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The Last Days of the Polymath

A polymath, a person who knows a lot about a lot, has always been a rarity. The most well known being Da Vinci. But as the article demonstrates, throughout history there have been people that have managed to master more than one field. The sad part and the essay’s premise, is that in today’s world of focused specialization, it’s probably impossible for people to master more than one field and it’s quickly turning the polymath into a myth. Here’s one of the last polymaths, Carl Djerassi, take on it:

The word “polymath” teeters somewhere between Leonardo da Vinci and Stephen Fry. Embracing both one of history’s great intellects and a brainy actor, writer, director and TV personality, it is at once presumptuous and banal. Djerassi doesn’t want much to do with it. “Nowadays people that are called polymaths are dabblers—are dabblers in many different areas,” he says. “I aspire to be an intellectual polygamist. And I deliberately use that metaphor to provoke with its sexual allusion and to point out the real difference to me between polygamy and promiscuity. To me, promiscuity is a way of flitting around. Polygamy, serious polygamy, is where you have various marriages and each of them is important. And in the ideal polygamy I suspect there’s no number one wife and no number six wife. You have a deep connection with each person.”

From this day forward I’m referring myself as intellectually promiscuous.