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Renaissance man

A "renaissance man" is a common term that refers to a person who is interested in many fields of work and knowledge. The term comes from the seemingly great number of activities famous renaissance masters were involved in. For instance, Leonardo de Vinci was an expert in art, mathematics and engineering, as well as many other fields. A gentleman or courtier of that era was expected to speak several languages, play a musical instrument, write poetry and so on, thus fulfilling the Renaissance ideal.

The term most often comes into use when bemoaning the fact that there are no renaissance men left in the world. However, during the Renaissance, it was easier to be an expert in all fields, as the total sum of knowledge was considerably smaller than it is today. Since there is much more material to be known in any one field today, broad coverage at any sort of expert level is simply impossible. Similarly, in education there is the trend towards specialisation rather than a superficial knowledge of many fields.

See also: polymath