Author(s): Peter Burke
The remarkable story of Western polymaths from the fifteenth century to the present day
From Leonardo da Vinci and John Dee to Oliver Sacks and Susan Sontag, polymaths have moved the frontiers of knowledge. Nonetheless, in our current age of specialization, polymaths are often remembered for only one part of their varied achievements.
Renowned cultural historian Peter Burke examines the achievements of five hundred Western polymaths from the Renaissance to the present. Burke shows how the rise of the polymath went hand in hand with the rapid growth of knowledge in the age of the invention of printing, the discovery of the New World, and the Scientific Revolution. He also argues that the further growth of knowledge led to the rise of specialization and so to an environment that has become less and less supportive of wide-ranging scholars and scientists.