Greatest Modern Polymaths

The Top Ten

1 Jacob Bronowski

Again! If one could live with and listen to only one person, it would be Jacob Bronowski

Polish-born, British Jewish Mathematician, Biologist, Historian of Science, Theatre Author, Poet, and Inventor.

Jacob told us the truth, "science is only a Latin word for knowledge. Knowledge is our destiny."

2 Jonathan Miller

British Theatre and Opera Director, Actor, Author, Television Presenter, Humorist, Sculptor, and Medical Doctor.

3 Buckminster Fuller

American Inventor, Engineer, Architect, Mathematician, Philosopher, and Professor of Poetry. There is more written about Richard Buckminster Fuller ( Sadly no relation ) in the American 'Who's Who' book than anyone else!

4 John von Neumann John von Neumann was a Hungarian-American pure and applied mathematician, physicist, inventor, computer scientist, and polymath.

Most of those listed here have merely extended the range of their activities into closely related fields. That's not polymathy, in my opinion. I was trained as an experimental chemist, have a peer-reviewed publication in theoretical chemistry, and have worked as a university teacher in unrelated fields such as statistics and operations research (currently), an academic editor (for the last 20 years), a semi-professional rock-group drummer (long ago), a company director (currently), a paid murallist and collagist, and many other distantly or un-related activities, yet I would never claim to be a polymath (of course, I'm not famous in any of these fields either).

Hungarian-born, American Jewish Physicist, Mathematician, Contributions to Game Theory, Economics, and Pioneering Computer Scientist. One of the Greatest Mathematicians of All Time! He had a Photographic Memory!

5 Anthony Burgess

British Novelist, Critic, Composer, Poet, Playwright, Librettist, Screenwriter, Essayist, Travel Writer, Broadcaster, Translator, Linguist, and Educationalist.

6 Steve Allen

American Comedian, Writer, Poet, Lyricist, Composer, Actor, Concert Artist, and Lecturer. He wrote 54 Books! And about 10,000 Songs!

7 Bruce Dickinson Paul Bruce Dickinson, known professionally as Bruce Dickinson, is an English musician, airline pilot, and broadcaster. He is most well known for being the lead singer in heavy metal band Iron Maiden and his solo career.

British Heavy Metal Singer, Record Producer, Airline Pilot, Television Presenter, Author, Businessman, Competitive Fencer, and Devoted Family Man.

Radio presenter can also be added to the list...

Musician, pilot, world class fencer, author, film maker, DJ...

8 Paul Robeson

African-American Bass Baritone Concert Singer, Actor of Film and Stage, All American and Professional Athlete, Writer, Multi-Lingual Orator, Scholar, and Lawyer, who was also Noted for his Wide Ranging Social Justice Activism.

9 Rowan Williams

Welsh Anglican Bishop, Poet, Theologian, and Polyglot*. The 104th Archbishop of Canterbury. *He speaks 11 Languages!

10 Steve Jobs Steven Paul Jobs (February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011) was an American entrepreneur and business magnate. He was the chairman, chief executive officer (CEO), and a co-founder of Apple Inc., chairman and majority shareholder of Pixar, a member of The Walt Disney Company's board of directors following ...read more.

Greatest modern polymath.

The Contenders

11 F Story Musgrave
12 Edward Said

Another Polymath who I admire is Professor Carl Sagan ( 1934 - 1996 ). American Astronomer, Astrophysicist, Cosmologist, Author, Science Popularizer, and Science Communicator in Astronomy and Natural Sciences. In watching his masterpiece television series Cosmos I am taken back by his all encomposing knowledge!

Palestinian-American Author, Literary Theorist, Cultural critic, Public Intellectual, and Advocate for Palestinian Rights, and Founding Figure in Postcolonialism via his Book 'Orientalism'.

13 Ludwig Wittgenstein
14 Dolph Lundgren Hans "Dolph" Lundgren is a Swedish actor, director, screenwriter, producer, martial artist, and chemical engineer.

This guy astonishes me. Won a European martial arts championship, has a Masters degree in Chemical Engineering, speaks 7 languages (though not completely fluently for some), won a Fulbright scholarship to MIT, and oh yeah, did a little acting on the side. Wow.

15 Stephen Hough
16 Christopher Hitchens Christopher Eric Hitchens was a British-American author, columnist, essayist, orator, journalist, and social critic.

Amazing man. Debating genius

17 Bertrand Russell Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, social critic, political activist, and Nobel laureate.
18 Stephen Fry Stephen John Fry is an English comedian, actor, writer, presenter and activist. After a troubled childhood and adolescence, during which he was expelled from two schools and spent three months in prison for credit card fraud, Fry secured a place at Queens' College, Cambridge, where he studied English ...read more.

He is in the dictionary next to the words "sweet" and "smart"

19 Carl Sagan Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, science popularizer, and science communicator in astronomy and other natural sciences.

Great writer and communicator with the ability to explain complex issues in amazingly clear ways and to inspire people to learn more about science and the Universe. Sagan was key in drilling through bonehead politicians to make them realize the danger of thermonuclear war to the very existence of our species.

20 Richard Feynman Richard Phillips Feynman was an American theoretical physicist known for his work in the path integral formulation of quantum mechanics, the theory of quantum electrodynamics, and the physics of the superfluidity of supercooled liquid helium, as well as in particle physics for which he proposed the ...read more.
21 William Sidis

Claimed to be the cleverest man who ever lived. A giant amongst pygmies.

22 Brian May Brian Harold May is an English musician, singer, songwriter and astrophysicist, best known as the lead guitarist of the rock band Queen.

Guitarist, multi instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, astro-physicist with a PhD, mathematician, animal rights activist

23 Noam Chomsky Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, political activist, and social critic.
24 Roger Penrose
25 Oliver Sacks
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