Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Word of the day

Today's word is polymath. The term came to mind when I heard Terry Cutler give a short talk last night at the AGM of CHASS (Council of Humanities and Social Sciences). In the course of deploring the every narrower specialisations that proliferate in the academic world, he referred to a book about Thomas Young, called The Last Man Who Knew Everything: Thomas Young, The Anonymous Polymath Who Proved Newton Wrong, Explained How We See, Cured the Sick, and Deciphered the Rosetta Stone, Among Other Feats of Genius, by Andrew Robinson.

According to the Wikipedia, polymath is from the Greek
πολυμαθής, "having learned much" and means a persoon with encyclopedic, broad or varied knowledge or learning. I think that Terry's point was that there aren't any polymaths any more, and the Wikipedia indicates that both the term and polymathy itself are passing out of both usage and existence. I guess we can all only do our best. I've been browsing the Wikipedia.

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