The Rebirth of the Polymath

Statue of Sir Dr. Jagadish Chandra Bose at Christ's College, University of Cambridge, England. He was a Bengali polymath, physicist, biologist, botanist, archaeologist. Photo credit: e X p o s e / Shutterstock.com

Statue of Sir Dr. Jagadish Chandra Bose at Christ's College, University of Cambridge, England. He was a Bengali polymath, physicist, biologist, botanist, archaeologist. Photo credit: e X p o s e / Shutterstock.com

In an age of specialization, polymath isn’t a term used in everyday conversation. In case the temptation arises to reference a dictionary, a polymath is “a person of wide-ranging knowledge or learning.” The origin is from the early 17th century (the last century of the Renaissance): from Greek polumathes ‘having learned much,’ from polu- ‘much’ + the stem of manthanein ‘learn.’

Today, stumbling upon a polymath is exceptionally rare as we are conditioned to focus on one discipline of learning. Motivated by what makes good business sense rather than what stimulates the mind, we specialize. 

A few of us, however, make our home on the borders of many disciplines. Driven by a desire to learn, dream, invent and share. Our hearts race with excitement at the discovery of something new. We enjoy learning as much as a culinary connoisseur enjoys exquisite delicacies. 

This puts modern polymaths in a predicament – instead of being valued as people of great learning they are overlooked, because they do not fit into the business machine. The business world of today values specialization and views interest in many subjects as “a Jack of all trades, master of none.”

Not all businesses operate this way, but many do. And for someone who does not fit in a box or is even aware that a box exists, it has been a long journey to discover what exactly it is that I do. I finally came to the realization that I don't just play one instrument – I compose for the orchestra.

In the digital age, more people who love learning digital pursuits will find themselves on the verge of becoming polymaths; unable to decide which field they truly belong in. I found myself interested in app development, graphic design, video production, web development, business and marketing. In theory I could do it all, though that would prove exhausting. This explains the rise of startups, a handful of extraordinarily, talented individuals throwing all they have into creating something outstanding.

Don’t feel out of place, know that you are truly special. "Make things, take risks and be awesome!"