Imhotep (2650 – 2600 BC)
An Egyptian polymath who is considered to be the first engineer, architect, and physician in history known by name. He was also one of very few mortals to be depicted as part of a pharaoh’s statue and accorded divine status after death.
Aristotle (384 – 322 BC)
A Greek philosopher, student of Plato, and teacher of Alexander the Great, Aristotle was an extraordinary polymath who studied and wrote on a vast array of subjects that include physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology.
Leon Battista Alberti (1404 – 1472)
An Italian humanist, painter, poet, medallist, philosopher, hydraulic engineer, cryptographer, musician, novelist, and architect.
Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519)
Leonardo da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath who has been described as the model of the Renaissance Man, and possibly the most diversely talented person who has ever lived. His titles include painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer. Art historian Helen Gardner explains the scope and depth of his interests were without precedent and “his mind and personality seem to us superhuman, the man himself mysterious and remote.”
Galileo Galilei (1564 – 1642)
Galileo was an Italian scientist, mathematician, astronomer, physicist, and philosopher and described by some to have been the true revolutionary of the Copernican Revolution.
Blaise Pascal (1623 – 1662)
Although there is no word that exists in French that is translated as polymath, Blaise Pascal was a French mathematician, physicist, philosopher, theologian, inventor of the first mechanical calculator, and one of the greatest masters of French prose. He was a man of frightening genius.
Isaac Newton (1643 – 1727)
As an English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, theologian, natural philosopher, and alchemist, Isaac Newton has been deemed the most influential mind that has had the greatest effect on the history of science, even more so than Albert Einstein. He published papers describing universal gravitation and the three laws of motion, in essence laying the groundwork for classical mechanics.
Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646 – 1716)
A universal genius who made significant contributions in many areas of physics, logic, mathematics, history, librarianship, philosophy, theology, linguistics, and mechanical engineering.
Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790)
The ultimate Creole intellectual and a true polymath of the American Enlightenment, Benjamin Franklin was a distinguished revolutionary, inventor, author, publisher, politician, political theorist, postmaster, scientist, musician, satirist, civic activist, statesman, diplomat, and philanthropist.
Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826)
Thomas Jefferson was a Founding Father and the third President of the United States whose list of achievements is as long as it is varied. 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.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832)
A German poet, novelist, playwright, natural philosopher, diplomat, and civil servant whose works span the fields of poetry, drama, literature, theology, philosophy, humanism, and science.