Polymath, what is and who is?

By March 11, 2019Articles

Polymath, what is and who is?


It made my day when someone today, called me “Polymath”!

A polymath is a person naturally derived to acquire knowledge, well-educated and continue learning, whose expertise spans a significant number of subjects or fields and is known with the ability to draw on compound bodies of information to solve specific problems. A polymath in Greek is πολυμαθής, polymathēs, means “having learned much” with poly meaning “much,” and manthanein meaning “learn.”In Latin means “homo universalis”, (universal man). A polymath person is a classic “Renaissance man/woman.” For example, Leonardo da Vinci was not only an amazing artist, but also an engineer, inventor, mathematician, and much more. When a person’s knowledge covers many different areas, he or she is a polymath.The definition of a polymath/Renaissance man or woman is a person who is sophisticated and has talent and knowledge in many different fields of study. In Western Europe, the first work to use polymathy in its title was published in 1603 by Johann von Wowern, a Hamburg philosopher.

Can anyone be a polymath? Yes, when a person has the right motivation. A polymath is not necessarily a brain but a person who does not even think of himself/herself as being especially smart, but only curious and desiring to learn new things. Now the question is, does learning ability stop or slow down as we grow older? There are misrepresentations of how our minds and the acquisition of knowledge work. However, while neurologically, it’s much easier to learn when we’re younger yet, there’s part of our brains we need to exercise if we’re to continually learning and growing. The great deal depends on the nucleus basalis, located in the basal forebrain. This bit of the brain produces significant amounts of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that regulates the rate where new connections are made between brain cells. This in turn, dictates how readily we form memories of various kinds, and how strongly we retain them. When the nucleus basalis is ‘switched on’, acetylcholine flows and new connections occur. If we stop taxing the nucleus basalis, it begins to dry up and memory weakens as in the case of Alzheimer disease. When nucleus basalis is switched off, we make far fewer new connections as the acetylcholine dry out.The nucleus basalis is completely active between birth and the ages of ten or eleven. Afterwards, it seems that our brains become more selective about the knowledge we hold. But this neurochemical process doesn’t define us or limit what we can or can’t learn. It must be exercised if we’re to learn to think like a polymath or renaissance person as many who have mastered multiple disciplines and pursuits. Having Interest in diverse of subjects and disciplines is the first step toward thinking like a polymath. Some of the greatest artists and scientists were polymaths. While we might be mesmerized by the greatness of Michelangelo or Goethe, the polymath is something we can all develop in some ways. Polymaths is a way of embodying the childish curiosity and manifest it into experience and doing.

Even though, it’s not easy diverging into different subjects and mastering them, the amount of time and expertise people dedicate to just one field often leaves them briefed of any other subject mastery. Contemplation leads to self-actualization once we set out to do something. Leonardo was able to accomplish and do so much because he wasn’t just content to question and learn about something then forget about it. Rather, he set himself into action and practice for everything that interested himself.

Learning is a never-ending process that doesn’t occur over a few weeks, months or years but a lifelong pursuit. It seems we need everlasting life to do so! There will be an enormous amount of failures and false come along the way. But knowledge comes to those who persist in their studies and learning. There are many benefits in being multidisciplinary polymathy; to learn, gain experience, wisdom and to freely self-express oneself results even in science and medicine progress. A study at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, found that medical students were able to increase their observational recognition skills after taking an art class.

Aristotle was a polymath who made fundamental contributions to diverse fields of study, including logic, physics, ethics, story, poetry, metaphysics, rhetoric, geology, and government. He believed that we should strive to live a life of moderation, nurturing the virtues within ourselves and avoiding the vices on either extreme end.

Overall, this great higher ideal of human outshined in artistic, intellectual and even physical activities. Nothing was out of bounds for those ones involved.

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.” – Leonardo da Vinci

Artists, aren’t we glad that we have artistic abilities? I hope you that have enjoyed reading this research and feel motivated even more!

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Mona Youssef








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