are two equally famous polymaths with the same last name are very low.) What kind of sources are acceptable? Clearly not just news reports, in my opinion, since what kind of experience may journalists have about this subject? When researching the word "pantomath", I found a journalist who used it twice, and of course, the persons who he calls like that are clearly not the persons who know the most in the world, nor anything close. He even used the non-existent words "the panthomatic doctor"; and if you look for the word "polymath" in google or google news you will see that is is used without much care. The source should be a reputable source in the sense of quality, (let's say the main biographer -hopefully not someone who idealizes the character- or let's say someone respected in one of the fields in which the polymath is famous, or at least a historian of the period or someone like that). If there are no quality sources like these, then a given number of "inferior sources" may suffice. What number? At least ten, I hope. But if not, at least five. I propose not to just search in google, because there's too much garbage there, and we need books, peer review journals, or at the very least magazines like Time. The ones who do not pass this or similar tests should be removed from the list, not because we cannot reach a consensus, but because *there is no consensus in the sources*. In the future, I hope that a "polymath" is not included because there is one source quoting him as a polymath, much less when this source is of inferior quality (from someone who is not an expert in the character, in the field or in the historic period), and that we are more critical of our own sources.

About C.B. Fry... Well, I applied my own ideas to C.B. Fry, and I will report my results. When I looked for Fry and polymath in Google Books the first results are: 1. Roger Fry: "He was a remarkable polymath with an insatiable curiosity." 2. Stephen Fry: "the work of the glittering comedic polymath Stephen Fry." Roger and Stephen appear more times than C.B. Fry. The phrase: "Footballer, cricketer, politician and polymath CB Fry — now commander of a Royal Navy training ship" is the only appeareance of C.B. Fry, but it comes from the description of a photo in the book of photos "Cricket: The Golden Age" (not precisely the best source). And Amazon books search does not show up any results with polymath Fry. Another reputable source that has been provided is a newspaper, so I went to Google News archive and searched for Fry polymath. The results were the following. 1. "Burly polymath Stephen Fry arrived in Cannes yesterday..." and the next 11 results are about the "polymath" Stephen Fry. There is a mention to "Venter is a 52-year-old polymath", before we find a source which says "... CB Fry represented his country at three different disciplines and was offered ... But no sporting polymath comes even close to Hunt's achievement: world ...". Regretfully, it is a pay per view source, so I don't really know if the word sporting polymath is used to denote C.B. Fry. In the thirty or so results, this is the only mention to C.B. Fry in relation to the word polymath. Roger Fry the "polymath" is also mentioned. I also searched for Fry polymath -wikipedia in google, (even though I said this is not an efficient way to find quality sources, but to see the results). The "polymath" Stephen Fry appears everywhere, Roger Fry appears again, and the "polymath" Lewis Fry Richardson. There is no mention whatsoever to C.B. Fry in the first one hundred results. I also want to mention that when I was researching Fry in the Library of Congress Catalogue, I found several authors next to him, with more books than him (like Christopher Fry with 60 entries) and with works apparently at least as equally "diverse" as those of C.B. Fry as was the case of C. George Fry who wrote about Islam and Asian religions, Lutheranism and also evolution.

My conclusion is that C. B. Fry should be sublisted or removed, unless we also want to include Stephen Fry, Roger Fry and Lewis Fry Richardson as notable polymaths since there is ample evidence in the internet that these are polymaths as notable as or much more than C. B. Fry. And I hope that these examples show how the word polymath is actually used, clearly not in the strictest and idealized sense that some of us use, but simply to denote someone who knows a lot in general, which is why I asked before "is everyone a polymath?" Finally, I want to add that I don't have anything personal against C. B. Fry and that whatever criteria is reached to select the pantomaths in the list is fine with me, but I wanted to make a call so that we research more and be more critically our own sources.

Current status[edit]

I think (hope) that the page seems to have settled down in a sensible manner. If the secondary list of Polymaths becomes too long, the only option (it seems to me) will be to hive that list off to a list-type sub article, but hopefully that won't be necessary. --Dweller 09:32, 2 November 2006 (UTC)

Is the list necessary?[edit]

It doesn't seem to add anything in particular. A couple relatively notable people, and a lot that aren't. I say chuck the whole thing (minus the first three, for use as examples). But since it's apparently the source of tender nerves here I don't want to stoke tempers with an edit out of the blue.-Spyforthemoon 21:38, 29 November 2006 (UTC)

A lot that aren't? Thomas Jefferson, Blaise Pascal, Alexander von Humboldt aren't notable? Funny definition have of "notable." Dpbsmith (talk) 15:54, 1 December 2006 (UTC)
Didn't say none were notable, but are most? I did not mean to imply that the first three were the only notable ones, I suggested they be kept only because they currently had the most documentation, so leaving them would make the least work -Spyforthemoon 20:00, 4 December 2006 (UTC)
I do not think the list adds value. Peteresch 21:46, 29 November 2006 (UTC)
I agree wholeheartedly. You may see above my suggestion: reduce the list to the quintessentials, the irrefutable polymaths and use only them as examples. -- Rmrfstar 22:47, 29 November 2006 (UTC)
Done. -Spyforthemoon 21:42, 30 November 2006 (UTC)
Good work: the article is more encyclopedic now. -- Rmrfstar 22:24, 30 November 2006 (UTC)
No, the article is now more subject to someone's POV and therefore is by definition LESS encylopedic. A major change like this, contrary to well-established consensus on this page is not the right thing to do. --Dweller 22:28, 30 November 2006 (UTC)
Excuse me, but I fail to see how the removal of polymaths that are already deemed to be arguably so is pushing a point of view. What point of view? The fact is that this list is overly-long and useless to the reader. It also holds no creedence as it has slack requirements for inclusion, yet makes no attempt to be inclusive. There is also zero such "well-established consensus" on this page that your methodology is the best. In fact, the incompetence of the list is pissing many people off. As stated, reducing the list to only quintessential and unarguable polymaths is the best way to make the article more neutral and useful. -- Rmrfstar 01:33, 1 December 2006 (UTC)
POV or not, a short list of polymaths is more encyclopedic than a long list (that gave me the impression that there's a polymath about once every hundred years, until I saw this talk page). If it's so important to say a particular person is a polymath, why not make it a category and put that (hopefully notable) person's article in it? 23:10, 2 December 2007 (UTC)

I'll explain how it's POV. They're all arguable, and once you've got a citation, excluding it makes it POV. Excluding Aristotle is a nonsense, as with Pascal and others. --Dweller 09:14, 1 December 2006 (UTC)

In the old version of the article, though, these three polymaths were already isolated from the others, why? because they are simply more obviously and less ambiguously polymaths. If you think Aristotle should be included, and noone has any objections, then he should be included.
It's also about quality of citations: you'll find far more citations (and of high quality) for the quintessetial three than any other. There is no point of view that is being pushed. And they're not all reasonably arguable: there's a big difference between arguing that CB fry isn't a polymath and Da Vinci isn't. -- Rmrfstar 11:48, 1 December 2006 (UTC)
Would perhaps making it clearer that the listed people are there only for example purposes, and there are of course many other people worthy of the term help this? I couldn't think of any good phrasing at the time, so I left the text as-is to let someone else make an attempt, but maybe it is more necessary that I initially thought. It seems as though we do have some consensus here that the list should be removed - I count a 3/4 majority, but if we need to let it stew longer for more opinions I guess we should hold off until then. (I'm somewhat new here - how long/many is enough?) -Spyforthemoon 15:00, 1 December 2006 (UTC)
What, exactly, is the objective definition of a "quintessential, irrefutable polymath?"What criterion would you use that has the property that two different editors, with different points of view, and different people that they admire, would still agree on who does or does not belong in the list? In case you don't remember, we got here because there was an ever-expanding unreferenced list of polymaths to which people would add names based on their personal opinions. How do we avoid having the same thing happen with "quintessential polymaths?"
What is the definition of "quintessential polymath" that would include Leibnitz but exclude Pascal? That would include Goethe but exclude Jefferson?
Before going any further, how about someone proposing a definition of "quintessential polymath" and see whether it is even remotely workable. Hint: "has a verifiable source citation that uses the phrase 'quintessential polymath'" is not going to work. Dpbsmith (talk) 15:54, 1 December 2006 (UTC)
Good points - I'm now very convinced the header needs to be rephrased at the very least. I still think a small number (2-3ish) of examples could still be valuble, but LQ's 16:07, 1 December 2006 suggestion below is probably valid as well. -Spyforthemoon 18:37, 1 December 2006 (UTC)
P. S. This article had a single list for a long time. I think the point-of-view crept in when someone decided to break out Goethe, Leibnitz, and Da Vinci, which is a relatively recent change. Dpbsmith (talk) 15:56, 1 December 2006 (UTC)
Personally I don't think the lists, either the one in the talk page or the one currently in the article, are helpful, and they just raise constant issues of inclusion / exclusion. Rather, I think it would be better to include individuals within the text of the article as examples of some particular kind of polymathy; for instance, sports polymathy; scientific polymathy; polymathy that spans very disparate fields, such as writing, art, science, and athletics; etc. Within each discussion one to two examples should suffice. Lists, then, could be pulled out as separate list pages; that serves a useful function themselves, and insofar as they are inclined towards completeness, the problems of ex/inclusion are fewer. --LQ 16:07, 1 December 2006 (UTC)

I introduced a major edit, feel free to do whatever you think it is necessary with it. I am the one who introduced the "division" of the list, but I can say that my intention was not to introduce a list of quintessential polymaths and that I disagree with the creation of artificial classifications such as scientific polymaths. As my major edit explains, there's confusion and ambiguity in the sources (and certainly among several Wikipedia editors) when the word polymath is used, and there are at least two very different meanings of the word. The thing is that polymath was never an unambiguous synonym of renaissance man, and the merging of the two articles was a major mistake in my opinion. The division I introduced attempted to list those polymaths which have been described as universal geniuses, polymaths and renaissance men apart from the others, simply because there is less ambiguity that these polymaths are being referred as such in the meaning of renaissance men and not in the loose meaning of polymath. The character of the quotes I included and the reputability of some of the sources (all books, and for example the Bourbaki group for one of the sources for Leibniz) clarify that the intended meaning is that of renaissance man and not that of "person with varied knowledge". (Personal note: I am still in favor of sublisting C.B. Fry. The fact that he is still listed as a polymath after the extensive research I offered (see my edits above) is discouraging, but I am not the one who will sublist him to the polymath sportsman section. As far as I know there are only two (nonreputable in my opinion) sources calling him polymath in a sense different than polymath sportsman and the current quote calling him a polymath comes from the description of a photo in a book of photos of cricket players. I also thought I had shown that there are many "polymaths" called Fry, all of them more reputable than him, and that if he's included, the other Frys should be included too.) Another Wikipedian 01:04, 2 December 2006 (UTC)

I like the edit, the new phrasing is much more precise. Were you in favor of keeping the list? (or sublist, or any examples, or what-have-you)-Spyforthemoon 19:57, 4 December 2006 (UTC)

Stepping into the maelstrom ;; another perspective on "the list"[edit]

Lists of "notable names" under any specific criterion seem like a sure-fire source of controversy and strife here on WP, therefore I am reluctant to even mention this, but, here goes. Another support rationale for a list is the fact that this article currently feels "stunted" in terms of historical and cultural breadth. What about ancient civilizations? What about China? What about India? These and others seem conspicuously *absent* for a resource that strives to be "international in scope". Therefore, a list serves as one means to address this critical deficiency.

Moreover, (assuming the current "inclusion test" is legitimate to begin with, a matter I decline to even address here), I think it should also allow for:

  • names associated with the term "polymath" or a substantially similar non-English synonym; and
  • names not ordinarily included in the historical pantheon of western civilization

Such an approach is a starting point to add some breadth to the article. Thanks! dr.ef.tymac 02:17, 13 December 2006 (UTC) Follow-up: I have added a cross-reference to the "inclusion test" comment in the article. It will let people know to check the "Unsourced polymaths" list first. Absent any opposition, I intend also slightly modify the text of the "inclusion test" pursuant to the two caveats enumerated above, but first, any feedback? Thanks! dr.ef.tymac 02:48, 13 December 2006 (UTC)


I'm removing

  • Thomas Alva Edison Inventor extraordinary, the Genius of Menlo Park created or popularized many of the technologies that made the modern world possible, including but not limited to the phonograph, the light bulb, and the carbon microphone which made the telephone a reality. He was a film maker and thief, a deistic theologian, and business man. As an inventor he held some 1500 plus patents, 1100 of them in the US.

because no source citation showing that he's ever been called a "polymath" has been provided, and because personally I don't feel he meets the usual definitions; as far as I know, his contributions were basically in the related areas of engineering, technology, and (to a limited extent) entrepreneurship. Dpbsmith (talk) 11:43, 5 January 2007 (UTC)

Unsourced "polymath sportsman"[edit]

I'm removing these. Reinsert them if you can add a source citation showing they were called a "polymath" in a published source. Dpbsmith (talk) 04:14, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

Unsourced "fictional polymaths"[edit]

Reinsert any of these for which cite a published source that uses the word "polymath." I'm sure some of these are actually wrong. I'm pretty sure Sir Arthur Conan Doyle never calls Holmes a "polymath," and in fact there is a famous passage in A Study in Scarlet in which he explains that he systematically restricts his knowledge and tries to forget anything with no direct application to criminology:

...I found incidentally that he was ignorant of the Copernican Theory and of the composition of the Solar System. That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to be to me such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly realize it.

"You appear to be astonished," he said, smiling at my expression of surprise. "Now that I do know it I shall do my best to forget it."

"To forget it!"

"You see," he explained, "I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones."

"But the Solar System!" I protested.

"What the deuce is it to me?" he interrupted impatiently; "you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work."

These are not the sentiments of a polymath. It seems to me they are the exact opposite. Dpbsmith (talk) 04:22, 14 January 2007 (UTC)

Fictional Polymaths[edit]

Polymaths and renaissance men (or women) often appear in fiction. Among these are:


Moving Poe here:

  • Edgar Allan Poe, having solved Olber's paradox and being the first to propose the expansion of the universe as well as the existence of black holes, Poe also provided the world with great achievements in the field of cryptography and thus proves himself, along with his billiant innovations in literature, a true polymath.

The statements that Poe "solved Olber's paradox and [was] the first to propose the expansion of the universe as well as the existence of black holes" seems an exaggeration. In any case, this seems to be a personal judgement that Poe ought to be considered a polymath; no source is cited to show that he is generally called one. While Eureka! was certainly a flash of brilliance outside of his field, Poe wasn't a consistent contributor to astronomy nor to astrophysics. Of course I know "The Gold-Bug" but I don't regard Poe as a cryptographer, any more than I regard Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as one, even though he uses it as a theme in "The Adventure of the Dancing Men." At least one source [15] indicates, as I'd thought, that he was basically an amateur enthusiast at cryptography. Usually a polymath has published books or substantial numbers of papers in many fields; Poe did not.

But in any case, it's not whether I regard Poe as a polymath, it's whether there are published sources that call him one. I couldn't find any in a quick search. Dpbsmith (talk) 21:35, 25 January 2007 (UTC)

Ready to move C.B. Fry down to the list of "Polymath sportsmen"[edit]

I think I have provided ample evidence that C.B. Fry was in no strict sense a polymath (please read the new and sourced definitions in the article and the lists of facts about C.B. Fry and my many criticisms in this talk page). User Dweller is the main proponent of C. B. Fry as a general polymath, so I would like to read his reasons if he opposes the proposed new location. Thanks in advance for any comments from him and others. Another Wikipedian 05:26, 26 January 2007 (UTC)

Yes, I have a problem with this. The problem is that Dweller has cited a source—a book by Duncan Steer—which calls Fry a "polymath," and it seems clear from context that Steer means "polymath" in the general sense, not the limited sense of "sporting polymath."
If, of course, you have a convincing case that Steer only meant to call Fry a "sporting polymath," that's different, but I don't think you've made that case yet.
You need to address the question of "did Steer call Fry a 'polymath,'" not "does this group of editors collectively think Fry was a polymath.
Once again, it is not up to us to set ourselves up as a panel to judge who does and does not meet any particular definition of polymath. Once we start playing that game we run into two problems.
First, it puts us into the situation of doing original research (we first need to research the fields in which a person made accomplishments, then we need to weigh the importance of those accomplishments against the definition).
Second, it puts us back into the situation we used to have of endless instability and "drive-by" additions to a bloated and ever-expanding list. People will put in their faves and then start arguing reasons why they think Edgar Allan Poe, to take a recent example, really ought to be considered a polymath. Furthermore as people add less-worthy polymaths to the list, there will be a race to the bottom, as people say "Well, if so-and-so can be in the list with achievements in only three fields than so can my fave..."
If we stick to verifiability and the definition that, for purposes of list inclusion so-and-so is a polymath if and only if a reliable source has said so, then at least we know who should and should not be in the list.
The downside is that we won't agree with every source. For example, you and I don't agree with Steer's judgement of Fry as a polymath. But readers will know why Fry is in the list, and they can make their own judgements. Dpbsmith (talk) 16:30, 26 January 2007 (UTC)
Thank you for your comment. Another Wikipedian 00:54, 28 January 2007 (UTC)
I hope you have read "On the criteria about adding/removing a polymath to the official list" and "Please, let's raise the bar of our research quality!!" where I expose my points about the minimum research quality that including a polymath should suppose. In the second article, I specifically criticize the reliability of the sources for C.B. Fry. Based on Wikipedia:Reliable sources I don't see any scholarship in the sources provided, and I don't see the required elements for non-scholarly sources. That guideline says: "Exceptional claims require exceptional sources" and "Exceptional claims should be supported by multiple credible and verifiable sources, especially with regard to historical events, politically-charged issues, and biographies of living people." Does the description of a single photo in a book of photographs of cricket suffices? Do opinions from reporters suffice? Should we include Stephen Fry, Roger Fry and Lewis Fry Richardson too, since there are sources calling them polymaths in Google books? Finally, let's remember that the list of polymaths is a list of notable polymaths in the sense of Renaissance men, not in the sense of people who know much. The present article states: "When someone is called a Renaissance man today, it is meant that he does not just have broad interests or a superficial knowledge of several fields, but better that his knowledge is rather profound, and often that he also has proficiency or accomplishments [14][15][16][17] in (at least some of) these fields, and in some cases even at a level comparable to the proficiency or the accomplishments of an expert.[18]" Does C.B. Fry comply with the definition? Where are the sources which show that? At least five reputable sources should be found for every polymath, if he is indeed widely considered a polymath in the strict sense or a Renaissance man, otherwise the list will be filled with out of the mainstream opinions. I will also contend the inclusion of several new polymaths, btw. The current test is working like "find any source in Google Books", and that is low quality research. You should help to change that policy, since it's allowing people to include anyone with no research at all. (Using sources from reporters or from *any* book, which can only express non-expert opinions, is very low quality research in my point of view). Another Wikipedian 01:58, 28 January 2007 (UTC)
a) I thought this was a "list of polymaths," not a "list of Renaissance men."
b) I'll be happy if people provide any sources at all. Currently we continue to experience drive-by additions of names with no sources at all.
c) The important thing is to have a source. Readers are perfectly competent to judge for themselves whether they think the source is a good one or not. The source for C. B. Fry's being a "polymath" is fully disclosed, as is the text of the description. Readers are perfectly free to discount that source if they choose. Dpbsmith (talk) 02:37, 28 January 2007 (UTC)
Thank you for the comments. I agree with b. With respect to a., I believe that the article makes clear that a list of "polymaths" in the first sense is irrelevant (there are just too many irrelevant people with "varied knowledge"). The current list is a list of polymaths in the second meaning of the word, the one synonymous to "Renaissance man", a term which redirects to polymath. If I am mistaken, please correct me. With respect to c., you say: "Readers are perfectly competent to judge for themselves whether they think the source is a good one or not." No offense, but given the mediocre sources some editors are offering, I would question if some Wikipedia editors are competent enough to do just that. With respect to your opinion, I hope that you can see that all sorts of garbage can be justified with a source. If you were a scientist, a university teacher, or a chief editor in a serious magazine, would you be satisfied with a source, no matter which one? Irrespective to the answer to this question and in any case, I have quoted a Wikipedia policy which clearly states that one source is not enough when extraordinary claims are made, and that *Mr. x is a polymath* (in the second meaning of the word) seems pretty extraordinary to me. Besides, that same policy states that sources should satisfy certain requirements ("any" source does not suffice). Right now, I'm very busy, and I won't be able to post for several weeks, so I hope to come back much later. I know you are a serious and very neutral editor and perfectly well intended, so I hope that you and I (and the other editors who are sticking around) make the proper job of checking the sources with the required scholarly scrutiny. I intend to do that in the course of the next year with several of the polymaths in the "unofficial" list. However, and I hope that you understand my feelings, it would be pretty discouraging if I seriously research these "polymathic wannabes", providing serious sources, but the list gets distorted because some guy just puts anyone they like just because they found one single not notable source. If necessary, I will do this job in my own user page, so as to not disrupt the current functioning of the article right now. Surely, there will be plenty of time later to keep discussing this and other issues. Thanks again for your time. Another Wikipedian 04:43, 29 January 2007 (UTC)

Von Neumann[edit]

  • John von Neumann (1903-1957): Hungarian-born mathematician and polymath who made contributions to quantum physics, functional analysis, set theory, topology, economics, computer science, numerical analysis, hydrodynamics (of explosions), statistics and many other mathematical fields as one of history's outstanding mathematicians. Most notably, von Neumann was a pioneer of the application of operator theory to quantum mechanics, a member of the Manhattan Project and the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton (as one of the few originally appointed — a group collectively referred to as the "demi-gods"), and the creator of game theory and the concept of cellular automata. Along with Edward Teller and Stanislaw Ulam, von Neumann worked out key steps in the nuclear physics involved in thermonuclear reactions and the hydrogen bomb.

Fine, but we need a source citation showing a source in which von Neumann is described using the word "polymath." Dpbsmith (talk) 01:40, 28 January 2007 (UTC)

Found references, adding him to list, replacing text above with brief description and quotations describing him as a polymath; we have an article about John von Neumann that readers can consult for more detail; this article doesn't need to provide capsule biographies. Dpbsmith (talk) 15:40, 28 January 2007 (UTC)

Would this person be a polymath?[edit]

Ho many subjects does a person have to excell in to be a polymath? Would a person who's a Biologist, Screenwriter, Opera singer, has a variety of knowledge in many many fields and a degree Communications graduate be a polymath? Kiske 12:19, 7 February 2007 (UTC)

For purposes of being included in list of polymaths in this article, the criterion is that there must be a reliable published source which describes the person using the word "polymath."
For loose conversational purposes, if "biologist" means "person with numerous published papers in peer-reviewed journals," "screenwriter" means "paid, credited screenwriter on a released commercial motion picture listed on imdb," and "opera singer" means "opera singer, paid for his or her performance, in an established opera company that puts on regular performances," personally I'd call that person a polymath. Others' mileage may vary. Dpbsmith (talk) 13:51, 7 February 2007 (UTC)

How about if Biologist means that this person holds a degree in Biology with a specialty in Marine Biology and holds and extreme amount of knowledge on the subject and has written a few articles in this field and how about if screenwriter means currently having a film in production and opera singer means having a tremedous voice and having performed several times as well as vocalizing daily with a teacher and regularly singing arias in performances other than actual operas and how about also having a degree in communications? How many areas do we need to exceed ourselves in to be considered a polymath? Kiske 03:48, 8 February 2007 (UTC)

Probably more than that. It depends on what you define by "an extreme amount of knowledge". An undergraduate degree is not an extreme amount of knowledge. Someone without published academic journal articles and a postgraduate degree could be considered to have "an extreme amount of knowledge". Similarly, it depends on what you mean by a "film in production". If it's a backyard job, or even self-funded, then it doesn't really count. If it's for a major film production firm, then it would cound. Having a good voice and performing a couple of times certainly doesn't count you as an opera singer. To be considered a polymath, you'd have to be an opera singer at the top level, performing with a high level opera company. The gist of this is that polymaths have to be at the forefront and able to make significant original contributions to each field.

Unsourced "Polymath sportsmen"[edit]

They may well be, but we need a source citation calling them that. I have an idea that the phrase "polymath" in reference to sportman might be British usage only, by the way... In any case, Wikipedia editors don't make personal editorial judgements about who deserves to be called a "polymath." Dpbsmith (talk) 15:09, 7 February 2007 (UTC)

  • Bo Jackson - Born Vincent Edward Jackson, he played American football player and baseball. He was the first player ever to be named an All-Star in both sports.
  • Deion Sanders - Played American football as cornerback and wide receiver. Baseball for 9 years. Only person ever to play in a Super Bowl (NFL Championship) as well as the World Series (MLB Championship). He also ran track in college at Florida State (where he also played American football and baseball).
  • Michael Jordan - Commonly regarded as the best basketball player ever, he also played baseball - albeit not spectacularly - at a minor league level.
  • Otto Graham - Hall of fame quarterback who led the Cleaveland browns to 10 straight championships, winning 7. He was also an all-American basketball player in college, and was named MVP of the game that saw his All-American collegiate team beat the Washingon Bears, who were the reigning national NBA champions.

And this one has a citation, but the cited source "does not" call him a "polymath sportsman." The [url= link] is a source for his being "excellent at every sport he tried," but not his being known by the term "polymath."

William James Sidis[edit]

Can this man be considered a polymath but one that blossomed early and faded. RoddyYoung 13:59, 24 February 2007 (UTC)

  • Jim Thorpe - Won the Olympic decathlon and pentathlon at the 1912 Olympics. Played American football (threw passes, received, kicked field goals, punted, blocked for teammates, and also played defense at an incredible level - he was also the coach of the Canton Bulldogs while doing this) on the league winning championship teams of 1916, 1917, and 1919. Also played 6 years of Major League Baseball. [1]

Leo Szilard[edit]

  • It is a crime that Leo Szilard is not on this list. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Cyrano (talkcontribs) 03:50, 1 April 2007
    • Well, find a good source that calls him a "polymath" and add him to the article, citing that source. Dpbsmith (talk) 12:52, 27 April 2007 (UTC)


The new citations are rather weak, in my estimation. Some don't have the word "polymath" in them, making WP editors, again, the deciders of who is a polymath, which is what we were trying to avoid the last time I was here. Mdotley (talk) 01:16, 7 April 2007 (UTC)

Immanuel Kant[edit]

Immanuel Kant is famous for his philosophy, but he also made contributions to astronomy. --Dpbsmith (talk) 12:51, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

Unsourced entries[edit]

  • Aleister Crowley (12 October 1875 – 1 December 1947) British occultist, mystic, astrologer, chess player, mountain climber, writer, poet, painter, hedonist, drug experimenter, and social critic.

No indication given that these people have been called polymaths. In the case of Crowley, it's not clear that all of these are fields of learning, and it is not clear that he was at the forefront of them. But as always, I'll settle for whether or not he's been called a a reliable source. Dpbsmith (talk) 12:51, 27 April 2007 (UTC)

on the polymath thomas young See also his article Hakluyt bean 20:28, 12 May 2007 (UTC)

Hildegard of Bingen[edit]

All well and good, but the cited source does not contain the word "polymath." We've been through this before, and this list is not based on editors' opinions of whether a particular person was proficient in various fields and whether that list of fields amounts to being a "polymath." The list is based on whether there's a cited source that uses the word "polymath." Shouldn't be hard to find one, but it shouldn't be reinserted without one. Dpbsmith (talk) 18:50, 23 May 2007 (UTC)

P. S. The item says she was "described in a recent biography as a good example of a polymath." The reference is a web page about the book. So I was going to say that if it was the book itself, rather than the book's web page, that used the term "polymath," then the source should be the book itself and should give ISBN and page number... but...

that web page, Hildegard of Bingen: A Spiritual Reader, describes it as unpublished. If so, it doesn't yet meet Wikipedia's standards for reliable sources. So if anyone wants to reinsert Hildegard of Bingen, they need to find a different source. Dpbsmith (talk) 18:55, 23 May 2007 (UTC)

Winston Churchill[edit]

Going over the main article I noticed that Gothe was included as the last European polymath/Renaissance man and I was wondering why Winston Churchill wasn't mentioned as well. As for the given definitions at the start of the article he fits better then almost anyone. He is a legendary statesman as Prime Minister, he is also a legendary commander as First Lord of the Admirality and ontop of that he has actually won the nobel prize for something unrelated - literature. Mecil 21:57, 30 June 2007 (UTC)

I would think that Churchill would merit inclusion. His work as a historian is of debatable merit, but it sold well and he did win a Nobel Prize for it. Furthermore, he was a painter whose works have gained some fame (although this probably has far more to with the artist than the art) and I seem to recall that he dabbled in military engineering as First Lord of the Admirality.Pelegius (talk) 20:36, 5 January 2008 (UTC)
"legendary commander"? - A somewhat dubious point of view, given the disasterous consequences of his military dabblings. Gallipoli was an unmitigated disaster and came about because of him. As to his other successes, he was not a brilliant painter or writer (although he did have some degree of talent there) and much of his success as a writer (certainly his Nobel prize) can be put down to who he was, rather than his inate abilities. --hydeblake (talk) 09:46, 19 March 2008 (UTC)
If you can find RS that describe Churchill as a "polymath", great. If not, it's POV. --Dweller (talk) 15:01, 11 September 2008 (UTC)

Separation great Muslim scholars from Renaissance Men[edit]

In Islamic civilizaton there were notable figures who become expert in numerous fields like Al-Farabi and Avicenna. Not only did they study Islamic studies but also they were experts in philosophy, mysticism, physician, physics, mathematics, astronomy, etc. Can we make a separate part for this usage. --Sa.vakilian(t-c) 18:41, 10 July 2007 (UTC)

See also: List of Islamic studies scholars. -- kanzure 20:40, 10 July 2007 (UTC)
I've seen and worked on it. There are some scholars who are expert in almost all of the fields.--Sa.vakilian(t-c) 03:38, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
I think the section should be called "universal genius" instead. "Rennaissance men" wouldn't really make sense for universal geniuses from before the Rennaissance. By the way, do you have any quote that refers to al-Farabi or al-Tusi specifically as a "universal genius"? Jagged 85 14:31, 17 July 2007 (UTC)

I think what Sa.vakilian may be referring to are the Hakeem, who the following source describe as "Rennaissance Men of the Arab Golden Age":

Jagged 85 01:57, 24 July 2007 (UTC)

I forgot to mention that al-Farabi is not on that list of Hakeems. Is there any source which actually refers to "al-Farabi" as a "Hakeem" or "universal genius" or "Renaissance man"? Jagged 85 00:01, 11 September 2007 (UTC)

Su Song[edit]

I just added that essential medieval Chinese polymath, no not Shen Kuo (he's already listed), I of course mean Su Song (1020-1101). Lol.--PericlesofAthens 05:25, 14 July 2007 (UTC)

Please clean up the references[edit]

There are a lot of junky references in the first half of this article. Please put labels on them - especially the Google Books links - if they are lengthy URLs.-- 06:55, 18 July 2007 (UTC)

Descartes and Poincaré[edit]

I don't have yet "source citations" -I'm going to search- but I think René Descartes and Henri Poincaré should be added to the list of major polymaths ("Rennaissance men"). At least Decartes whose works have a big influence since centuries on almost every scientific knowledge domain (philosophy, mathematics, physics, etc.). Stymphal 02:26, 13 August 2007 (UTC)

René Descartes (March 31, 1596 – February 11, 1650) was a highly influential French philosopher, mathematician, scientist, and writer. Dubbed the "Father of Modern Philosophy" and the "Father of Modern Mathematics", much of subsequent western philosophy is a reaction to his writings, which have been closely studied from his time down to the present day. His influence in mathematics is also apparent, the Cartesian coordinate system that is used in plane geometry and algebra being named for him, and he was one of the key figures in the Scientific Revolution.

Jules Henri Poincaré (April 29, 1854 – July 17, 1912) was one of France's greatest mathematicians and theoretical physicists, and a philosopher of science. Poincaré is often described as a polymath, and in mathematics as "The Last Universalist", since he excelled in all fields of the discipline as it existed during his lifetime.

Do you have any sources which refer to Descartes or Poincare as "Renaissance men" or "universal geniuses"? Jagged 85 00:02, 11 September 2007 (UTC)


I changed genii to geniuses under related because it's incorrect to use genii for the intended definition. See —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:05, 18 October 2007 (UTC)

Explicit primary and secondary definitions[edit]

The article mentions the primary and secondary definitions in various places, however it is difficult to discern immediately what the two are. I think the article needs to have this near the top, so people know what is going on more immediately. — metaprimer (talk) 21:39, 28 October 2007 (UTC)

  1. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)