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In short, a Renaissance Man, or Polymath, is a person whose expertise spans a significant number of various subject areas (ex. Leonardo da Vinci), referring to the renaissance period.

'Renaissance' is difficult to spell, therefore 'Renaissance Man' has been replaced recently with the term 'Expert Generalist', a phrase coined by Orit Gadiesh,  an Israeli-American corporate strategist, and chairperson of management consulting firm Bain & Company.

She describes it as “Someone who has the ability and curiosity to master and collect expertise in many different disciplines, industries, skills, capabilities, countries and topics. He or she can then, without necessarily even realizing it, but often by design: (1) Draw on that palette of diverse knowledge to recognize patterns and connect the dots across multiple areas and (2) drill deep to focus and perfect the thinking.”


In this decade and the last, the dynamic and sometimes fragile economy has necessitated a leaning towards expert generalism. It is fast becoming an essential survival skill. Some writers have argued that that being an expert generalist can be just as beneficial as being a specialist in one specific field.

Notable Renaissance Men
Leonardo Da Vinci with Vitruvian Man

Leonardo Da Vinci

Leonardo Da Vinci or 'Vince' as his friends called him was the original 'Renaissance Man' owing to the fact that he lived during the Renaissance period and was also a 'man.' He was a master painter, scientist, philosopher and could hit the golf ball a mile. Unfortunately, later in life, he was seized by a crippling case of the 'yips' so bad his handicap went from scratch to 18 in a matter of months. These same 'yips' also affected his painting and by the time he reached the end of his life his works resembled that of a kindergartner. Little known fact: he starred in such notable movies as 'The Titanic,' 'Catch Me if You Can' and 'The Wolf of Wall Street.' 


Sir Isaac Newton

Sir Isaac Newton or 'Apple Boy' & 'Sir Isaac Nuttin' as his detractors liked to call him, introduced and described to us universal gravitation and the 3 laws of motion. 'Apple Boy' was a physicist, mathematician, astronomer, theologian, natural philosopher and alchemist. His treatise Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica laid the groundwork for classical mechanics which dominated the scientific view of the physical universe for the next three centuries and is the basis for modern engineering. In addition, it laid the groundwork for a lot of college students failing Physics. He also invented one of the world's most famous cookies which you can find in grocery stores to this day. Lastly, historians speculate that he was the creator of this enduring axiom:

Q: What's worse than finding a worm in your apple?

A: Finding half a worm in your apple.

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Benjamin Franklin

Benjamin Franklin is a Renaissance man often regarded as the ultimate Creole intellectual (meaning he makes a complex Gumbo) and a real polymath. He is well remembered for his researches in natural sciences, politics and literature as well as making the same disapproving face my Grandma Nelson used to make. Benjamin, aka 'Benny' or 'B Frank' was also a leading author, political theorist, politician, printer, scientist, inventor, civic activist, publisher and diplomat. Franklin invented the lightning rod, bifocals, carriage odometer, Franklin stove, and the glass harmonica. He formed both the first public lending library in America and the first fire department in Pennsylvania after his house burnt down following the electricity thingy.