History & Culture

Leonardo and the Peerless Polymaths Who Changed History

AMAC Exclusive – by Herald Boas

leonardo polymaths historyWe live in dubious times, when great men and women of the past are being “canceled” by a few politically correct or “woke” fanatics, or, perhaps worse still, their work is being neglected or forgotten. It’s important, then, to remember some of the most remarkable persons of the past, especially those with the most amazing skills, and who made the greatest contributions to civilization.

A group of extraordinary individuals known as “polymaths” perfectly fit this category of world-changing intellects. A polymath is someone with very wide-ranging knowledge and prescient accomplishments. They are rare individuals, and every age seems to have a few of them. Sometimes they are called “renaissance men” (or women) because perhaps the greatest and most famous polymath was the iconic figure of the European Renaissance period, Leonardo Da Vinci.

A polymath’s polymath, Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) did so many extraordinary things, it takes one’s breath away. He was one of the greatest painters of all time; his Mona Lisa and The Last Supper are two of the world’s most famous masterpieces. He was also a notable architect and sculptor. He was a visionary inventor, drawing models of a helicopter, flying machine, parachute, gear shift, bicycle, snorkel, monkey wrench, canal locks system, hydraulic jacks, and automated instruments decades or even centuries before technology caught up with Da Vinci’s boundless imagination. His extendable ladder remains in use today. Although he hated war, he drew tanks, machine guns, and submarines long before they were put into use. He was the father of automation; his automated looms foreshadowed the Industrial Revolution by 300 years.

But that’s not all. As a scientific figure, he pioneered botanical science and comparative anatomy studies. In physics, he anticipated modern mechanics, optics, and hydrostatics. As author Michael J. Gelb points out in How To Think Like Leonrdo da Vinci, he also intimated some of the great scientific discoveries and breakthroughs of Copernicus, Newton, Galileo and Darwin long before they made them.

But the influence of polymaths on Western culture extends back further than da Vinci. In the ancient western world, the most notable polymath was the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 B.C. – 322 B.C.). He was a student of Plato and the teacher of Alexander the Great. His interests included, and he is considered the father of, many of the classical subjects of philosophy, science and scholarship. His writings and discoveries would have a major impact a thousand years later in propelling the West from the Medieval Age to the Renaissance. Only a third of his writings survive, but he is still widely read and regarded as a genius today, 2,500 years later.

America’s great polymath – and another student of Aristotle – was Ben Franklin (1706-1790). He was a scientist, inventor, diplomat, politician, author, and philosopher. Although most Americans today know him as a founding father of our country, his first demonstration of electricity had global scientific impact. He was the foremost printer and publisher in colonial America. He founded the University of Pennsylvania, and was the first U.S. Postmaster General. His diplomatic successes during the U.S. Revolutionary War, particularly winning French support for the American cause, were vital to securing independence. He is considered by many today to have been the most influential American of his age.

Perhaps the least known mega-polymath was Satyendra Nath Bose (1894-1974), a Bengali genius from the Indian subcontinent. He was a physicist and mathematician who also did serious work in chemistry, biology, philosophy, art, literature, and music. He collaborated with Albert Einstein on early studies of quantum mechanics. The key sub-atomic particle, the boson, was named after him. He spoke several languages and promoted Bengali literature. His work was seminal in the new field of quantum statistics. Self-effacing, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize which he did not receive, but which many peers felt he should have won. He worked with Marie Curie on X-ray radiation during a stay in Europe before returning to Calcutta to head a university department of physics, teach and do further research. As if that were not enough, he was also an accomplished musician.

Of course, few as they have been, there are other great visionary figures whose significant achievements and wide-ranging abilities could be cited, such as Helen Keller, Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, Albert Schweitzer, Copernicus, George W. Carver, Albert Einstein, Nikola Tesla, Galileo, and Winston Churchill — to name only some of them.

Many of these, and other great innovators, achieved so much despite physical handicaps, Helen Keller and the deaf Beethoven for example, that their natural gifts are magnified by their indomitable wills and human spirit.

No matter how the dictates of political correctness change, the lives and work of these extraordinary individuals cannot be erased.

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2 months ago

Are the school children being taught this magnificent history? Doubt it. What a shame, it is so interesting. So many giants who did great things. (DaVinci, genious) Composers, inventors, regular people gave so much to us.

2 months ago

I would rather die free…this is not Heaven on Earth…Evil resides with Evil…

2 months ago

Thanks for this article ! I read a lot , I like history and real science and yet I’ve never heard of Mr. Bose ! Franklin’s autobiography is a great read , especially the first part wherein he mentions his youth and how he walked to Philadelphia , sent by his father to train with an uncle ( I think ) , to be in the dyer’s guild . These men knew the ” secret ways ” to dye fabrics. Franklin hated the work , went on to greater things !

Ralph S
2 months ago

According to the WOKE… America’s problems are the fault of Horatio Alger, the Bobsey twins, and Dick, Jane and Sally with no help from Spot..

2 months ago

Only people with an agenda or haters of freedom and American success would EVER work to eliminate Our history.
America is the Greatest Country in the history of the World.
democrats,liberals, socialists and communists are to ignorant to acknowledge that.

2 months ago

I’d think about adding Bill Bennet to the list.

Kay Nelson
2 months ago

Victor Davis Hanson is a current polymath!

3 months ago

Thomas Jefferson was another great man ahead of his time…Inventor

3 months ago
Reply to  Jeanette

and botanist.

3 months ago

Amen. The true thoughts is these significant men cannot be denied, even by our present day intellectuals who try to deny the western thought. We should also recognize the Asian intellects who were significant in their contributions to thought, science, art, etc.

2 months ago
Reply to  Morgan

Asian intellects?!?! Like the ones who gave us the worldwide, devastating man-made Wuhan virus? Who else should be recognized and an intellect? Fauci? Biden? Gosh, that’s infuriating to even half-way contemplate!

3 months ago

I believe a firm grasp of the classics is an all-important part of every grade-school student’s education, something which is sorely lacking in today’s public school “indoctrination.” Today’s “educators” (I use that term loosely) will tell you either that the classics aren’t important, or they aren’t “woke” enough.I had parents who sacrificed many things to put me through a private school, where I received a well-rounded education in the three “R’s” (reading, writing and ‘rithmatic — remember the song “School Days?”). Math wasn’t my best subject, but I had patient teachers. My best subjects were English Literature, History (both ancient and recent) and Science, all of which I enjoyed immensely.I was immersed in many of the classics — The Holy Scriptures (this WAS a Baptist school, after all); the Greek philosophers; Homer’s “The Odyssey;” “Beowulf;” “The Epic of Gilgamesh;” Dante’s “The Divine Comedy;” Kepler’s ” Somnium;” the plays and poetry of Shakespeare and Chaucer; and the breakthrough science fiction of Jules Verne and H. G. Welles; among so many others I couldn’t possibly list here. I still have several of these volumes in my personal library.I can’t imagine a life without these classics in my life. They whetted my imagination and helped to generate my creative juices, and helped to set my feet upon my own path of knowledge. Yet the wokeness of the socialist left would have us burn everything indiscriminately and instead ” embrace” Karl Marx and some “supposed” fictional authors who exist only in someone’s warped mind. Is it no wonder, then, that the United States is fast becoming the dumbest country on the planet??

3 months ago

If it wasn’t for these “evil white guys” we’d be living in mud huts.

3 months ago

This article is absolutely .wonderfully AMAZING. A gift of Knowledge..Not to be forgotten or rejected .Wake up people recognize God’s Blessings.All.

3 months ago

These so called “wokies” are, in my opinion, nothing but narcissists who want to rewrite history into their own version by use of idiotic changes in every arena, including race and gender baiting. They plant their illusions of history and theories by distortion, while pandering to those who ignorantly believe themselves to be the beneficiaries. It is unbelievable, the number of those who would buy into this and without a whimper. No doubt we are becoming a nation filled with greedy opportunists with whom morons will agree and follow to their own, and our nation’s, eventual demise.

3 months ago
Reply to  Opinari

You’d think that with all their talk of “community” and “global” involvement, the woke folk would have a perspective that looks beyond themselves and toward a better outcome for all. But, instead, they engage in narcissistic navel-gazing, oblivious to the rights and desires of other people. They think everyone should want the world to fall in lockstep with the way they live their lives.

So, along comes someone like President Trump, who fought for the freedom and opportunity of every single citizen of this country. He provided a “common denominator”, or equal opportunity, and the rest was up to us. Well, didn’t that upset the apple cart?! The progressive leaders couldn’t have that; they depend on all those morons who topple history and turn to government for answers in order maintain their position of power and wealth. The pioneering spirit that built this country is almost gone. Government sees to that.

3 months ago
Reply to  Kim

Yes, the pioneering and visionary spirit that built this country is almost gone. Government has done a terrific job of grinding it into oblivion in nearly every place it can be found, because government relies first and foremost on creating mediocrity and insular thinking. The government will tell you what is doable and how it must be done. No independent or out of the box solutions allowed. Innovative and unique solutions to solving problems, much as President Trump utilized over and over again to address many of those supposedly insurmountable problems that both sides of Washington said just couldn’t be addressed, simply represented far too great a threat to the status quo government relies on. Not only did they have to get rid of President Trump, but they needed ensure no outsider with similar views ever dared run for President again by publicly demonstrating how the full power of the swamp could be used to attack virtually anyone that threatens the status quo.

If someone like President Trump can accomplish so much in the course of just four years, while being under constant attack from all sides of the so-called swamp, that shines a very bright spot light on the utter ingrained incompetence of the vast majority of Washington and they couldn’t allow that to stand. The public, at least the percentage of the public that still possess any capacity to think and reason independently, would quickly come to the conclusion that most of the government does little to nothing and gets very well paid for it. That would put way too many career bureaucrats’ jobs in jeopardy. Especially in Congress, that as made an art form out of endlessly promising to address certain things and then accomplishing virtually nothing year after year.

As for the so-called “woke”, that is merely mental indoctrination of the masses to instill a sort of group think sameness. These are the views that the “woke” approve of and these are the views the “woke” disapprove of. Anyone not in complete conformity of the approved group think standards is vilified and ostracized. The “woke” are not interested in “the well being of the community” or the betterment or advancement of civilization and the world as a whole. They are focused exclusively on controlling the population via enforcement of a rigid, limited group think model.

3 months ago
Reply to  PaulE


3 months ago
Reply to  Kim

Pres. Trump was a hiccup for the plans of the Deep State and the plan is been accelerated to be completed before the mid-term election.

2 months ago
Reply to  Kim


2 months ago
Reply to  Opinari

The only way to be “woke” is to be terminally stupid and woefully undereducated. That movement is so dumb and so despairingly ignorant as to make the rest of us cry.

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