Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Search Challenge (9/9/15): Can you find more like this?

I don't really buy the Great Man theory... 

... of history, nor am I a fan-boy of celebrities, current or past.  But I AM an admirer of people who are (for lack of a better term) broadly talented and effective.  

That is, learning about such people is kind of a sub-hobby of mine. I look up to, read biographies of, and am inspired by people like: 

Galton, ca. 1850

Francis Galton (who came up with the idea of statistical correlation; first wrote about “nature vs. nurture”, invented the idea of psychometrics; did important work in meteorology and audiology, inventing the Galton whistle and a few other things) 
Alberti, ca. 1440

Or the classic example of such folks, Leonardo da Vinci (painter, sculptor, architect, inventor, scientist, writer...)  

Or consider Leon Battista Alberti (architect, painter, poet, mathematician, horseman, author, artist, priest, linguist, philosopher, cryptographer, and archer) 

I'd include Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (novelist, poet, statesman, theatre director, natural philosopher, mineralogist)

 And  Alexander von Humboldt (Prussian geographer, naturalist, explorer, romantic philosophy, quantitative botanical geography)

 Along with Daniel Bernoulli (math, physics, probability theory, medicine, anatomy, botany)  

A worried looking Goethe, ca. 1828
And our old friend, Peter Simon Pallas (zoologist, professor, surgeon, botanist, explorer) -- who also gave his name to the Pallas Cat (LINK to an earlier SRS page about this) and Pallasite.  

I'm curious about the details of people like this--how did they manage to be so wide-ranging AND effective in (apparently) whatever area they wanted to work in?  

I'm fascinated by an analysis like that of Maria Popova did of the routines of famous (and famously productive) writers

Pallas, ca. 1906

In short, I try to learn from those brilliant folks that have figured this out before me.  What did they do that I should emulate?  Sure, work hard, get up early in the morning, write like crazy... But then.. what else?  

So I'd like your help in putting together a list of people like those above.  Who else qualifies?  This week we have just a single question:  

1.  Can you find more people like those above?  They must be skilled in multiple arts / sciences / domains-of-expertise AND have left a record so we can tell what they were so good at doing. And just as importantly, HOW can you do a SearchReSearch strategy to identify these folks?  

Once you figure out a method to find people with this interestingly vague characteristic, share it with us.  I don't think it's all that difficult to do, but we'll learn an important SRS skill.  

Who else would you nominate to go onto this list, and why?  

Be sure to tell us HOW to found these additional people!  

(To be clear, they need NOT be dead, white, and male. These were just handy examples with images that are out of copyright...)  

Search on! 


  1. Hildegard of Bingen is not male, but is white and dead.
    George Washington Carver is black and dead.
    Searching for Female Polymath, or Famous Polymath or Renaissance Man is pretty good.
    I find doing an image search is a super fast way to filter out crappy links.
    List of Polymaths yields this
    Mae Jemison is female, black alive and broadly talented and effective by my thinking.
    This blog kills my productivity :)

    1. Sorry about the productivity killing... it means I'm succeeding... at SOMETHING!

      Love your idea about the image search. That's a great idea. Thanks

  2. Good day, Dr. Russell and everyone. I need to think how to search. No idea comes to me at the moment to cover all your requests.

    I thought about this Challenge:

    Answer: Who else is in that family tree...?

    And then [Daniel Bernoulli Peter Simon Pallas Leonardo da Vinci] result very cool and interesting :


    Be back with more.

    1. Searched:

      [famous multiple expertise ]
      [famous more than one expertise]

      Tried searching [Nikola Tesla] with the new tool from 1MM. Found some names like: Newton and Galileo

      [da vinci galileo tesla common things] in Web and Books

      Found some famous people diagnosed with dyslexia

      Tried with some names and possible words:
      Francis Galton, Maria Popova. "Areas of strength"

      Creative Genius: The World's Greatest Minds

      IQ Facts and IQ of Famous People

      After reading in SRS comments the word Polymath (Erudito in Spanish)

      [polymath humans through history]

      Who are the most notable polymaths in history?

      Building Tomorrow's Leaders Today: On Becoming a Polymath Leader By Michael A. Genovese

      Polymath, Renaissance Man, similar terms and recognized ones

      [polymaths humans 20th century]

      What are the most famous polymaths of the 20th century?

      Another Polymath list

  3. Well, the term to look for, it occurred to me, is polymath.

    Search for this word is just right.

    Charles Babbage was certainly one;

    an English polymath.[1] A mathematician, philosopher, inventor and mechanical engineer, Babbage is best remembered for originating the concept of a programmable computer. has this good line:

    The word “polymath” teeters somewhere between Leo­nardo da Vinci and Stephen Fry. Embracing both one of history’s great intellects and a brainy actor, writer, director and TV personality, it is at once presumptuous and banal.

    And Thomas Young. Same source as previous:

    In the first half of 1802 a physician and scientist called Thomas Young gave a series of 50 lectures at London’s new Royal Institution, arranged into subjects like “Mechanics” and “Hydro­dynamics”. By the end, says Young’s biographer Andrew Robinson, he had pretty much laid out the sum of scientific knowledge. Robinson called his book “The Last Man Who Knew Everything”.

    Young’s achievements are staggering. He smashed Newtonian orthodoxy by showing that light is a wave, not just a particle; he described how the eye can vary its focus; and he proposed the three-colour theory of vision. In materials science, engineers dealing with elasticity still talk about Young’s modulus; in linguistics, Young studied the grammar and voc­abulary of 400 or so languages and coined the term “Indo-European”; in Egyptology, Jean-François Champollion drew on his work to decode the Rosetta stone. Young even tinkered around with life insurance.


    jon tU

    1. Thanks for the word Jon tU and Martin. I would never find it. I tried searching with other words and phrases. Tomorrow, I'll post my findings. Of course very different without polymath word.

      I also wonder if we (me) can find the requested features with that word and Dr. Russell's path. I am looking forward for it!

      I was thinking about Nikola Tesla. He most be in our list and his name was also on my searching queries.

      Thanks to both of you and Dr. Russell. It is great to learn new things and more about brilliant humans.

    2. I didn't know about Thomas Young--but he's an inspiration as well. Thanks.

  4. tl;dr - but scanned the end…
    "Isaiah Berlin once divided thinkers into two types. Foxes (polymaths), he wrote, know many things; whereas hedgehogs (monomaths) know one big thing. The foxes used to roam free across the hills. Today the hedgehogs rule. "… but what about robots/AI?

    " "There is a saying credited variously to Mark Twain, Abraham Maslow, and Jewish folklore: To the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.' Dubnov's book suggests irresistibly the hybrid proverb: 'Beware hedgehogs bearing hammers.' " "

    interesting site ⩬ brain pickings
    Isaiah Berlin
    20 living

    my pick, alas, another deceased,anglo, male…
    Richard Burton… (not Liz's & there's a timeline)
    living alternative
    the ebb & flo… maybe it should be The Pivotal Being theory…
    Ozymandias read

    more possible "Pivotals" - the evolution of the story teller…

    my browser was mal-functioning… Pallas

    ranker is an interesting source
    ranker's - listopedia
    another contender —
    Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso

    1. Ah... Richard Burton. THERE's a guy. Love it. All the folks you listed are wonderful, but Burton captures my fancy in quaint, historical, Victorian way.

  5. Quick answer - query [who's who of the who's who] Result 'Marquis whos who' might show us some interesting results based on the huge database.

  6. Second idea Query [you would you like to meet dead or alive] - looks interesting as well.

  7. bothog/hedgebot revisited… yes, that is the Hammer of Thor in the bot's possession
    "If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants"
    blind giant Orion & Cedalion
    also used by Google Scholar
    Sir Newton
    "I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me."
    Wolfram Research take
    Hammer of Justice
    …and today
    Satchmo, an auditory polymath?
    Glenn Gould, an auditory monomath? (video)

  8. [Female humans polymaths]

    Who are the women polymaths?

    [famous female polymaths]

    [greatest polymaths of all time timeline]
    Timeline Polymaths

    Also read Wikipedia Polymaths list.

    And, out of topic, found this article

    English NOT offical language in USA.

    [Official Language of USA]

  9. how about this person?… (the younger one in the photo)
    XX♀ living polymath?
    as 'sRs'ers, you can figure out who it is… maybe even without Google — two hints:
    ➊ not that far away from Dan & the 'plex…
    the older person in the photo was an alum here

    1. Good one, Remmij. I couldn't figure it out with your hints. I used Google Image: Answer without Spoiler BTW, I like a lot your links, specially the rank one and the photo in "bothog/hedgebot revisited", that I didn't understand.

      RRR, how you selected this query or how you choose it? [who's who of the who's who]

    2. Ramón… quick find on Mx. Arroz…… as to the "bothog/hedgebot revisited" visual;
      it was a tenuous reference to the 9/9/15 Isaiah Berlin quote (see above) and the following quote: 'To the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.'
      hybrid proverb: 'Beware hedgehogs bearing hammers.'
      … then speculation about what hedgehogs with robots, artificial intelligence, some hammer emojis and
      even Thor's Hammer/Mjölnir might have in store for us bio-meatbags in a dystopian near future… but with
      a twist of whimsy tossed in… but what do I know… I'm neither a poly nor a mono math… more a notamathēs (Made up Words)
      more Thor

      the hedgehogs may be just along for the ride…
      …polybots are already signing up… tick, tick, tick
      ~ 4:10 — at least there was a heads up, before tango uniform - check Elon Musk concern too

    3. Hello Remmij Thanks!

      Now, I understand and your links about Hammer, Thor and made upo words are very interesting. Thor hammer sure doesn't look like I expected. I thought hammers were bigger and I never expected that metal alloy.

      Jon tU, I guess because in past centuries women were not allowed to be in Sciences. So, much of them never published their works and many times, for what I have been reading, their works, were taken by males.

  10. I have done quite bit more searching. There are men mentioned many times, but there are no females meeting the same criteria.

    So now comes the interesting part of the question--Why not ?

    jon tU

  11. … j t U - interesting point to ponder - at the risk of being tagged a misogynistic Suidae
    “My dear boy, no woman is a genius. Women are a decorative sex. They never have anything to say, but they say it charmingly. Women represent the triumph of matter over mind, just as men represent the triumph of mind over morals.”
    — Oscar Wilde (1890), The Picture of Dorian Gray

    OK, maybe genius isn't the same as being a polyM…
    perhaps males are more inclined to be outliers…?
    a current female outlier?

    I'm sure there may be many explanations to your question (most XY related?), but this hypothetical colloquy may be one indicator…
    Megan & Ponytail
    I mould (substance), therefore I yam…
    Rene, Cogito Ergo Sum.

  12. Another interesting polymath that I ran across is Peter Roget--of Roget's Thesaurus fame. The Wikipedia article on him really doesn't do him justice.

    1. Do you have a good reference for him?