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List of Renaissance men

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This is a partial list of Renaissance men.

Most of the historical figures that are regarded as polymaths would most likely not be as regarded today based on the level of knowledge that they possessed. This is especially in regards to the quantity and levels of knowledge as they existed at the time. Much of their knowledge was basic and purely theoretical. For example, a gentleman educated in various fields such as math, history, literature, art, and science during the 18th or 19th may be only the equivalent of an average modern person with a secondary school education. In ancient times, an expert on medicine may be the equivalent of knowing basic modern first aid. In contrast to modern times, knowledge was also condensed and comprehensive information on a particular field could often be found in single volumes or texts.


Introduction

The terms Polymath or Renaissance man and, less commonly, homo universalis , Latin for "universal man" or "man of the world", are related and used to describe a man (or woman, as "Renaissance woman") who is well educated or who excels in a wide variety of subjects or fields.[1] The idea developed in Renaissance Italy from the notion expressed by one of its most accomplished representatives, Leon Battista Alberti (1404–72): that “a man can do all things if he will.” It embodied the basic tenets of Renaissance Humanism which considered man empowered, limitless in his capacities for development, and led to the notion that people should embrace all knowledge and develop their capacities as fully as possible. Thus the gifted men of the Renaissance sought to develop skills in all areas of knowledge, in physical development, in social accomplishments and in the arts.

Leonardo da Vinci is regarded as a "Renaissance Man" and is one of the most recognizable polymaths.

List

The following people represent prime examples of "Renaissance Men" and "universal geniuses", that is "polymaths" in the strictest interpretation of the secondary meaning of the word. The list is organized by date of birth.


  • Imhotep, 2650–2600 BC, was an Egyptian polymath,[2] who served under the Third Dynasty king, Djoser, as Vizier (Ancient Egypt)|Vizir (or Chancellor ) to the pharaoh and high priest of the sun god Ra at Heliopolis. He is considered to be the first engineer, architect and physician in history known by name. The full list of his titles is:
Chancellor of the King of Egypt, Doctor, First in line after the King of Upper Egypt, Administrator of the Great Palace, Hereditary nobleman, High Priest of Heliopolis, Builder, Chief Carpenter, Chief Sculptor and Maker of Vases in Chief.
Imhotep was one of very few mortals to be depicted as part of a pharaoh's statue. He was one of only a few commoners ever to be accorded divine status after death.
  • Cicero|Marcus Tullius Cicero, 106 BC–43 BC, Roman statesman, lawyer, humanist, republican, letterist, constitutionalist, politician, philosopher, translator, political theorist, orator, linguist and prose stylist.[3]
  • Zhang Heng (78-139); a Han Dynasty Chinese Scholar-bureaucrat|official, scholar of History of China|history and Chinese philosophy|philosophy, Chinese poetry|poet, Chinese mathematics|mathematician, Chinese astronomy|astronomer, List of Chinese inventions|inventor, Chinese geography|geographer, Chinese cartography|cartographer, Chinese painting|painter, and Sculpture|sculptor who invented the world's first hydraulics|water-powered armillary sphere and the world's first seismometer to detect the cardinal direction of distant earthquakes; he is often described as a polymath.[4][5][6][7]
  • Zhuge Liang (181–234)[8] was a Strategist, Inventor, Engineer, Scholar, Astrologer, State man and Chancellor (China)|chancellor of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period of History of China|Chinese history. He is often recognised as the greatest and most accomplished strategist of his era.[9] His name – even his surname alone – has become synonymous with intelligence and strategy in Chinese culture.
  • Abbas Ibn Firnas (Armen Firman) (810–887), an Al-Andalus|Andalusian Berber people|Berber Inventions in the Muslim world|aviator, inventor, Timeline of Muslim scientists and engineers|engineer, technologist, Alchemy and chemistry in Islam|chemist, Islamic ethics|humanitarian, Islamic music|musician, Islamic medicine|physician and Arabic poetry|poet; "Ibn Firnas was a polymath: a physician, the first to make glass from Silicon dioxide|stones (Fused quartz|quartz?), a student of music, and inventor of some sort of metronome";[10] "had he lived in the Florence of the Medici, [Abbas ibn Firnas] would have been a 'Renaissance man'.[11]"
  • Chamundaraya (940–989) (also called Chavundaraya) was a military commander, poet and a minister in the court of the Western Ganga Dynasty of Talakad (in present day Karnataka, India). A person of many talents, in 982 he commissioned the Gomateshwara, a monolithic architecture|monolithic sculpture in Shravanabelagola, an important place of pilgrimage for Jains. He was a devotee of the Jain Acharya Nemichandra and Ajitasena Bhattaraka and was an influential person during the reign of Kings Marasimha II, Rachamalla IV, and Rachamalla V (Rakkasa Ganga). A courageous commander with the title of Samara Parashurama, he found time to pursue his literary interests as well and became a renowned writer in Kannada and Sanskrit.[12][13] He wrote an important and existing prose piece called Chavundaraya Purana (also known as Trishasthi Lakshana Purana) in Kannada (978) and Charitrasara in Sanskrit. In his writing, he claims he was from the Brahmakshatriya Vamsa (Brahmin and converted to the Kshatriya caste).[14] He patronised the famous Kannada grammarians Gunavarma and Nagavarma I and the poet Ranna whose writing Parusharama Charite may have been a eulogy of his patron.[12] Because of his many lasting contributions, Chavundaraya is an important figure in the history of medieval Karnataka.
  • Abhinavagupta (floruit|fl. 975–1025);[15] an History of India|Indian Indian philosophy|philosopher, literary criticism|literary critic, Shaivism|Shaivite, aesthetics|aesthetist, Music of India|musician, Indian poetry|poet, Theatre in India|dramatist, dancer, exegesis|exegetical theology|theologian, and Indian logic|logician; "the great Kashmiri philosopher and polymath, Abhinavagupta".[15]
  • Acharya Hemachandra (1089–1172); an History of India|Indian scholar, Indian poetry|poet, Linguistics|linguist, Vyakarana|grammarian, History of India|historian, Indian philosophy|philosopher, and prosody (linguistics)|prosodist; "the great polymath Hemacandra";[16] "Hemacandra (1089–1172) was one of the great polymaths of medieval India."[17]
  • Trotula of Salerno 11th to 12th century Salerno, south Italy. Chair of Medicine, Salerno Medical School responsible for alleviating women’s suffering in illness and the specific medical needs of women. Physician, obstetrician, gynaecologist, medical teacher, writer, health planner and experimenter, responsible for major advances in female medicine, public health, pharmacology and medical teaching methods, as well as generally in science. Trotula became famous for establishing the distinct field of women’s health, and teaching men about women’s health. She wrote books used for many centuries about this area, most significant was Passionibus Curandorum, sometimes called The Book of the Diseases of Women or Trotula Major and also De Ornatu Mulierum known as Trotula Minor. These works discuss menses, conception, pregnancy, childbirth, and general issues of illness and treatments. In Trotula’s view men also suffered fertility problems. She promoted and experimented with opiates to numb pain during childbirth.[18]
  • Alhazen|Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) (965–1039), an Iraqi people|Iraqi Islamic science|scientist, Islamic physics|physicist, Islamic medicine|anatomist, physician, psychologist, Islamic astronomy|astronomer, Timeline of Muslim scientists and engineers|engineer Inventions in the Muslim world|inventor, Islamic mathematics|mathematician, Ophthalmology in medieval Islam|ophthalmologist, Early Islamic philosophy|philosopher, and Ash'ari Kalam|theologian; "a devout, brilliant polymath";[19] "a great man and a universal genius, long neglected even by his own people";[20] "Ibn al-Haytham provides us with the historical personage of a versatile universal genius."[21]
  • Abū Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakarīya al-Rāzi (Rhazes) (865–925), Persian people|Persian[22][23] Alchemy (Islam)|alchemist, chemist, Islamic medicine|physician, Early Islamic philosophy|philosopher and scholar. He is often referred as "probably the greatest and most original of all the Muslim physicians, and one of the most prolific as an author".[24] He made fundamental and enduring contributions to the fields of medicine, alchemy, music, and philosophy, recorded in over 184 books and articles in various fields of science. He was well-versed in Ancient Iranian Medicine|Persian, Ancient Greece|Greek and Ayurveda|Indian medical knowledge and made numerous advances in medicine through own observations and discoveries.[25]
  • Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī (973–1048), a Persian people|Persian Islamic science|scientist, Islamic physics|physicist, Anthropology|anthropologist, Islamic astronomy|astronomer, Islamic astrology|astrologer, encyclopedist, geodesy|geodesist, geographer, geology|geologist, Historiography of early Islam|historian, Islamic mathematics|mathematician, Natural history|natural historian, Islamic medicine|pharmacist, physician, Early Islamic philosophy|philosopher, Ulema|scholar, teacher, Ash'ari Kalam|theologian, and traveller; "al-Biruni was a polymath and traveler (to History of India|India) who introduced Indian scientific knowledge & thought to the Middle East & the West, making contributions in mathematics, geography and geology, natural history, calendars and astronomy";[26] "al-Biruni, a scholar in many disciplines — from linguistics to mineralogy — and perhaps medieval Uzbekistan's most universal genius."[27]
  • Abū Alī ibn Sīnā (Avicenna) (980–1037), a Persian people|Persian Islamic medicine|physician, pharmacologist, Early Islamic philosophy|philosopher, metaphysician, Aromatherapy|aromatherapist, Islamic astronomy|astronomer, Alchemy (Islam)|chemist, Hanafi Fiqh|jurist and Kalam|theologian, Islamic physics|physicist, Islamic science|scientist, and Universalism|universalist; "The Persian polymath-physician Avicenna";[28] "Avicenna (973–1037) was a sort of universal genius, known first as a physician. To his works on medicine he afterward added religious tracts, Islamic poetry|poems, works on Early Islamic philosophy|philosophy, on Logic in Islamic philosophy|logic, as Islamic physics|physics, on Islamic mathematics|mathematics, and on Islamic astronomy|astronomy. He was also a statesman and a soldier."[29]
  • Averroes|Ibn Rushd (Averroes) (1126–1198), an Al-Andalus|Andalusian Arab Early Islamic philosophy|philosopher, Islamic medicine|doctor, physician, Sharia|jurist, lawyer, Islamic astronomy|astronomer, Islamic mathematics|mathematician, and theology|theologian; "Ibn-Rushd, a polymath also known as Averroes";[30] "Doctor, Philosopher, Renaissance Man."[31]
  • Amir Khusrow (1253-1325 CE), an Indian Muslim scholar, he was a poet, inventor, mystic, writer, musician, linguist, soldier and historian.[32] Born to a Turkish-Afghan father and an Indian mother (the latter a native of Delhi) in Etah, North India he is best known for his poetry composed in Persian language|Persian and Hindi (then called Hindustani) under the Delhi Sultans;[33] among his best known works were The Tale of the Four Dervishes and Khamsa-e-Nizami (or Khamsa-e-Khusrau) which includes the popular Indian classical romance Layla and Majnun|Majnun-Laila.[34] He also spoke Arabic and Sanskrit. In 1285 Khusrow participated as a soldier in the war against the invading Mongols; he was taken prisoner, but he managed to escape. In 1301 when Ala ud din Khilji ,the Delhi Sultanate Emperor, attacked Ranthambhor, Chittor, Malwa and other places, Khusro accompanied the king in order to write chronicles. As a Sufi mystic he was a close aide of Nizamuddin Auliya,a famous Sufi Saint. In 1321 he wrote the Tughlaqnama, a history of the Tughluq dynasty.Khusrow is also known to have invented the classical Hindustani instruments the Tabla and the sitar. He is known for introducing Qawwali, Khayal and Tarana types into Hindustani classical music. [35][36]
  • Ibn Khaldun (1332–1406), an Early Muslim sociology|Arab social scientist, sociologist, Historiography of early Islam|historian, historiographer, philosopher of history, Demography|demographer, Islamic economics in the world|economist, Arabic grammar|linguist, Early Islamic philosophy|philosopher, Political philosophy|political theorist, List of military theorists|military theorist, Ulema|Islamic scholar, Ash'ari Kalam|theologian, diplomat and statesman; "a still-influential polymath";[37] "in any epoch ibn Khaldun (1332–1406) would deserve the accolade Renaissance man, a person of many talents and diverse interests."[38]
  • Nicholas of Cusa (1401–1464); was a cardinal of the Catholic Church from Germany (Holy Roman Empire), a philosopher, theologian, jurist, mathematician, and an astronomer. He is widely considered one of the great geniuses and polymaths of the 15th century.
  • Leone Battista Alberti (1404–1472), painter, poet, medallist, philosopher, hydraulic engineer, cryptographer, including machine assisted encryption, musician, and architect, and writer-novellist.[39][40]
  • Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519)[41][42] "In Leonardo Da Vinci, of course, he had as his subject not just an ordinary Italian painter, but the prototype of the universal genius, the 'Renaissance man,' …"; "prodigious polymath… Painter, sculptor, engineer, astronomer, anatomist, biologist, geologist, physicist, architect, philosopher, humanist.".[43] Leonardo's scientific accomplishments are often reduced to inventions (of which he made very many) or to speculation, and an adventurous spirit. Recent writing shows that he was in fact a serious and brilliant scientist, concerned with what today is called 'systems theory', or complex systems; but he devised scientific reasoning models for experimentation, and conducted experiments with validation procedures, all of which qualify him as a scientist in the true sense as well.[44] For the extraordinary and unprecedented range of his work, of which only a minority survives, he is justly considered by many the most diversely talented person, or, as Helen Gardner says "The scope and depth of his interests were without precedent… His mind and personality seem to us superhuman".[45]
  • Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475–1564), architect, sculptor, painter, poet, writer.[39][40]
  • Baha' ad-Din al-`Amili; a polymath[46] equally at ease in philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, architecture and poetry.
  • Akbar the Great (1542–1605);[47] an History of India|Indian Mughal emperor, "polymath", architect, artisan, artist, armorer, blacksmith, carpenter, construction worker, engineer, general, inventor, lacemaker, ruler, Technology|technologist, theologian, and writer.[47]
  • Galileo Galilei (1564–1642), "Italian scientist, mathematician, astronomer, physicist, and philosopher. He made fundamental contributions to many sciences such as motion, materials, astronomy; he adapted telescope devices to astronomical purposes. As a natural philosopher committed to accounts of the world in mathematical terms moved away from descriptive accounts of the material world to mathematical ones tested empirically by experiments devised according to scientific method and reasoning. He formulated laws on circular inertia, on falling bodies, and parabolic trajectories. Several of these launched the change in how motion was understood and studied and this was decisive in understanding the physical universe. Galileo was a true Renaissance man, excelling at many different endeavors, including lute playing and painting."[48] Galileo is considered by some to have been the true revolutionary (along with Descartes) of the so-called revolution in thought often called the Copernican revolution.[49]
  • Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz (1606–1682) was a Spanish Catholic scholastic philosopher, ecclesiastic and writer who published no less than 262 works on grammar, poetry, oratory, mathematics, astronomy, architecture, physics, politics, canon law, logic, metaphysics, theology and asceticism.
  • Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) was a France|French mathematician, physicist, the first constructor of mechanical calculators, philosopher, theologian, and one of the greatest masters of French prose. Not frequently described as polymath, as the word doesn't exist in French, he was, for instance, praised by François-René de Chateaubriand|Chateaubriand, who said "There was a man who, aged 12, had rediscovered mathematics using rounds and bars; aged 16, written the deepest book on conics seen since Antiquity; aged 19, reduced to mechanical means a science which exists only in the mind; aged 23, found the weight of air, (…), then turned his thoughts towards God (…) giving its definitive shape to the language used later by Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet|Bossuet and Jean Racine|Racine (…) This frightening genius was named Blaise Pascal" [50]
  • Robert Hooke (1635–1703) was an English natural philosophy|natural philosopher, architect and the foremost experimental scientist of the English Restoration. He was at one point simultaneously Gresham Professor of Geometry, curator of experiments to the Royal Society and surveyor to the City of London after the Great Fire of London|great fire of 1666. In addition to the law of elasticity for which he is primarily known he is regarded as the founder of the science of microscopy, has a justifiable claim to have invented the pocket watch balance spring (also attributed to Christiaan Huygens), developed the world's first set of building controls, designed The Monument, the Royal College of Surgeons of England|Royal College of Surgeons, Bethlehem Hospital and many of the City churches rebuilt by the Christopher Wren|Wren partnership, helped Robert Boyle to develop his Boyle's Law|gas law and deduced that fossils were petrified organic matter and that gravity follows an inverse square law.
  • Isaac Newton (1643–1727) was an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, theologian, natural philosopher and Alchemy|alchemist. His treatise Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, published in 1687, described law of universal gravitation|universal gravitation and the three Newton's laws of motion|laws of motion, laying the groundwork for classical mechanics, which dominated the scientific view of the physical universe for the next three centuries and is the basis for modern engineering. In a 2005 poll of the Royal Society of who had the greatest effect on the history of science, Newton was deemed more influential than Albert Einstein.[51] "When we see Newton as a late Renaissance man, his particular addiction to classical geometry as ancient wisdom and the most reliable way of unveiling the secrets of nature, seems natural."[52]
  • Gottfried Leibniz (1646–1716); "Leibniz was a polymath who made significant contributions in many areas of physics, logic, mathematics, history, librarianship, and of course philosophy and theology, while also working on ideal languages, mechanical clocks, mining machinery…"[53] "A universal genius if ever there was one, and an inexhaustible source of original and fertile ideas, Leibniz was all the more interested in logic because it …"[54] "Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was maybe the last Universal Genius incessantly active in the fields of theology, philosophy, mathematics, physics, …"[54] "Leibniz was perhaps the last great Renaissance man who in Bacon's words took all knowledge to be his province."[55]
  • Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790); "The ultimate creole intellectual… A true polymath of the Enlightenment style, he distinguished himself on both sides of the Atlantic by researches in natural sciences as well as politics and literature." He was a leading author, political theorist, politician, printer, scientist, inventor, civic activist, publisher and diplomat.
  • Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov (1711–1765) was a Russian polymath, scientist and writer, who made important contributions to literature, education, and science. His spheres of interest were natural science, chemistry, physics, mineralogy, history, art, philology, optical devices and others. He discovered the atmosphere of Venus during its Transit of Venus|transit[56] and proposed the idea of Conservation of mass|conservation of matter.[57] Lomonosov was also a poet, who created the basis of the modern Russian literary language.
  • Maria Gaetana Agnesi (1718–1799) a great female polymath. Born in Milan, Italy, she was the second ever female university professor, a brilliant linguist, geometer, theology, logician, algebraist, mathematician and philosopher.[58] She wrote a book discussing differential and integral calculus. A child prodigy she spoke French as well as her native Italian from five years of age and in childhood also acquired Greek, Hebrew, Spanish, German and Latin. From age nine, she was delivering educated talks and later lectures, including a famous logical claim for the right of women to a full and equal education with men. Appointed by Pope Benedict XIV to Bologna University chair of mathematics.[59][60]
  • Hiraga Gennai (1728–1780) Edo period Japanese pharmacologist, student of Western studies, physician, author, painter and inventor.
  • Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826). Jefferson, the third President of the United States, was "the walking, talking embodiment of the Enlightenment, a polymath whose list of achievements is as long as it is incredibly varied.".[61] He was a philosopher, author, lawyer, architect, musician, naturalist, botanist, inventor, engineer, statesman, diplomat, and political theorist. At a dinner honoring Nobel laureates, John F. Kennedy famously said "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together in the White House—with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone."[62]
  • Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832) was a German poet, novelist, playwright, natural philosopher, diplomat, civil servant. His works span the fields of poetry, drama, literature, theology, philosophy, humanism and science. Goethe's masterpiece|magnum opus, lauded as one of the peaks of world literature, is the two-part drama Goethe's Faust|Faust.[63] "Germany's greatest man of letters—poet, critic, playwright, and novelist—and the last true polymath to walk the earth"[64] "Goethe comes as close to deserving the title of a universal genius as any man who has ever lived".[65] "He was essentially the last great European Renaissance man."[66] His gifts included incalculable contributions to the areas of German literature and the natural sciences. He is credited with discovery of a bone in the human jaw, and proposed a theory of colors. He has a mineral named in his honor, goethite. He molded the aesthetic properties of the Alps to poetry, thus, changing the local belief from "perfectly hideous" and an "unavoidable misery," to grandeur of the finest most brilliant creation.
  • Thomas Young (scientist)|Thomas Young (1773–1829) was an English polymath who made notable contributions to the fields of visual perception|vision, light, solid mechanics, energy, physiology, language, harmony|musical harmony and Egyptology.[67]
  • Hermann von Helmholtz (1821–1894) was a German physician, physicist and philosopher who made significant contributions to several widely varied areas of modern science.
  • Harry Johnston (1858–1927) was a British explorer, botanist, linguist, writer, painter and colonial administrator.
  • 'Acharya Sir[68] Jagadish Chandra Bose, Order of the Star of India|CSI,[69] Order of the Indian Empire|CIE,[70] Fellow of the Royal Society|FRS (Template:Lang-bn Jôgodish Chôndro Boshu) (30 November 1858 – 23 November 1937) was an outstanding Indian polymath: a List of physicists|physicist, biologist, Botany|botanist, Archaeology|archaeologist, as well as an early writer of science fiction.[71] He pioneered the investigation of radio and microwave optics, made very significant contributions to plant science, and laid the foundations of experimental science in the Indian subcontinent.[72] IEEE named him one of the People known as the father or mother of something|fathers of radio science.[73] He is also considered the father of Bangla science fiction|Bengali science fiction. He was the first person from the Indian subcontinent to receive a United States patent law|US patent, in 1904.
  • Jose Rizal (1861–1896), a Filipino people|Filipino patriot, an ophthalmologist, poet, journalist, novelist, volcanologist, biologist, political scientist, Painting|painter and Multilingualism|polyglot.
  • Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941), an Indian Bengali people|Bengali poet, novelist, musician, playwright and painter who reshaped Bengali literature Music of Bengal|and music in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As author of Gitanjali and its "profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse",[74] and as the first Asian to win the Nobel Prize in Literature,[75] Tagore was perhaps the most widely regarded Indian literary figure of all time. He was a mesmerizing representative of the Indian culture whose influence and popularity internationally perhaps could only be compared to that of Gandhi, whom Tagore named 'Mahatma' out of his deep admiration for him.
  • Pavel Florensky (1882-1937), a Russian Orthodox priest, theologian, philosopher, mathematician, electrical engineer, inventor and neo-martyr, sometimes compared by his followers to Leonardo da Vinci.
  • Les Golden (born 1943), Leslie M. Golden is an American astronomer, gambling writer, musician, actor, stand-up comedian, playwright, political activist, animal welfare activist, and environmentalist.[76][77][78][79] [80] [81] [82] [83][84]


See also

  • List of polymaths
  • Intelligence

References

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