Greatest Modern Polymaths

The Top Ten
1 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."

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

2 Jonathan Miller
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.

John von Neumann possessed a phenomenal ability to systematically topple the hardest mathematical problems that stumped the world's most brilliant minds. His speed was unchallenged, and he possessed knowledge of a vast number of topics, especially in mathematics. He was "the last representative of the great mathematicians," in the same breath as Euler and Friedrich Gauss. He played a crucial role in the development of computers. The Von Neumann architectural model is present in almost every digital device in the world, and he was one of the first and probably its greatest programmer.

Von Neumann made major contributions to many fields, including mathematics (mathematical logic, measure theory, functional analysis, ergodic theory, group theory, lattice theory, representation theory, operator algebras, matrix theory, geometry, and numerical analysis), physics (quantum mechanics, hydrodynamics and ballistics, nuclear physics, and quantum statistical mechanics), economics (game theory and general equilibrium theory), computing (Von Neumann architecture, linear programming, numerical meteorology, scientific computing, self-replicating machines, stochastic computing), and statistics. He was a pioneer in the application of operator theory to quantum mechanics in the development of functional analysis, and a key figure in the development of game theory and the concepts of cellular automata, the universal constructor, and the digital computer.

5 Anthony Burgess
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, (born 7 August 1958) 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.Outside his career in music, Dickinson has pursued a number... read more

Musician, pilot, world-class fencer, author, filmmaker, DJ...

Radio presenter can also be added to the list.

8 Paul Robeson
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
The Contenders
11 F Story Musgrave
12 Edward Said

Another polymath who I admire is Professor Carl Sagan (1934 - 1996), an 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 aback by his all-encompassing knowledge!

Palestinian-American author, literary theorist, cultural critic, public intellectual, and advocate for Palestinian rights. He was a founding figure in postcolonialism via his book 'Orientalism.'

13 Ludwig Wittgenstein
14 Stephen Hough
15 Bertrand Russell Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, writer, social critic, political activist, and Nobel laureate.
16 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
17 Dolph Lundgren Hans "Dolph" Lundgren is a Swedish actor, director, screenwriter, producer, martial artist, and chemical engineer.

This guy astonishes me. He won a European martial arts championship, has a master's degree in chemical engineering, speaks seven languages (though not completely fluently in some), won a Fulbright scholarship to MIT, and oh yeah, did a little acting on the side. Wow.

18 Christopher Hitchens Christopher Eric Hitchens was a British-American author, columnist, essayist, orator, journalist, and social critic.
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 boneheaded politicians to make them realize the danger of thermonuclear war to the very existence of our species.

Best all-time science communicator. Excellent scientist in multiple fields. Easy to understand and inspiring author.

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

Did a lot for science. Interesting as an amateur philosopher of science.

21 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, astrophysicist with a PhD, mathematician, and animal rights activist.

22 Isaac Asimov Isaac Asimov, born Isaak Ozimov (c. January 2, 1920 – April 6, 1992) was an American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University. He was known for his works of science fiction and popular science.
23 Donald Glover Donald McKinley Glover Jr. is an American actor, comedian, writer, director, rapper, singer, songwriter, producer and DJ. He performs music under the stage name Childish Gambino and as a DJ under the name mcDJ... read more

American comedian, singer, rapper, director, and actor. He was the first black director to win an Emmy for his work on his television series "Atlanta."

24 Erwin Schrodinger Erwin Rudolf Josef Alexander Schrödinger, sometimes written as Erwin Schrodinger or Erwin Schroedinger, was a Nobel Prize-winning Austrian physicist who developed a number of fundamental results in the field of quantum theory, which formed the basis of wave mechanics: he formulated the wave equation... read more
25 William Sidis

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

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