What makes a modern Renaissance man/woman?

Who decides? Based on what criteria? What are the necessary qualifications there of? Are there awards for the Renaissance person of the year? Why or why not? Must one wait to be so named posthumously?

Not trying to start a Great Debate or anything, but In My Humble Opinion choosing the correct forum would be one quality of a true Renaissance man :slight_smile:


Not at all. I honestly thought there was a generally accepted deffinition/criteria for the title. I’m not looking to debate whether a given person is or is not deserving of this title.

“Renaissance man” is merely an expression, one applied to a person who is well-rounded and has shown great talent and aptitude in a WIDE range of fields. The phrase was inspired by people like Leonardo da Vinci (who was a master artist AND scientist), Blaise Pascal (a great mathematician AND theologian), etc.

A well-educated nobleman of the Renaissance era was expected to know the Bible, classical literature, all the science that was available at the time (admittedly, there wasn’t that much, and a lot of what was “known” then was wrong), mathematics, and all the fine arts. A “Renaissance man,” then, was knowledgeable about EVERYTHING. (Of course, sometimes he was a mere dilettante, who dabbled in many areas, but excelled in none of them.)

Today, when people use the phrase, they mean only that a person has dabbled in many VERY different areas. Examples? Oh… Bill Bradley was a basketball star AND a Rhodes scholar, AND a successful politician. Samuel F.B. Morse was a painter AND a master of technology (he invented the telegraph). Vaclav Havel is an avant-garde writer AND a political leader.

Other “renaissance men”? Oh, you could make a case for Thomas Jefferson, Goethe, Benjamin Franklin. But there are VERY few “Renaissance men” today, simply because it’s almost impossible to be an expert on multip[le subjects these days! Leonardo da Vinci knew everything that there was to know about science in 1500, but a decently educated high schooler knows more about most areas of science that da Vinci ever did. Specialization makes it tough to be a REAL “Renaissance man.”

I don’t know of any sanctioning body that “awards” the title of Renaissance Man. People just apply the term whenever it seems to fit.