Above: The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, directed by William Joyce
“Polymath is one of those words more likely to show up on the SAT than in everyday conversation. But the reason we don’t use the word much these days has less to do with vocabulary than it has to do with practicality: there aren’t a lot of polymaths around anymore.
In case you don’t have your pocket dictionary handy, a polymath is a person with a wide range of knowledge or learning. Think people like Leonardo da Vinci (artist and helicopter designer), Benjamin Franklin (founding father, inventor, and all-around lady-killer), Paul Robeson (scholar, athlete, actor, and civil rights activist), and even Steve Jobs (engineer, businessman extraordinaire, and marketing mastermind).
Still, while we admire the select “geniuses” that can do it all, we tend to disparage the regular folk who attempt to spread their knowledge around a little. If they are so foolish as to dabble instead of devoting themselves to a single calling, those unfortunates sometimes earn the time-dishonored label of “Jack of all trades, master of none.”