Thursday, August 11, 2011

Oh to be a polymath.

When you walk around London (carefully these days) there are little blue plaques on some of the walls telling you that someone famous lived there from such and such a year until some other year, along with whatever they were famous for. Writers, politician's, artists, all sorts. My favourite was the one that said : Thomas Young. Man of Science. In a way, one can be quite jealous of the polymath's who lived a century or so ago. Then, it was possible to span a significant number of fields, young Thomas dabbled in light, mechanics, energy, music, egyptology, languages and physiology, to name a few. These days, it's just not possible to go in depth into that many fields and remain current with what's happening. Back then of course, we didn't know quite so much and so it didn't take as long to come up to speed. Now days, with so much more to learn before you can start contributing, scientists are, on average, getting older and more specialised and are having to work in inter-disciplinary groups before being able to make significant contributions. Still, we know a lot more these days so it's hard to be too jealous.

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