Modern Literature on Polymathy: A Brief Review

9 Pages Posted: 11 Jan 2019 Last revised: 13 Dec 2019

See all articles by Michael Araki

Michael Araki

University of Louisville

Priscila Pires

UFF - Universidade Federal Fluminense

Date Written: January 10, 2019


Although figures like Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin and Gottfried Leibniz are admired for their multiple expertise and their contributions for multiple domains of human endeavor, the phenomenon of polymathy, which traditionally means wide-ranging knowledge, is still surprisingly unexplored in the literature. Despite having received wider attention in the popular domain in the last few years, polymathy as a field of scientific study is still in the early stages of development, with researchers calling for more studies in the area (e.g., Shavinina, 2013; Sriraman, 2009). At present, researchers studying this topic come from backgrounds as diverse as psychology, physiology, mathematics, management and education. Although incipient, the extant studies can already demonstrate the importance of polymathy as a concept that can help enhance our understanding of human diversity and of the elements that underlie one of the most human of traits: creativity. This article presents an overview of the contributions of six contemporary scholarly authors to the understanding of the phenomenon of polymathy. The criterion to choose the authors included in this article was the existence of publications in academic outlets focusing on the concept of polymathy itself (and not, for instance, on the biographies of specific polymaths).

Keywords: polymathy, polymath, giftedness, creativity, genius, education

Suggested Citation

Araki, Michael and Pires, Priscila, Modern Literature on Polymathy: A Brief Review (January 10, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Michael Araki (Contact Author)

University of Louisville ( email )

110 W Brandeis Ave
Louisville, KY 40292
United States
502-852-6440 (Phone)

Priscila Pires

UFF - Universidade Federal Fluminense

Rua José do Patrocínio 71
Campos dos Goytacazes, WV rio de janeiro

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