Return of the Polymath

Albert Berk Toledo
The Great Mystery
Published in
2 min readJan 22, 2024

There were times in human history when the most curious, the most productive and the most excited were involved in many fields. They did not separate human exploration and knowledge into categories but rather looked at existence as a whole, found connections across their wide range of skills and wisdom.

Leonardo Da Vinci was an engineer who designed machines but also an architect who designed bridges. That didn’t prevent him from writing, nor painting. He even explored the human body by secretly acquiring cadavers and examining them in order to understand human biology.

Aristotle’s contributions spanned various fields including philosophy, biology, ethics, politics, and metaphysics. His thirst for understanding led him to establish a comprehensive system of western philosophy, which integrated the physical and metaphysical realms, influencing countless generations thereafter.

Omar Khayyam was a sufi poet who did incredible work in astronomy, contributing to the Jalali Calendar. His passion for exploring the outer cosmos was not separate from his curiosity of the inner cosmos.

Rabbi Moshe Ben Maimon was a leading Torah scholar whose works on Jewish spirituality are still some of the most important in history. He was also one of the best medical doctors of his time, advancing medicine both in theory and application. He ended up being the personal doctor of the Sultan of Egypt.

In the last few centuries however, we saw a decline in the prominence of polymaths in society. With great technological advancements in recent history, the best of us had to specialize in certain fields in order to push the limits of each field. The amount of information was so vast that no one single person could do cutting edge work in more than one field. This is changing today with the even further advancements in technology.

The accessibility of information thanks to the internet, as well as the ease of processing that information thanks to artificial intelligence is once again making it easier for humans to assume the role of the connecter of dots. We are seeing the beginnings of a new era of polymaths who can gain expertise in a variety of fields and step back to look at the big picture, explore patterns across existence and use advancements in one field as a tool to advance another.