List of prominent polymaths then and now

Forced between conflicting systems of knowledge and belief, these individuals become excellent case studies for important paradigm shifts in a history of knowledge that have introduced new epochs in science and technology to a world that is still awake to the narratives, folklore and mysticisms of the past.  In present day, these ironically form the more interesting portions in the gamut of society’s systems of knowledge and from the early days of Johanne Kepler, anecdotes of science fiction, curiosity-driven experiments and far-fetched hypotheses have become the driving force behind present day wonder, amazement and imagination not only for our present day techno-scientific relationships, but also for imagining the future.  This list includes some of the personalities i’ve read about who have been looking beyond their fields towards new often ‘corpernican’ relationships between mysticism and science, between irrationality and logic, between art and life.

Robert Rauschenberg

“Painting relates to both art and life.  Neither can be made.  I try to act in that gap between the two”  – 1959, shortly after Rauschenberg would begin working with Billy Kluver of Bell Labs on amongst other activities, the 9 evenings in 1966.

*my humble attempts to weed the pseudoscience from the truly paradigmatic revolutions in thought.



Johannes Kepler

Athanasius Kircher

Franz Mesmer

Issac Newton

Johann Wofgang von Goethe

Leonardo Da vinci

Versalius/Wlliam Harvey

Alessandro Volta

Mary Shelley

Luigi Galvani


Alexandra Chizhevsky [solar flares affecting magnetism of the earth/sun affecting human emotion and collective social wellbeing]

Jim Gimzewski

Gregory Bateson, biologist, anthropologist and part of the interdisciplinary group that founded Cybernetics

Bateson, Magaret Mead, Norbert Weiner,

Henri Bergson on ‘creative evolution’

David Hume  (1711 – 1776) – ‘desire’ rather than ‘reason’ governs human nature.  Cultural historian of the scientists – history involves more than aristocracies, armies, also includes philosophy and the sciences.   breadth of history.  wrote the history of england.

foucault – illuminating power relationships in the ontology of disability especially with the rise of empirical science and biomedical views of the body circa 19th century.   The history of madness, the birth of the clinic etc.

Alfred Wallace – co-founder of the theory of evolution, but believer in intelligent design because he refused to believe something as complex as the mind and self-awareness, music etc did not have a teleological source.

Jacob von Uexkull who was against the technical (hereditary and/or evolutionary) models for biology,  and instead fought for a more subjectivity based understanding of the organism interacting with its environment and the significance of its sensory apparatus and developments for semiotic communication.  His work has faced a revival within the interdisciplinary spheres of cybernetics and artificial intelligence.  Notably he has also been student at the lab of Etienne Jules Marey(1830-1904) and also used the chromatophotography method to study the details of physiology and movements of animals like the starfish and the flight of butterflies.  He has been said to be the founder of a ‘cybernetics of life’, and advocated that biology had to treat animals/organisms less as objects than as active subjects.

”As long as we use technical models in biology without being fully aware that by applying these models we just imply that nature performs according to the projected human requirements and guidelines, we are “blind for the significance (bedeutungsblind)” von Uexkull.

Von Humbolt as the father of ecology… and inspiration for Charles Darwin.

Paul Valery – french poet, writer, philosopher memorably gave the lecture at the commemoration of 100th anniversary of the death of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.


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