Monday, July 30, 2012

World’s Most Famous Polymaths From Ancient Time to the 12th Century

All throughout history, there were several geniuses, polymaths and renaissance men/women who existed on this planet. All of them are well remembered and famous for their exceptional intelligence and achievements in their respective places and time. Men and women who are experts in many and various fields are called polymaths. Here’s a long list of polymaths from ancient time up to the 20th century.

Imhotep – all-around polymath
Born: 2650 BCE
Died: 2011 BCE
Nationality: Egyptian
Expert as: Physician, architect
Famous as: Egyptian chancellor

Zhang Heng – Chinese polymath
Born: 78 CE
Died: 139 CE
Nationality: Chinese
Expert as: Astronomer, cartographer, geographer, inventor, mathematician, painter, poet and sculptor
Famous as: Chinese official, scholar of history and philosophy
Notable achievements: Invention of the first water-powered armillary sphere and first seismometer in the world

Al-Khwarizmi – the polymath researcher
Born: 780 CE
Died: 850 CE
Nationality: Persian
Expert as: Astronomer, geographer, mathematician
Famous as: The greatest polymath in the House of Wisdom in Baghdad

Al-Jahiz – Arab Scholar
Born: 781 CE
Died: 869 CE
Nationality: Arab
Expert as: Arabic prose writer, author of many books in Arabic literature, biology, history, Islamic philosophy and psychology, theology and zoology
Famous as: Scholar and polymath

Ziryab – Renaissance Man before the Renaissance
Born: 789 CE
Died: 857 CE
Nationality: Iraqi-Andalusian
Expert as: astronomer, botanist, celebrity, cosmetologist, fashion designer, geographer, musician, poet, singer and trendsetter

Al-Kindi – also known as Alkindus
Born: 801 CE
Died: 873 CE
Nationality: Arab
Expert as: Astronomer, geographer, mathematician, meteorologist, musician, philosopher, physician, physicist, politician and scientist
Famous as: Omnivorous polymath
Notable achievements: Wrote 265 treatises

Abbas Ibn Firnas – A Berber polymath
Born: 810 CE
Died: 887 CE
Nationality: Berber
Expert as: Andalusian musician, Arabic poet, aviator, engineer and inventor
Famous as: Known for an early attempt at aviation,

Abu Zayd al-Balkhi – Persian Muslim Polymath, disciple of Al-Kindi
Born: 850 CE
Died: 934 CE
Nationality: Persian
Expert as: Geographer, mathematician, physician, psychologist and scientist
Notable achievements: Founder of Balkhi School of terrestrial mapping in Baghdad

Muhammad ibn Zakariya Razi – also known as Rhases
Born: 865 CE
Died: 925 CE
Nationality: Persian
Expert as: Alchemist, physician, philosopher and scientist

Abu al-Hasan Ali al-Masu’udi an Erudite historian
Born: 896 CE
Died: 956 CE
Nationality: Persian
Expert as: Arab historian, Earth scientist, Islamic scholar, geographer, geologist and traveler
Famous as: Prolific writer and polymath

Abhinayagupta – the great Kashmiri philosopher and polymath
Born: 975 CE
Died: 1025 CE
Nationality: Indian
Expert as: Aesthetic, dancer, dramatist, exegetical theologian, literary critic, logician, musician, philosopher and poet
Famous as: the great Kashmiri philosopher and polymath

Ibn al-Haytham or Alhazen – a universal genius
Born: 965 CE
Died: 1039 CE
Nationality: Iraqi
Expert as: anatomist, astronomer, engineer, inventor, mathematician, ophthalmologist, philosopher, physician, physicist, psychologist, scientist and theologian.
Famous as: A devout, brilliant polymath, a great man and a universal genius
Notable achievements: Credited with codifying the earliest form of the contemporary scientific method

Abu Rayhan al-Biruni – a scholar in many disciplines
Born: 973 CE
Died: 1048 CE
Nationality: Persian
Expert as:  anthropologist, astrologer, astronomer, encyclopedist, geodesist, geographer, geologist, historian, mathematician, natural historian, pharmacist, physician, philosopher, scholar, teacher, traveler and theologian
Famous as: Uzbekistan’s most universal genius
Notable achievements: Introduced Indian scientific knowledge and thought to the Middle East and the West

Avicenna – Father of Modern Medicine
Born: 980 CE
Died: 1037 CE
Nationality: Persian
Expert as: Astronomer, chemist, geologist, logician, mathematician, paleontologist, poet, physician, psychologist, scientist and teacher
Famous as: Known as the “father of modern medicine”, father of the fundamental concept of momentum in physics and “father of geology”
Notable achievements: Wrote about 450 treatises on different subjects and medicine, pioneer of aromatherapy for his invention of steam distillation and extraction of essential oil. He developed the concept of uniformitarianism and law of superposition in geology

Ibn Hazm – Arab polymath
Born: 994 CE
Died: 1064 CE
Nationality: Andalusian-Arab
Expert in: comparative religion, ethics, history, jurisprudence, logic and theology
Notable achievements: The Ring of the Dove on the art of love

Omar Khayyam – a Persian polymath
Born: 1048 CE
Died: 1131 CE
Nationality: Persian
Expert as: astronomer, mathematician, physician, philosopher, poet, physicist and writer
Notable achievements: Wrote treatises on geography, mechanics and music

Al-Ghazali – a Persian philosopher and polymath
Born: 1058 CE
Died: 1111 CE
Nationality: Persian
Expert as: cosmologist, comparative religionist, critic, encyclopedic author, jurist, moralist, philosopher, psychologist and theologian, theorist
Notable achievements: Pioneer of the methods of doubt and skepticism

Acharva Hemachandra – one of the great polymaths of medieval India
Born: 1089 CE
Died: 1172 CE
Nationality: Indian
Expert as: grammarian, historian, linguist, poet, philosopher, prosodist and scholar
Famous as: One of the great polymaths of medieval India

Ibn Baijah or Avempace – an Arab-Muslim polymath
Born: 1095 CE
Died: 1138 CE
Nationality: Arab-Muslim
Expert as: Astronomer, logician, musician, philosopher, poet, psychologist, physician, physicist and scientist

Ibn Tufail or Abubacer – an Arab polymath scholar
Born: 1105 CE
Died: 1185 CE
Nationality: Andalusian Arab
Expert as: Court official, novelist, philosopher, physician and writer

Watch out for more!!!


  1. For those interested in a theoretical artist, inventor, philosopher, poet there is the online material by Nathan Coppedge. Not as prolific as Jung---who is another potential name for the list. His collected works are enormous. And Confucius, who doubtless has secret writings. One potential sign for polymathy is broaching a wide range of topics. But I'm not sure that is adequate by itself. Am I a polymath? Maybe I don't have the official IQ, but my IQ has gone up by 20 points in 10 years. At least that's something.

    Links to various workings of my mind at

  2. We may run, walk, stumble. drive, or fly, but let us never lose sight of the reason for the journey, or miss a chance to see a rainbow on the way.
    Flights to Toronto
    Cheap Flights to Toronto
    Cheap Air Tickets to Toronto