"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."Many modern day professionals work to be an expert in a field, be it mathematics, history, or graphic design. This training is what allows them to not only make a living wage, but earn a comfortable life without overexerting their brain. Throughout history, there have been people who step beyond this, and have excelled in multiple fields, called polymaths. One period in history produced several of the ones that are now most famous, the Renaissance period. Because of this, today most people know them as Renaissance Men. A Renaissance Man is anyone in Real Life or media who is an expert in many fields, having a broad base of skill and knowledge. Many experts in a field develop skills that are necessary in other fields or find themselves requiring skills in another field. On the other hand, being a Renaissance Man used to be far easier than it is now, simply due to the unbelievable volume of knowledge that five centuries of scientific progress have produced. A few hundred years ago, it would have been reasonable for a single intelligent man to know all of humanity's scientific knowledge, but, well... Science Marches On. For these reasons, in the modern age, people who study a lot of topics besides their basic activity fall towards the Jack-of-All-Trades end of the spectrum instead of achieving true mastery in all of them. Take, for example, mathematics. Until recently, computer science was the domain of the mathematics department in many universities, and many math courses, such as number theory and graph theory, are still cross-listed with computer science. From physics, in order to study motion, Isaac Newton invented calculus. Sociology makes heavy use of statistics. Bioinformatics is a massive crossover between math, biology, and computer science. Many doctorate-level mathematicians will have experience and skill in one of these overlapping areas, often to the point of being called experts in both mathematics and the other field(s). While the Renaissance Man is similar to the Omnidisciplinary Scientist, his fields don't need to be limited to science. He also isn't necessarily a master of all known science, just a good chunk of it. The Renaissance Man may suffer from MD Envy if people object to calling him a "doctor" because he doesn't practice medicine. This trait may be used to show that yes, The Ace is just so insufferably cool. Many a Cultured Badass will, after close examination, turn out to be a Renaissance Man. Compare Master of All, another character with a wide variety of skills; the key difference is that a Master of All is good at a wide variety of specific things, but could still potentially fail at learning something really esoteric, like quantum physics or sociobiology. In contrast, a Renaissance Man is understood to have boundless potential—whatever he studies, he'll excel at, because he's just good at whatever he puts his mind to. Put another way, a Master of All is defined by his wide range of skills that are useful in many situations, whereas a Renaissance Man is defined by the ease with which he learns things and applies the knowledge. The Trope Codifier was Baldassare Castiglione's Book of the Courtier (in print in several languages since 1528), which explained that a gentleman ought to be able to do everything, but nothing well enough to look as though he was a specialist. Has nothing to do with the 1994 film starring Danny DeVito, or the next-to-last episode of Star Trek: Voyager. Polar opposite of Crippling Overspecialization.
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Anime & Manga
- Berserk: Although Griffith is initially introduced as a military genius and Master Swordsman, he tells Guts one has to be able to do more than fight in order to become great. To that end he's read and mastered the skills contained in books on history, religion, philosophy, chemistry, and tactics, as well as miscellaneous subjects such as cosmetics and cooking. Another skill that serves him well in his ambitions is an extensive knowledge of drugs and poisons derived from plants. To round it off, he's a perfectly cultivated gentleman who blends in just as well on the floor of a ballroom as he does on the battlefield.
- Bleach: Big Bad Sosuke Aizen claims to have maxed out his entire potential as a Soul Reaper long ago, meaning that he has completely mastered all the Shinigami arts which include Zanjutsu (swordplay and Zanpakuto release), Hakuda (hand-to-hand combat), Hoho (speed), and Kido (spells). In addition, he is a tactician brilliant enough to be able to predict most of the actions of the Gotei 13 and Ichigo beforehand, a manipulator and actor so good that he had Soul Society in the dark for decades, is socially proficient enough to garner respect from Shinigami and Arrancar alike using masterful use of charisma, and an calligrapher accomplished enough become a teacher for it. His sheer adaptability is showcased when he simply adjusted to his former superior Shinji Hirako's sensory-reversing Shikai, a feat that Hirako himself noted was impossible.
- Sailor Moon:
- Everyone should already know that Ami Mizuno/Sailor Mercury is a great student, but there is more to her than that. She's demonstrated proficiency at both CPR and mouth-to-mouth. She also has demonstrated fluency in both English and German. She is a top-ranked chess player, able to compete against chess masters three times her age. She one time able to fix a car. She has, on occasion, written lyrics for instrumental music she likes. Also she fights monsters in her spare time. And, to top it off, one episode shows she's a talented swimmer.
- In the manga and the anime, she has an unbelievably high IQ and spends a LOT of her time reading. The only reason she is in junior high is that Japan doesn't have a way to deal with geniuses and has to take obligatory education the same as everybody else (she even bemoans only being eight chapters ahead of the class on her "bad" days).
- Mamoru Chiba/Tuxedo Mask is also widely regarded as one too, having an understanding of a vast knowledge of fields, although lacking Ami's specialized knowledge and raw intelligence he makes up for it by knowing things she doesn't. Like her he speaks several languages, but also has skills in martial arts, cooking, theater, natural sciences, history, mechanics, investigations, and forensics. This is fitting considering some people like to nickname him "The Japanese Batman."
- Being a star volleyball player and one of the best athletes in the series, singing, getting couples together with her mere presence, bilingualism, strength and agility far beyond what any human (let alone a girl her size) should have, outdoing the police in taking down criminals, being The Leader of the Sailor Guardians and The Strategist, having the second most powerful attacks out of the Inner Guardians after Sailor Moon, swordsmanship, using ofuda that don't even belong to her, and being an assistant manga artist are some things that Minako Aino/Sailor Venus has under her belt (the last one is the only one she actually called difficult). Though you wouldn't know it, with the way she normally acts around people.
- Paptimus Scirocco from Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam. Starship captain, mobile suit craftsman, battlefield strategist, psychological mastermind and is a god in the cockpit.
- Flit Asuno starts off as a Teen Genius mobile suit designer and quickly becomes a formidable pilot. Over the next 25 years he shows enough battlefield and political prowess become Commander-In-Chief of the Earth Federal Forces with no detriment to his piloting skills. Another 25 years sees him retire from the EAF, only to show that his mobile suit skills both in and out of the cockpit haven't diminished at all.
- Monster: Johan is fluent in Ancient Greek, knows the fine points of current German laws, is proficient enough in economics to run large-scale black market operations and advise a millionaire on his stocks, and has been proficient in the use of poison since childhood. And none of these compare to his knowledge of psychology.
- Jet Black from Cowboy Bebop is an ex-detective who knows mechanics, cooking, cultivates bonsai trees, is a decent Shogi player, is knowledgeable about hacking and cyberwarfare (although nowhere as good as Ed or Ein), apparently knows something about geology, and is a fan of both several music genres and classic literature (both eastern and western). He's also not a bad starship pilot on top of it.
- Chao Lingshen from Mahou Sensei Negima! can cook, runs a business taking in hundreds of millions of yen, is an excellent hand to hand fighter, helped develop a genuine AI, appears to have invented time travel, is a talented tactician, has good knowledge of Eastern medicine and is a highly competent mage. She's noted instory as being freakishly talented at essentially everything.
- Izaya Orihara from Durarara!! understands and speaks three languages (Japanese, English, and Russian). He studies Norse and Celtic mythology. He knows parkour and is a good enough street fighter to mess around with Shizuo "God of Destruction in a Bartender Suit" Heiwajima on a regular basis. He dicks around with social psychology, mostly to carry out completely unethical social experiments (will exposing suicidal girls to near death experiments make them more or less likely to kill themselves? Let's find out!). He's set himself up as a very successful Information Broker before even turning twenty three. Not bad for someone who never went to a single class when he was in college.
- Baccano!'s Huey Laforet: Brilliant scientist, ingenious inventor, intuitive sociologist, cunning entrepreneur, inspiring leader, devoted father, and excellent conversationalist.
- Lupin III has a vast array of skills, including being a formidable engineer and an olympionic-level athlete, impersonation, deep knowledge of the arts, and many, many others. Fujiko has many of the same skills, but is better at manipulating people with her beauty.
- Mobile Suit Gundam SEED has a deconstruction with historical character George Glenn. As the first Coordinator he was a sports star, a MIT graduate with PHD at 17, built his own spacecraft and found a fossil in space (literally breaking the genre tradition of Gundam franchises to have no aliens, and gave out the coordinator technology that allowed him to be so smart and strong. However this led to the problems in series, with many people wanting their kids to be just like him, and many others being jealous of them. Wars started because his desire to create people to aspire led to separate nations of people who quickly degenerated into mutual genocidal desires.
- Lex Luthor. He has to be to be any challenge for his nemesis.
- This is immensely common amongst Badass Normal Superheroes, with Batman arguably being the best known, to the point where his "training to be the best at everything" (general sciences, criminology, martial arts, detective skills, escape artistry, disguise skills, the list goes on) is a running gag amongst the fandom.
- Mr Terrific from the Justice Society of America also fits this definition, being described as "having a natural aptitude for having natural aptitudes", being a prodigious scholar, athlete, engineer, martial artist, medical practitioner... (again the list goes on). This all applies to his Golden Age predecessor, too.
- In the DC crossover miniseries War of the Gods, the Godwave effected even heroes without paranormal abilities- implying that they in fact have a very subtle power which might be termed "Super-Competency".
- Ozymandias the world's smartest man from Watchmen is another of these, having studied religion and philosophy, being a world expert on Quantum Physics, Engineering and Genetics, running a world-spanning corporation, while maintaining physical conditioning sufficient to catch a bullet.
- Dr. Otto Octavius in The Secret Wars. When the Molecule Man is badly injured and his girlfriend Volcana pleads with Dr. Octopus to do something since he's a "Doctor", Octavius replies, "I'm a nuclear physicist, not an MD!" However, Otto is also apparently a genius robotics engineer; he is credited as inventing and upgrading his robot arms. He just happened to invent the robot arms so he could better handle radioactive materials. But where or when he learned the skills to engineer his arms was never explained. And if you suggested that these accomplishments were the result of work-for-hire, he would probably pull your limbs off!
- Notably, he appears to have taken his above inability to practice medicine as a fault to be corrected, because by the time of Superior Spider-Man, he's able to perform brain surgery to such a degree that a trained surgeon and fellow supervillain is in awe of him.
- Doctor Doom specializes in physics, robotics, cybernetics, genetics, weapons technology, and biochemistry. He also has natural talents for leadership, strategy, politics, and manipulation. He invented time travel, and created a device capable of opening inter-dimensional gateways whilst in college. He conquered his homeland more or less single-handedly, using mostly his own inventions. He has trained with the best fencers in Europe, and is a very competent hand to hand fighter in general. He is also a highly accomplished sorceror, and can perform advanced surgery. He isn't even a real Doctornote ; he got kicked out of college because said inter-dimensional gateway exploded (though it has been established that it worked perfectly; he just looked in a very bad place).
- The other Dr McCoy, Beast of the X-Men. He normally relies on his skills as a biochemist, geneticist and physician, but canonically he speaks at least 50 languages, maintains a comfortable income from electronic engineering patents, and can fight well enough to hold his own against Wolverine (although his low-level superhuman strength and agility probably help with that last).
- All-Star Superman is "Superman as a renaissance man, perfect in mind, body and intention"
- Donald Duck, of all people. He's a skilled mechanic, pilot of everything from cars to planes and starships, truant officer, swordsman, shoemaker, cook, bodyguard, spy, mall guard, explosion expert, and many other things, with his usual undoing at a job being that he goes overboard even for his skills.
Films — Animation
- Mr. Peabody & Sherman: Mr. Peabody devoted himself to the pursuit of knowledge and became active in many fields such as science and athletics, was able to produce alternative energy technologies, resolve geopolitical conflicts, play any musical instrument, is a licensed chiropractor, and a master gourmand.
- Rapunzel in Tangled is very skilled in many areas, such as literature, music, baking, astronomy, and art. She actually learned to do all of these things on her own when living isolated in a tower.
- In Yellow Submarine, Jeremy Hillary Boob Phd, the "Nowhere Man". introduces himself this way:
Jeremy: Eminent physicist, polyglot classicist, prize-winning botanist, hard-biting satirist, talented pianist, good dentist too.
John: A boob for all seasons.
Films — Live-Action
- Red Cliff: In addition to being The Chessmaster, Zhuge Liang is shown to know "a little" about quite a few other disciplines loosely connected to warfare and the proper administration of a state. It becomes a Running Gag throughout the story whenever he says "I know a little about X." He "knows a little" about things as diverse as animal husbandry, meteorology, medicine, and weapons design.
- Doctor Mabuse from Fritz Lang's Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler is a famous psychiatrist, mesmerist, Master of Disguise, career criminal, gang leader and in one scene he is extracting snake's poison - it requires knowledge in herpetology and biochemistry.
- Fu Manchu in The Mask of Fu Manchu claims "I'm Doctor of Philosophy from Edinburgh, I'm a Doctor of Law from Christ College; I'm a Doctor of Medicine from Harvard. My friends, out of courtesy, call me Doctor."
- Similar to the above, The Abominable Dr. Phibes has a doctorate in theology from Heidelberg among a bunch of other degrees from celebrated universities, plays the organ, is a Master of Disguise, and is a quite competent Poetic Serial Killer.
- Lynn Belvedere (Not the Mr. Belvedere of the TV series, but the character in the movies Sitting Pretty, Mr. Belvedere Goes to College, and Mr. Belvedere Rings the Bell) is a polymath hypergenius who can literally do anything, including the outright impossible.
- The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension: Buckaroo Banzai is a neurosurgeon, particle physicist, race car driver, and just for good measure a rock star as well!
- "An inventor-surgeon who got fed up with patients sueing him, and learned law, and then when he was tired of the bad press he was getting, founded his own newspaper"— Pendrake's intro, in War of the Dreaming
- Marie-Josephe Delacroix in The Moon and the Sun (a Vonda N. McIntyre novel) is a Renaissance woman—her areas of expertise include mathematics, "natural philosophy" (i.e., natural sciences), and music. She can also draw reasonably well, which is a very useful ability for a scientifically inclined person to have in the days before photography.
- Stephen Maturin, since he's a multilingual medical doctor/natural philosopher/spy.
- Jack Aubrey himself exhibits Renaissance Man tendencies, being not only a first-rate naval officer and sailor, but also an astronomer and mathematician good enough to be inducted into the Royal Society (and, under the tutelage of William Herschel's sister, to be able to build his own telescopes), and an enthusiastic amateur musician (as Stephen Maturin discovers at one point, Jack is actually better than he presents himself to be, so as not to make Stephen feel inferior).
- Special Agent Pendergast is a Wicked Cultured detective, ridiculously well-versed in literature, archaeology, forensics, biology, and a whole bunch of other fields.
- Doc Savage was a physician, surgeon, scientist, adventurer, inventor, explorer, researcher, and a musician.
- In Chetan Bhagat's Five Point Someone, it is stated at the very beginning by the narrator that Ryan Oberoi, one of the three titular characters, could really do whatever he wanted. This fact is later demonstrated by various incidents in the course of the story. The fact that he really dislikes the system at the IIT and is unwilling to put in any effort at succeeding there is another matter altogether.
- As mentioned in the page quote, Robert A. Heinlein's characters are often Renaissance people.
- Leonard of Quirm on account of being an Affectionate Parody of Leonardo da Vinci. He is an expert in painting, engineering and alchemy amongst other things, but isn't a member of any of the Guilds (when he takes Guild exams he either gets bored and starts doodling in the margins or, worse yet, absent-mindedly corrects the questions.)
- Mr. Nutt, from Terry Pratchett's Unseen Academicals, is described as a 'polymath' by the Dean. Suffice to say, he makes good use of this.
- In Equal Rites, when the Zoon leader asks Esk what chores she can perform to earn her keep, she rattles off a list of household skills that takes up half a page and encompasses many different specialties (weaving, cheesemaking, etc). Granted, they're all rural/peasant skills, but it's an impressively broad list for an eight-year-old.
- The Discworld's Assassins' Guild Yearbook and Diary 2000 lists the various degrees Vetinari earned at the Guild as follows: Doctor of Medicine & Applied Pathology, Doctor of Music, Doctor of God Studies, Master Assassin, Master of Political Expediency, Master of Alchemical Science, Member of the Institute of Dance & Deportment, Bachelor of the Science of Inhumation & Diploma in Physical Education. Whew. And he's quite good at drawing too. (The "Renaissance" part is particularly appropriate in a literal sense; "Vetinari" is a pun on "Medici". Plus he has distinct Machiavellian tendencies, and is mentioned to be writing a treatise called The Servant which is clearly a takeoff of Machiavelli's The Prince.)
- Polymath, by John Brunner, deals with a man in training to be able to head the colonization of a new planet (with the omnidisciplinary knowledge and skills that this would require, including some physical modifications) when his own homeworld is destroyed. He's part of a group of refugees to land on another planet, but it's not the one he's spent most of his life to date studying and preparing for....
- A lot of characters from The Lord of the Rings are this. Gandalf and Saruman, Elrond and Galadriel, etc... Among men, we have Denethor, who was said to be the greatest scholar in Gondor during his time, having a great amount of knowledge in many domains. His son Faramir would also qualify.
- To a limited extent, Wedge Antilles in some latter parts of the Star Wars Expanded Universe, particularly those parts of the New Jedi Order and Legacy of the Force which were written by Aaron Allston. In the X-Wing Series he feared that he would make a poor naval commander, but at some point it became apparent that he was not. One of the absolute best fighter pilots in the galaxy, he also excelled at squadron command, was better than Admiral Ackbar in fleet exercises, and proved to be a ridiculously inventive master tactician and strategist. In addition, he was very competent at training new units to be highly inventive, not a bad mechanic, and dabbled in architecture.
- The players of The Glass Bead Game need to have expert level understanding of literally every branch of human knowledge, as well as a fertile imagination and great improvisation skills.
- Villain of the Week Arbat-Elivat-Estoni from Animorphs is this. An aging Andalite professor, Arbat is slowly revealed to be The Strategist, a Badass Bookworm, and eventually The Man Behind the Man.
- In the Stephen King short story The End of the Whole Mess, the main character's brother studies in various different research areas including archaeology and zoology.
- A Song of Ice and Fire occasionally draws attention to how this trait develop in noble families.
- Tyrion Lannister's dwarfism forbade him to ever be trained in combat but the guy knows his stuff with a terribly vast knowledge that spaces from politics to war strategy to engineering to municipal works administration, and despite his dwarfism he's also brave enough to lead men in battle when it's required.
- Despite being dead by the start of the series, many people remember Prince Rhaegar Targaryen as being talented in several different areas. Rhaegar was very intelligent and studious, often spending hours on end reading in his youth. As he grew older, Rhaegar became also an exceptionally talented knight. He also played the harp and sang (both beautifully) and would spend time alone composing songs that brought people to tears. He was also exceedingly popular with the common folk, a talent in and of itself given that many lords in Westeros can't say the same.
- Jon Snow is already a skilled archer and swordsman when he joins the Night's Watch because he started learned when he was five, but he's also very well-read and has an in-depth knowledge of history and a reasonable grasp on politics. Because of this, unlike most of the recruits, he's positioned to be trained in a variety of other skills rather than constantly learning how to survive a fight, and the Lord Commander himself was grooming him as his successor.
- While there is some doubt that he is who he says he is, Rhaegar's son Aegon has shown himself to be quite talented and intelligent. He reads and writes, is fluent in several languages, has a decent knowledge of mathematics, history, poetry, law and religion, and has been trained as a knight for most of his life. Especially impressive for a prince is that Aegon has also been taught to be self-sufficient as he is able to cook, wash his own clothes and work with his hands.
- It is clear that although Jamie Lannister is not very intellectual his training as a knight makes him a Renaissance man in his society. He can read, ride a horse, fight man-to-man, lead an army, negotiate a treaty, interpret maps, and has a reasonable grasp of both the economic and socio-political realities of Westeros.
- Perhaps the most prominent example in the series, Prince Oberyn Martell of Dorne. He is well-spoken and exceptionally skilled with a spear, but he has numerous other talents. As a young man, he studied at the Citadel (the closest thing to a university in Westeros), making strides in several fields before getting bored and leaving. He then went on to travel the world, starting his own mercenary company and developed a talent for poisons. He's also a talented horseback rider. It's also rumored that he studied magic, which seems entirely plausible given his inquisitive nature.
- Jack "Doc" Thorne in The Lost World (1995). Though primarily an engineer, he has also extensively studied history, human psychology, and philosophy because he believes that it helps him better understand the fallible people who use his products.
- Judge Holden from Blood Meridian is a charismatic, poly-lingual Omnidisciplinary Scientist with an exceptional knowledge of the arts (he is also possibly a judge). Which makes him that much more evil: while the others in Glanton gang are loutish, ignorant thugs without many prospects, Holden could be *anything* he wants, and chooses to rape and slaughter his way through the west.
- Samuel Chamberlain's account of the (possibly) real life Holden in his memoirs fits this as well:
He was by far the best educated man in northern Mexico. He conversed with all in their own language, spoke in several Indian lingos, at a fandango would take the harp or guitar from the hands of the musicians and charm all with his wonderful performance, out-waltz any poblano of the ball, plum centre with rifle or revolver, a daring horseman acquainted with the nature of all the strange plants and their botanical names, [and] great in geology and mineralogy.
- Samuel Chamberlain's account of the (possibly) real life Holden in his memoirs fits this as well:
- In military science fiction Victoria, the ideal in the Northern Confederation is that every officer, and educated man generally, should have a solid grounding in the classics essentially amounting to this. Protagonist John Rumford has mastered multiple foreign languages, classical literature and poetry, history, philosophy, theology and the military arts, and then farming, too.
- Our Miss Brooks:
- Mr. Boynton. He teaches Biology, but also was a Chemistry teacher in the past. In one episode, he almost receives a job as a College Professor ("The Wrong Mrs. Boynton"). In another episode, Mr. Conklin has Mr. Boynton mark the school's English tests ("Head of the English Department"). He also acts as Mr. Conklin's typist on occasion ("Who's Going Where?). On top of all that, Mr. Boynton has, in various episodes, coached the school basketball, football, and baseball teams.
- Miss Brooks is also an example, in addition to teaching English, teaching French and Spanish as well on one occasion ("Saving the School Newspaper"). Miss Brooks is also a great typist, and once worked as a secretary ("Connie's New Job Offer"). "First Aid Course" suggests Miss Brooks is also a trained nurse. Miss Brooks has also taught civics ("Student Government Day") and physical education, even receiving an offer to play on a women's baseball team ("Baseball Slide").
- Star Trek: Pick a Starfleet officer. The chief medical officer, for example. It takes years to become an expert in human anatomy, but they're conversant in the physiology of many species, albeit with the help of databases and (often offscreen) secondary staff. Even characters who aren't literal medical databases or hundreds-year-old Vulcans are often conversant in classical literature—whether from Earth or not—a couple of scientific disciplines, engineering, history... Starfleet Academy does actually train for this, given that officers very often end up in diplomatic incidents, armed conflicts, uncharted scientific waters, interstellar crimes, or a combination of all those things. (Until the captain asks them to step too far outside the actual job, and then it's "I'm a doctor, not a ...!")
- Among the main characters of Stargate Atlantis Dr. Rodney McKay is the go-to guy for an inordinately wide variety of problems, as he has far exceeded his original field and is now Atlantis' expect on alien technology. Not surprisingly, as at the beginning of the series McKay was the only scientist in his team, while the other three main characters (Sheppard, Teyla, Ronon) were pilots and combat experts.
- Dr. Lee was one of the more extreme examples. On the show we see him assist Jackson on an archeological mission, program a virtual reality machine, study alien plants and animals, hold a position at the space bridge station, build armor and weapons, and offer expertise on many other alien technologies.
- And yet, despite all this, Dr. Lee is more often than not, a joke and just not good enough to solve the problem of the week.
- However, CMO Beckett, a geneticist, appears to have the McCoy-like ability to deal with everything medical from basic pharmaceutical research to surgery, though there is ( or rather, was) a psychologist on board for the more headshrinky things.
- Dr. Lee was one of the more extreme examples. On the show we see him assist Jackson on an archeological mission, program a virtual reality machine, study alien plants and animals, hold a position at the space bridge station, build armor and weapons, and offer expertise on many other alien technologies.
- Dr. Daniel Jackson who appeared in each branch of the Stargate franchise at least once. While his Doctorates are in Archeology, Anthropology, and Philology, his level of competence in several related fields is easily equal to that of some professionals in those fields. He speaks 23 different languages, is an expert in Mythology and spent enough time with the rest of SG-1 that he can fill the need for a tech expert or combatant in a pinch too.
- The Doctor from Doctor Who seems to know pretty much everything as required by the plot - history, science, language, mythology, you name it. One of the spinoff novels quoted him as saying that he had qualifications in everything "except HTML coding and dentistry". Of course he's hundreds of years old and bright even by the standards of his own sufficiently advanced alien race, which might count as cheating.
- At least one commentator has stated that if you looked up Renaissance Man in the dictionary, Jamie Hyneman's face would be the picture. He hosts a show, does special effects work, and pursues whatever interests him. And this is before you take into account his various careers.
- Walter Bishop of Fringe appears to be proficient in Biology (Anatomy, most remarkably), Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Pharmacology (he knows his LSD, all right) and a whole lot of other stuff that's not mainstream science (fringe science, as they call it). Well, according to Broyles he is "called by his contemporaries as a successor to Albert Einstein."
- The IMF needs something technical? Barney Collier's got them covered for mechanical engineering, electronics, electrical engineering, construction, plumbing, heating, chemical engineering, biochemistry, piloting, vehicle mechanics, weapon design, and animal training.
- Dr Sam Beckett of Quantum Leap. He has doctorates in medicine, chemistry, quantum physics and astronomy, can play the piano and guitar to concert standards, is an excellent singer, can speak seven modern languages and can read a number of ancient ones (including Hieroglyphics) and is familiar with a wide range of martial arts.
- On Leverage, Hardison seems to largely have this role. In addition to being one of the greatest hackers alive, he is able to also create gadgets seemingly at will and is capable of other random abilities, including impromptu forgery, serving as a lawyer and landing an airplane(as a traffic controller). He also happens to have been a violin virtuoso in his childhood.
- Elliot also counts. He's a master in various martial arts(unarmed and armed), a natural athlete, an excellent chef/wine connoisseur, a decent country singer and also knows a thing or two about high fashion(he dates a lot of supermodels).
- During her college education, Annie Camden of 7th Heaven studied everything from art to business and economics, and later returns to school to earn her Masters.
- Jane of Degrassi is a great football player, valedictorian of her class, is part owner of a babysitting business and is lead singer for Janie and the Studs.
- Neal Caffrey of White Collar is a highly talented con man, forger, thief and artist - along with having an almost encyclopaedic knowledge in all those subjects. He also speaks several languages fluently, is a skilled chessplayer and a crack shot, even though he hates guns.
- Artemus Gordon of The Wild Wild West is a Gadgeteer Genius, Master of Disguise, linguist, musician, actor, magician, chef, expert on art, wine and gemstones... basically he seems to know something about everything.
- Malcolm from Malcolm in the Middle demonstrates mastery of almost every subject that is thrown at him, from advanced math to mechanical engineering to chemistry to literature to acting - in just the first couple of seasons, when he was still a preteen. In fact, he angsts about not being able to decide what career to pursue, since he excels equally at everything he tries.
- John Crichton of Farscape. Not only did he develop his own theories on circumventing atmospheric friction to accelerate a spacecraft, he designed and built his own test ship, flew it in the test which got him shot across the galaxy, duplicated the attempt using calculations written on the deck of Moya's command off the top of his head, is the best-qualified atmospheric pilot aboard Moya, isn't half-bad flying in vacuum, either, is versed enough in String Theory to be turned on by a Peacekeeper tech who also has an interest in it, was already well along in his studies to create a wormhole even before the Ancients planted the information in his head, is a walking fountain of pop-culture references, a natural leader, and an increasingly skilled and basass warrior.
- Frasier: Dr. Clint Webber — "let's see, he told us about the time he learned to fly a plane, he recited a sonnet, he fixed my icemaker and he invented a new drink, the 'Pink Webber'!"
- Sergeant Dietrich of Barney Miller has claimed to study medicine, psychiatry, physics, and philosophy (among other things). Whenever the squad encounters some obscure word or concept, he's almost always the one to define it. His social circle also seems to be made up of college professors or other Renaissance Men.
- The list of musical genres in which Tom Jones hasn't earned a gold record is actually shorter than the list of musical genres in which he has.
- Maid RPG. In the replay "Maids at the End of the World", the Master is Masami Onji, a scholarly genius who is greatly knowledgeable about every field imaginable.
- In Nobilis, a Noble with Aspect 1 can complete any task as if he or she were an expert. At Aspect 2, they achieve the maximum human performance. At Aspect 3 or higher, they can do things that normally aren't conceivable for a human to try or even things that are physically impossible.
- Likewise, those on The Ace path in Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine can easily race a car, out-think a calculator, cook better than an expert chef, and fight as a warrior. With an expenditure of MP, they can be twice as good as anyone shaped like them could be. The only things that don't come naturally to the Ace are things that aren't natural: magical skills or things that they lack the physical equipment to do.
- Warhammer40000 's Emperor of Mankind is depicted as an unparalleled master of combat and strategy, as well as being the galaxy's greatest psyker and a revolutionary scientist and bioengineer. He probably developed some of these skills while in the guise of various historical figures who guided humanity's development throughout recorded history.
- In Dungeons & Dragons Third Edition, the player can easily become one of these with the appropriate skill allocation with Bards and Rogues specially qualified for it. Above all, the Factotum class is able to do more than any other class. In addition to getting all skills as class skills, he is able to cast arcane spells, heal loads of hit points, and swing like a fighter, among many other things.
- Cyrano de Bergerac:
- The title character of William Shakespeare's Hamlet, according to Ophelia.
Ophelia: O, what a noble mind is here o'erthrown!
The courtier's, soldier's, scholar's, eye, tongue, sword;
The expectancy and rose of the fair state,
The glass of fashion and the mould of form,
The observed of all observers, quite, quite down!
- Mario of Super Mario Bros., as seen in the page image. First and foremost he's a hero and a plumber, but he's also a doctor, racecar driver, an accomplished athlete in any number of sports, and more. There's a good chance that if you can think of something, Mario's done it at least once.
- "Inherent" abilities of the jobs in Final Fantasy V note have to be equipped just like menu commands. That is, until you master a job completely and the character gains them permanently whether he equips them or not, as long as their job is either "Freelancer/Bare" (the "job" all your characters have at the beginning of the game) or "Mime/Mimic" (a class whose gimmick is being able to copy whatever action the previous party member took, but is otherwise identical to Freelancer; its sprite is the Freelancer sprite wearing a cape). Master all the jobs (get comfy), and you create an unstoppable killing machine that can do anything.
- The Armoury System of Final Fantasy XIV, which allows characters to switch classes simply by equipping the appropriate weapon or tool, can easily lead to this; with enough grinding, it's possible to be a masterful warrior, mage, crafter and gatherer.
- Final Fantasy Tactics, being another Job-based game, allows your characters to become ridiculously powerful as they unlock and gain skills in twenty or so Jobs; the PSP remake also added the job "Onion Knight", which explicitly becomes more amazing as you master more Jobs.
- Hakuoro in Utawarerumono is a warrior king sort of fellow. He also has knowledge of agriculture, blacksmithing, hunting, chemistry, explosives, tactics, politics and several other fields. Probably even more. Hell, he apparently even used to be an archaeologist before becoming a god. We don't get to really see anything he for sure can't do, apart from medicine. Which may not even count due to the different biology.
- Haku from the sequel also falls into this category. He has knowledge of tactics, politics, cooking, mathematics, science and several other fields. Unlike Hakuoro however, he never bothers to make full use of his abilities, often doing the bare minimal due to his lazy nature.
- The extended Resident Evil guide reveals major antagonist, Albert Wesker, to be this (as a result of Umbrella's attempts to create a race of super humans later revealed in the fifth installment). According to his character files he is proficient in the fields of science, research, observation, biology, virology, bioengineering, evolution, combat, martial arts, marksmanship, weapons, tactics, police procedure, espionage, murder, subterfuge, blackmail, opportunity, planning, persuasion, arms dealing, double-cross and even extra-sensory perception, as well as superhuman strength, speed, agility, resistance, metabolism, and vitality, due to his viral genetic mutations.
- That, and many long nights in college studying. The guy looks in his late twenties, but he has enough degrees to take up a lifetime and then some.
- Atrus from the Myst games has the skills of a writer, engineer, naturalist, explorer, historian, electrician, gardener, geologist, pioneer, archeologist, metalworker, desert survivalist and world-designer, with a side order of philosopher. If only "parent" and/or "judge of character" had also been on that list, his life would've gone a lot better.
- It's possible to play your character in one of the Fallout games as this.
- Dishonored has Anton Sokolov, who is the setting's equivalent of Leonardo Da Vinci. As well as being an esteemed artist (both painter and sculptor), he is a Omnidisciplinary Scientist who helped jump-start the industrial revolution of the setting and is attempting to find a cure to the plague. However, his attempts at mysticism are largely unsuccessful since The Outsider deems him uninteresting enough to be worth visiting.
- This is doable in essentially any of The Sims games; with enough time you can take this further and turn a Sim into a Master of All.
- One potential Lifetime Wish in The Sims 3 is "Renaissance Sim"; it requires mastering three different skills.
- In The Sims 4, completing the "Renaissance Sim" Aspiration entails reaching level 8 in six different skills and reaching level 3 in three different jobs. This can be made easier by purchasing the "Connections" trait, which automatically starts off a Sim at level 3 of any given career, or by raising a teen with an "A" grade in high school into a young adult, which also lets them start their first career off at level 3.
- In the first BioShock, Sander Cohen, the city's foremost artist, is shown to dabble in painting, sculpture, writing, film and theatre directing, acting, and composing. Unfortunately, "sanity" isn't on the list.
- The Legend of Zelda's Ganondorf, though it's not often touched upon. His skills are actually pretty diverse. Archery (assumed given its importance in Gerudo culture), swordsmanship, magic, politics, even music. He's also a master manipulator, successfully duping the King of Hyrule in Ocarina of Time.
- Link himself has many of the same skills.
- It's heavily implied that Rucks from Bastion is one of these, judging by how familiar he is with Caelondia's various guilds. More specifically, it's implied that he was at least a member of the Triggers and the Masons and confirmed that he was one of the Mancers that designed the superweapon that caused the Calamity.
- Heavily implied that his vast knowledge stems from going back in time and reliving his life as both Rucks and The Kid over and over again in an attempt at getting it 'right'.
- In Dwarf Fortress "Morul Cattenmat, the Most Interesting Dwarf in the World" was a project on the forums to create a dwarf who is of legendary rank, the highest in the game, in all skills, ranging from masonry and sword-fighting to flattery and fishing. The thread can be found here.
- The fifth installment in the Elder Scrolls series, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, did away with the class system that had been present in all the previous games, meaning your character was free to maximise every single skill. In the game's early days you were still restricted by the limited amount of perk points you could gain: one per character level, with a maximum of 80 when every single skill had been maximised. Update 1.9, however, introduced Legendary Skills, which allowed you to reset a skill after maximising it while keeping the character levels and perk points gained, meaning you could now gain levels and perks indefinitely and thus, with enough work, get all 251 perks in the game, making your character a master of every single skill.
- Of course, it was entirely possible to maximise every single skill in earlier games too. It was just easier to maximise a set of class-defined skills, as they advanced faster when you used them.
- In Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE, Yashiro Tsurugi is said to mastered many forms of entertainment as part of being a Mirage Master. He can sing, act, dance, and write music, and exceptionally well.
- Roberto Bianchi of Eternal Darkness is an artist and architect. And true to the trope name, his chapter takes place during The Renaissance.
- Phoebe from Battleborn is a female example, fitting considering that others refer to her with her Battle Ballgown as looking like someone out of a Renaissance Fair. She's an expert in a wide range of fields, being a rich accomplished businesswoman who's the heiress to one of the to one of the largest family fortunes within the LLC as well as a badass on the battlefield. She is a skilled fencer who integrates her dancing skills in her fighting style. She is a Gadgeteer Genius whose creations include phasegate tech which allows her to teleport around the battlefield, and a cybernetic implant which allows her to telekinetically control four of her five rapiers. She is an expert in robotics and her knowledge in said field range from flying death machines to toy robots. She is also a Lady of Adventure Archaeologist interested in the ancient Aztanti Precursors, a field which involves not only braving many a Temple of Doom but also being an expert in ancient alien language and writing.
- Dirk Strider from Homestuck. He's skilled at robotics, puppetry, swordsmanship, intentionally So Bad, It's Good writing, computer programming, AI development, comic art, hoverboarding, rap... his excessive talents are meant to give him the appearance of a Marty Stu, but it's implied he intentionally became a Renaissance Man due to having a very fractured sense of self.
- Horuss Zahhak's power as a Page of Void was to start out as a blank slate, allowing him to turn himself into anything he wanted. This led to him becoming very talented in many fields... until he went crazy and let a few key interests dominate his personality.
- Jones, from Manly Guys Doing Manly Things, is described as a human Swiss army knife of unfinished hobbies, mostly because she's so lazy that she left most of them behind rather than bother excelling in them. She still manages to climb a significant vertical rock wall, put a crossbow bolt through Belmont's head, and prove her worth by skinning and dissecting a number of small and large woodland creatures. If she actually bothered, she might just outdo the Commander.
- Doctor Steel is a musician, toymaker, roboticist, graphic artist, Internet personality - and has some great dance moves.
- In Worm, supervillains Uber and Victor can use their powers to gain essentially any mundane skill.
- Dan ''Grind'' Tracey of Academy of Superheroes has this explicitly as his superpower. He is essentially in the 99th percentile of aptitude for every skill a normal human can learn.
- In Edict Zero Fis, Nick Garrett has degrees in psychology, criminology, anthropology, and philosophy.
- The Fictional Video Game in which Noob is set has a Non-Player Character named Ardacos that is used for You All Look Familiar business owners. However, Aradacos is handwaved In-Universe as New Job as the Plot Demands, which would require him to have a large set of skills that would include shopkeeping, smithing, sewing and weapons training.
- My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic:
- Sunset Shimmer, Princess Celestia's former student. She's highly intelligent and very well-educated. She has good intuition and a quick wit, adjusting well to chaos and confusion. She's incredibly physically fit, able to run like the wind, throw herself horizontally like a javelin, and handle a sledgehammer like a baseball bat. She's very charismatic despite her fiery temper, a good if impetuous leader, enormously brave, and strikingly beautiful. All this made her a pretty impressive villain, coming close to conquering Equestria despite having the most limited resources and powers of any major antagonist we've seen on the show. After she turned herself around (or more specifically, after she recoiled from what her ambition had led her to, and decided to try another way of life), she's done some pretty impressive things for the forces of harmony. (She's also had both ends of the spectrum of Good Wings, Evil Wings, so there's that, too. But she's hot-headed and tends to go off half-cocked; she's not exactly self-aware or reflective; and she thinks, incorrectly, that she's really good at being sly.)
- Twilight Sparkle, Princess Celestia's current student, is much less physical and athletic than Sunset; but she's more magically powerful; and while Sunset is well-read, Twilight's an academic-level researcher. She knows less about horse princess magic than Sunset does, but she has Magitek neurology equipment in her basement and knows quite a bit about how to use it — and she's also a very talented physicist, chemist, and historian, among other things. Her good study habits even allowed her to do quite nicely in a Ponyville marathon, despite her being a little on the chubby side. (But before she was sent to Ponyville with a specific royal order to make some friends, she was a shut-in, with no significant friendships and no particular interest in them.)
- Pinkie Pie, the playful, perky, pink premier party planner of Ponyville, is a Renaissance Mare in her own way. She's the most social pony in Ponyville; she knows everyone's names and birthdays, and keeps detailed psychological profiles in a hidden room under her bakery; and she has all the skills she needs to support her love of parties: she's a superb baker, a good singer and musician, a good decorator and event planner, an excellent psychologist, a skilled zoologist, a talented artillerist, a brilliant mechanic, and a genius engineer. She's also the Trope Codifier for Wrong Context Magic, and can travel through mirrors more conveniently than the most talented wizards of her setting.
- The Legend of Korra has several examples, fitting the series' theme of innovation, change and new beginnings.
- Suyin Beifong is the founder and matriarch of the metalbending city-state of Zaofu, a collector of rare meteorites, a dancer and a stellar earthbender and metalbender, both inside and outside of combat.
- Asami Sato runs the enormous company Future Industries, helped re-design a considerable portion of Republic City, designed the airbender squirrel suits and a flying two-person mech, can operate anything from a moped to a racecar to a biplane to a mecha-tank, and is a skilled Badass Normal martial artist. She's also twenty-two years old, post-Time Skip.
- While he's not a fighter, Varrick is an accomplished businessman who built his corporation by himself, a pioneer of the film industry, a talented con-artist/schemer and a highly accomplished scientist whose experiments include magnetic Powered Armor, maglev trains and (by accident) a Fantastic Nuke.
- Ice Bear from We Bare Bears is shown to be a professional chef, ribbon dancer, bird talker, martial artist, the list goes on.
- Sabine Wren from Star Wars Rebels is a younger version of this. She's a Demolitions Expert, polyglot, techie, tactician, gunslinger, and artist. Later episodes reveal that she was a prodigy fast-tracked through the Imperial Academy in espionage, before she defected and became a bounty hunter where she picked up her other skills.
- Imhotep (c.2655-c.2600 BC), an ancient Egyptian architect, engineer, and physician. He was the first practitioner of all three of those disciplines in recorded history, and is therefore the earliest known polymath. He designed the very first pyramid,note which still stands today, almost 5,000 years later. So gifted and influential was he that, after his death, he was deified by the Egyptians—one of the very, very few commoners (possibly the only commoner) ever to receive that honor.
- Pythagoras (c.580-c.490 BC), a Greek mathematician and philosopher of 6th century BC who founded a school in south Italy and a philosophical system, Pythagoreanism, named after him. Pythagoras was thought to be a polymath by his contemporaries. He is sometimes credited with coining the term "philosopher", literally a "lover of wisdom," and considered among the first to follow this vocation. The Pythagorean theorem of geometry was named after him. However, having his critics killed probably helped his reviews.
- Aristotle (384-322 BC); a Greek philosopher, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. He wrote on many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, politics, government, ethics, biology and zoology. He numbers among the greatest polymaths of all time.
- Archimedes (c.287-c.212 BC); a Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer. Lived in Sicilian Greek town of Syracuse. Often considered one of the greatest mathematicians of all time, Archimedes is noted for several advancements in almost every relevant field in his era.
- Eratosthenes (c. 276 BC–c. 195 BC) was a Greek mathematician, elegiac poet, athlete, geographer, astronomer, and music theorist. The inventor of geography, and first person to measure the circumference of the Earth, Eratosthenes was nicknamed "Beta" on the grounds that he was second-best in the world at everything.
- Cao Cao (died 218) of Three Kingdoms fame was a skilled horseman and archer (which is typical of the nobles of his age). However, Cao was also the single most successful warlord of his era (having defeated nearly all his rivals within a space of a few years despite being much, much weaker), a noted poet (he and his sons Cao Pi and Cao Zhi are credited with the creation of an entire school of Classical Chinese poetry), a scholar (he wrote a commentary on Sun Tzu's Art of War that made it easier to understand, then distributed it to his generals for them to study), an innovator (he was the first Chinese warlord to make extensive use of cavalry as massed forces rather than skirmishers and scouts like most others did, he also implemented the use of stirrups to make his horsemen more effective) and a highly talented politician who effectively rebuilt the ruined Han Dynasty from the ground up.
- King Matthias I. Hunyadi (aka "Corvinus") of Hungary (circa 1443-1490). He was a Polyglot, by the age of 6 he was fluent in Latin and Greek, and in his later life learned to speak Italian, German, at least one of the Slavic languages (likely Bohemian/Czech, since his first wife was the daughter of the Bohemian king George Podjebrad) and possibly Romanian, in addition to his Hungarian mother-tongue. He was also a widely known patron of arts, and a vivid bibliophile, his famous library the "Corvina" at the time of his death contained some 2500-3000 codices, the second largest at the time, behind only the Papal library in the Vatican, and it also had a press machine. In addition he was a skilled financial officer, who managed to create a system that provided him with a yearly income matching that of the King of France. Also a gifted politician, he easily disarmed every political opponent and conspiracy he faced. He also reformed the judicial system, which likely contributed to his quick ascension to Folk Hero status following his death, where several stories claims he roamed the lands Incognito, to spy on tyrannical lords and punish them afterwards, and help the needy, and reward the worthy. Last but not least he was a famous tourney champion, and celebrated war general. Tellingly, until the Second World War his army was the only one to ever capture Vienna with a siege, in 1485.
- Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) is probably the codifier, though many of his inventions never came to fruition in his lifetime. He was, however, an expert in anatomy and civil engineering, skilled in many forms of artistic expression, and interested in many areas of science.
- Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), author of 15+ works including The Prince and Discourses on Livy, was a philosopher, playwright, judge, civil servant, general, and diplomat. He was also friends with Leonardo da Vinci.
- Matteo Ricci (1552-1610); Italian Jesuit and a phenomenal figure in the East-West scientific exchange in China. "Matteo Ricci was the perfect man of culture, a polymath versed in all things, mathematics and literature, philosophy and poetry, mechanics and astronomy." In collaboration with Xu Guangqi, he was also the first to translate classic Confucian texts into Latin and classic Western texts into Chinese (including portions of Euclid's Elements).
- Rene Descartes (1596-1650), working in pilosophy, medicine, mathematics and physics. He wrote up the first explanation of phantom limbs, the shape and size of the rainbow - proving it was caused by water droplets, explained the ring of light sometimes seen around the moon, developed Cartesian coordinates and proved his own existence. Also challenged anyone in Paris who would dare claim he had a bastard son to a duel (he had a daughter out of wedlock).
- He was in a position to make good on his threat of a duel, too: in addition to the above Descartes also served as a mercenary soldier in Bavaria apparently for the fun of it and drew inspiration from his battlefield experiences.
- Athanasius Kircher (1601/1602-1680) is another historical example, with Bunny-Ears Lawyer tendencies as well. Not only did he study geology, ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs ("decoding" occult meanings that probably weren't there), astronomy and microbiology(in his time a new science), he designed a "cat piano" played by making the cats squeal in pain.
- Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727). Thought himself a theologian first of all. Is more known for wave optics, calculus and what is known to us as, well, "Newtonian Mechanics". Tried alchemy, astrology and numerology. As the Master of the Mint, developed at least one currency protection measure, changed Britain's monetary policy and personally conducted investigations.
- Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716). Jurist, diplomat, librarian, historian and theologian, but best known as a philosopher and mathematician. Got into a priority dispute with Newton over differential calculus, but it is his notation system that we still use today. Did pioneering work on binary numbers and worked on language theory. Helped set up the Berlin Academy of Sciences.
- Peter Peter Alexeyevich (1672-1725). AKA Peter The Great. Along with being tsar of Russia a he studied and practiced sailing, shipbuilding, city planning, engineering, dentistry, barbering, painting, commercial trading, economics, and diplomacy.
- Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790). In addition to his studies of electricity (and the kite experiment was a minor footnote), he also developed the basic principles of meteorology, charted the gulf stream, worked on advanced heating technologies all his life, invented swim fins and a new musical instrument, expanded his one print shop to have satellite print shops in every colony, and then sold them off once he decided he was rich enough to stop working. During his business days, he established the first American lending library and the first university (UPenn) that wasn't devoted to training clergy. He also was the Colonies' ambassador to France, and despite the Declaration of Independence being a forbidden document, he ultimately talked the king into putting his own government in hock to pay off the Revolutionary War. And he's also the main reason why the Constitutional Convention included the option for passing amendments.
- Frederick The Great (1712-1786), king of Prussia. Practically the trope namer for "enlightened absolutism" who made his country one of the great European powers and one of the leading strategists and tacticians of his day. Also a flute-player and composer, a poet and a writer on subjects ranging from works on philosophy, history, and military theory to opera librettos and satires.
- Joseph Bologne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges (1745-1799), one of Europe's best swordmen, a virtuoso violonist , composer and soldier who led an all-black regiment during the French Revolution.
- A claimant for the honor of "the last polymath"—albeit more on the humanities side of the spectrum—is Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832). His works spanned literature, drama (Faust), science (morphology, mineralogy, and colour theory), law, philosophy (where he is considered one of the greats) and religion.
- About the last true polymath was Thomas Young (1773 - 1829), who made fundamental contributions to physics (wave theory of light), engineering (Young's modulus), and biology (how the eye worked). Oh, and he also helped to decipher the Rosetta Stone. He has been described as "The Last Man Who Knew Everything".
- Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann (1776-1822) graduated as a jurist and entered the Prussian administration, but his real interest lay in music (which is why he changed one of his names to Amadeus, after Mozart) and he was a talented cartoonist, which got him into trouble with his superiors. After he lost his government job due to Prussia's defeat of 1807, he became musical director of a theatre in Bamberg and later of a troupe in Saxony, composing several operas, for which he also designed the sets. But it was only when he turned to writing that he achieved his worldwide fame as a master of the fantastic whose influence can be seen in the works of several writers and composers. He is also credited with writing the first German crime novella.
- Adelbert von Chamisso (1781-1838), a French nobleman who fled from the Revolution to Prussia, became an officer, poet and novelist writing in German (his Peter Schlemihl became in international best-seller), and also an explorer, working as a cartographer and resident scientist on the second Russian circumnavigation of the world. As a botanist he was so good that he managed to discovering and naming a number of unknown plant species during a reprovisioning stop in England, a country itself well-supplied in naturalists of its own. He also wrote the first grammar of the Hawaiian language.
- Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890): explorer, linguist, author, poet, soldier, fencer, spy and diplomat. He explored three continents, discovered the source of the Nile, and spoke as many as 29 languages.
- Alexander Borodin (1833-1887), a rather important chemist who discovered the Aldol reaction. However, in classical music circles he's known for the operas, symphonies, and string quartets he created in his spare time. He was also a surgeon and later, a professor of medicine.
- Robert Williams Wood, 1868-1955. Was one of pioneers of physical optics, both research and development. Such as inventions and applications in out-of-visible spectrum photography and astronomy, spectroscopy — and animated pictures. Boomerang enthusiasm, automobile enthusiasm and introduction of surfing in USA. Invention of a way to unfreeze plumbing and development of submarine detection by sonar. Forensics: as an explosives expert, introduction of UV lamps (detection of forgeries and the countermeasure which depreciated "invisible inks") and discovery of explosively formed projectiles. Discovery of hydrogen recombination and disproving radiation theory of greenhouses (they work because glass stops hot air). The first proposal of using tear gas as an incapacitating weapon and quack hunt, including un-discovery of N-rays (physical optics was "his" territory). Great prankster and almost Patron Saint of Education Through Pyrotechnics. When readers of How to tell the birds from the flowers asked whether he wrote another book, he gave them Physical Optics.
- German philosopher Oswald Spengler (1880-1936) came close. His main work The Decline of the West covers these topics: History, biology, geology, economy, laws, mathematics, architecture, music, painting, other arts, linguistics, politics, religion (or at least religious history), various languages, psychology, philosophy... Not necessarily in that order. It's probably no coincidence that he was a big fan of Goethe (see above).
- Hu Shih (1891-1962). Chinese philosopher, diplomat, political theorist. Was the Republic of China's ambassador to the US, president of Peking Universty, and founder of the New Culture Movement. Translated works of Daudet, Maupassant and Henrik Ibsen. Early proponent of writing in vernacular Chinese. An expert in the field of confucianism, historiography, education theory; an innovator in Chinese poetry and was also an eminent scholar in redology, aka the study of Dream of the Red Chamber. The fact that he was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature almost comes as an afterthought.
- Paul Robeson (1898-1976). One of the most famous actors and singers of his generation, all-American athlete, preeminent social activist, lawyer, author and reputedly fluent in 12 languages.
- SS-General Reinhard Heydrich (1904-1942) was a virtuoso violinist, a champion fencer, sailor, cryptographer, a brilliant spymaster, fluent in four major languages (beside German, he spoke English, French and Russian), a fighter ace pilot, a Magnificent Bastard with an accent on bastard and one of the Real Life prototypes for the Red Skull.
- Lin Huiyin (1904-1955). As an architect, she helped to preserve Beijing's historical buildings, was involved in the design of the Chinese national flag and emblem, along with the Monument to the People's Heroes. She also translated works from English and interpreted for Tagore on his visit to China. What brought her most mainstream attention however, were her essays and poems; and her relationship with the many leading intellectuals of the time whom were floored by her talent and personality. Considered by posterity as one of the four great beauties of Republican China to boot.
- Enoch Powell (1912-1998): Professor of Ancient Greek by age 25, poet, writer, Brigadier General and politician.
- Herbert Simon (1916-2001) , well, look at the first paragraph of that article. He won a Nobel Prize in economics and a Turing Award, the equivalent honor in computer science.
- Richard Feynman (1918-1988) was a Nobel-winning theoretical physicist by profession, but that didn't stop him studying a wide variety of fields for recreational purposes: biology, mathematics, philosophy, psychology, computing, drawing, chemical engineering, music and safecracking.
"On the infrequent occasions when I have been called upon in a formal place to play the bongo drums, the introducer never seems to find it necessary to mention that I also do theoretical physics."
- J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967) may have chosen a career in physics, but he was also an expert in European literature and Eastern philosophy, fluent in at least six other languages (including ancient Sanskrit), and also published poetry. He also made several contributions to various other fields related to physics, namely physical chemistry and astrophysics.
- Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) , as well as being one of the all-time great science fiction writers, wrote non-fiction books and essays on chemistry, mathematics, biology, physics, art, history, religion, astronomy and robotics, among other things. His works can be found in literally every section of the Dewey decimal system apart from philosophy.
- His expertise was such that when other science fiction writers were unsure about the science in their stories, they would give Asimov a call to make sure they were on the right track.
- Giles Brindley (1926-) is best known for two medical discoveries: creating the first neuroprosthetic device to be successfully used to restore sight, and developing the first widely-used drug treatment for erectile dysfunction (he's quite well-known for how he presented the results—by injecting himself with the drug and...showing off). Neural engineering and urology are fairly diverse fields to be contributing to, but Brindley has also composed and published several pieces music, invented a musical instrument (the logical bassoon), and apparently enjoys marathon running and orienteering.
- Thomas Jefferson: Political revolutionary, drafter of the Declaration of Independence, President, architect, inventor, and horticulturalist, these are just some of Jefferson's fields of expertise, and he is considered one of the most famous polymaths in American history. Famously lampshaded by John F. Kennedy, who while hosting a dinner table full of the nation's leading intellectuals, scientists, and artists at the White House, declared "I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered at the White House...with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone." Needless to say, Kennedy was clearly a big fan of Jefferson's.
- Theodore Roosevelt, despite (or rather, in light of) his already Memetic Badass reputation and time as US President, was also at different times a cowboy, practitioner of karate, writer, historian, botanist, explorer and soldier, among many other things. The man simply seemed to do just about everything that people in his own time saw him as not just a Renaissance Man but a god among men.
- Andrew Jackson joins the list of Renaissance presidents with his proficiency in not only as a politician but also as a soldier, lawyer, horse breeder and racer, gambler, businessman, hunter and most prominently: war general and duelist. Jackson won several battles during the War of 1812 (most notably the Battle of New Orleans) despite never having any formal military training and he infamously participated in between 20 to 50 gun duels, all of which he won.
- The american singer-songwriter, satirist, pianist, humorist and mathematician Thomas Andrew Lehrer (1928-).
- Retired NASA astronaut Story Musgrave (1935-) is a certified Medical Doctor and holds degrees in Mathematics and Statistics, Computer Programming and Operational Analysis, Chemistry, Physiology and Biophysics... and Literature.
- A more modern, albeit somewhat debatable example: Dieter Meier (1945-). He was a key member of the influential electronica band Yello (whose first album was described as the "most varied and accomplished of any synth pop debut" by Allmusic). Also, Dieter Meier is known for being a quite successful conceptual artist and performance artist. In his spare time, he's a millionaire industrialist and award winning director. Sometimes, he also designs scarves and creates restaurants. To top it off, he was once a member of the Swiss national golf team. So, a bit impressive.
- Bruce Dickinson (1958-) Iconic metal singer-songwriter, historian, pilot, fencer, screenwriter, author, director, brewer, radio host, entrepreneur...
- The expectations of the Renaissance man were often different from what a Renaissance woman was supposed to accomplish during those times. Usually a Renaissance women's crafts and skills came from her job as a homeworker (weaving, sewing, taking care of children) than from any outside activity.
- At some point or another in the past thirty years, Shigesato Itoi has dabbled in pretty much every form of media imaginable and an innumerable number of other projects. Though definitely not sufficiently versed in science, he's even published a book of interviews about neurology. He has also taken up work as a copywriter (a professional Catch Phrase writer for companies), run a website that has been updated without fail for over fifteen years, and developed a highly popular series of RPGs.
- David Hayter is most well known as the voice of Solid Snake, but he has also dabbled in live-acting (in Guyver Dark Hero), anime dubbing (most notably as Lupin III in The Castle of Cagliostro), and screenwriting (for the first two parts in the X-Men Film Series).
- David Byrne of Talking Heads: Guitarist, Singer, Composer, Producer, Actor, Director, Screenwriter etc.
- One of, if not the greatest heroes of the Golden Era of Aviation, now almost forgotten, was herr Hugo Eckener. Herr Eckener started off as a skeptical reporter in turn-of-the-century Germany, who was tasked with writing a story about some enthusiastic crackpot's new invention. Hugo was initially unimpressed with this invention of Count Zeppelin, but as he talked with the energetic old Count he began to see the machine's hidden potential. He quickly became Zeppelin's protégé, and after his death, his successor. Hugo went on to become an editor, a doctor of psychology, aircraft engineer, airship captain, world-famous explorer and de facto German diplomat, politician(and eventually political rival to an unsavory extremist politician named Adolf Hitler), and president of the Zeppelin Company, which survives today, in spite of an unfortunate accident that marred its otherwise-flawless safety record.
- Viggo Mortensen: actor, writer, painter, poet, polyglot, and if his co-stars are to be believed, Cloud Cuckoolander. Elijah Wood has said that he's a brilliant man with a lot of talent and integrity, who also happens to be completely insane.
- The famous Italian man of romance Casanova (so famous that his name lives on even to this day) was a hard-working expert in many, many trades, from librarian to soldier, on top of being the archetypal lady-killer.
- In medieval Europe, a minstrel was expected to be skilled in all forms of entertainment.
- Neil deGrasse Tyson is a dancer (he won a gold medal in an International Latin Ballroom competition), a wrestler, a collector of fine wines, Disneyana, and comic books, a fan of science fiction, a television host of some acclaim, and a model rocketeer. Oh, and sometimes he fiddles around with astrophysics.
- Ted Turner (1938-) started out running a billboard business left by his father, then started investing in TV stations. When he saw how HBO had gone to satellite transmission for cable companies (enabling them to broadcast coast-to-coast), he followed their way and put his small indie TV station in Atlanta on the satellite for people's consumption. A few years later, he started the very first 24-hour news network. Then he used all the money he had to buy the Atlanta Braves and Hawks, became a sailing champion, acquired the library of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer pre-1986 (having bought MGM off, then sold it back to, Kirk Kerkorian after 74 days), operated a wrestling promotion, started his own non-political Olympics-style competition dubbed the Goodwill Games, buy Hanna-Barbera, Castle Rock Entertainment and New Line Cinema, start more networks (including the first all-animation channel and an all-classic film network), create a cartoon designed to get kids to help the environment, finance an Epic Movie about the Battle of Gettysburg (and its' prequel), and since leaving his companies (having merged with TimeWarner, then fled after the botched AOL deal), he's devoted his life to, amongst other things, being a staunch supporter of the United Nations, being a massive conservationist (especially of bison), and continuing to try and make the world better. Oh, and he was also married to Jane Fonda.
- Jesse Ventura has been a professional wrestler, actor, Navy SEAL, writer, TV show host, and politician.
- Johnny Micheal Spann (1969-2001): A CIA paramilitary officer and the first American killed in the War in Afghanistan. Prior to joining the CIA, Mr. Spann was an officer in the United States Marine Corps, serving in the highly elite 2nd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company. He also earned his private pilot license when he was only 17. He was also a certified rescue diver and parachutist.
- Masi Oka (1974-) is best known as an actor. He's also a stand-up comedian, director, and special effects programmer, being known as "the guy who let Star Wars SFX artists blow things up without blowing up their own computers". He speaks English, Japanese, Spanish, and German, and says he likes using both the left and right halves of his brain. Having an Improbably High I.Q. of 180 probably helps.
- He's also known as being a sweetheart and a humble man who's full of charm by celebrity gossip-hounds, meaning his Emotional Quotient (EQ) is probably also "improbably high".
- Will.i.am is well known as a singer, song-writer, composer, and producer... but outside the world of music he's a poet, a film director, a clothing designer, a choreographer, and a painter. He also has designed his own lines of sports cars, sunglasses, dishware, and silverware. He also dabbles in acting. He also left music to take up programming, and advocates the teaching of programming in schools.
- The quintissential scholar-gentleman of ancient and medieval China was supposed to be proficient at painting, calligraphy, poetry, philosophy, aesthetics, architecture, alchemy and general knowledge. The exception to all of this was ability at physical combat - it was considered ill-fitting for a Confucian gentleman to resort to violence, as the idea was that a complete and perfect person would be so intelligent and cultivated, people would just follow their lead by default. Zhuge Liang, as listed in the Red Cliff example above, was one real-life example.
- Current King of Thailand, King Bhumibol, also known as King Rama IX, (1927-) is certainly a modern Renaissance Man. Besides being a King, King Bhumibol is a musician (jazz musician, favoring the sax, and was in an honest-to-goodness band even after he became King), a composer, a photographer, a painter, an engineer, a sailor (won several awards and even designed boats), and holds several patents (in rainmaking and for a waste water aerator). He speaks several languages (English, French, German, and Thai), and has spent time as a translator. Like many Thai men, he also spent time as a Buddhist monk.
- God of Manga Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989) was a trained physician, extremely prolific comic author, animator and director of cartoons and even made some live action films. The fact that he sacrificed a career as a medical doctor to become a comic author still seems outrageous today.
- Italian cognitive scientist Piero Scaruffi (born 1955) is an author, poet, cultural historian, music historian, film historian, political commentator, visual artist, lecturer, software consultant and entrepreneur, according to his website. Among internet users however, he is mostly known for his controversial essay on The Beatles.
- Doug TenNapel (born 1966) has done work as a video game maker, comic artist (both print and web), animator, live-action director, and illustrator, and is also a musical dilettante. He laments in The Rant for one Ratfist strip that this means that he hasn't been able to retain many cross-IP fans over the years; fans of Earthworm Jim or Catscratch aren't automatically going to know about Ratfist.
TenNapel: "Let this be a lesson for you, obsess narrowly on one thing. Obsessing on plumbing would be a good idea."
- Dexter Holland, frontman of The Offspring, was his high school valedictorian (he got his "Dexter" nickname because he was a huge science nerd) originally studied molecular biology before switching to a full-time musician (and he later returned to his studies). He is also a registered airline pilot, and runs a hot sauce company.
- Brian May of Queen. Everybody knows he built his main instrument, the Red Special, with his dad and that he's an extraordinary guitarist and songwriter, but there's a lot more than that: he's an excellent singer, a very good pianist, a capable bassist, an occasional performer of other instruments (harp, ukelele, banjolele, koto, organ...), a successful record producer, an animal activist, a graduated PHD in astrophysics, a former maths teacher, a stereo photographer, a former chancellor of the University of Liverpool and an author.
- Despite the statement at the beginning of this page, one can say, with some justification, that nearly everyone who is proficient at many things, but not overtly specialized in any one, is one of these. They just never quite show their potential. Of course, whether one believes this (or not) is largely based upon one's outlook on the World.
- Jose Protacio Mercado Rizal Alonzo y Realonda , the national hero of the Philippines had many skills here's a list of them : http://rizalinfo.weebly.com/skillstalents-a-z.html
- The legendary Steve Martin is much more than a comedian. He's a stand-up comic, an actor of comedy and drama, a writer/novelist/playwright whose work has appeared in the New Yorker, a singer, a Grammy-winning bluegrass musician, an awards-show host, a prominent art collector and has a degree in philosophy.
- Jason Gastrow, aka Dunkey is a comedian who writes, edits and performs in his own videos, a prominent You-Tuber, an accomplished gamer, a rapper with his own album, a street dancer, exercise trainer, nature enthusiast, prank caller, philosopher, karaoke star and Admiral Akbar.
- Steven Soderbergh is a film (and currently television and stage) director who's worked in a variety of different genres (comedy, drama, experimental, arthouse, science-fiction, crime, blockbusters, period pieces, etc.) with much overlap, screenwriter, editor, cinematographer, composer, painter and occasional actor.
- Ub Iwerks, best known today as the designer and co-creator of Mickey Mouse, was a pioneering animator (animating the first Mickey short, Plane Crazy, single-handedly in two weeks!), director, Oscar-winning special-effects designer, technician, inventor, athlete, machinist, mechanic, archer and a studio-head - and this doesn't even scratch the surface to what he could do!
- In his 84 years on this Earth, Mr. Geoffrey Holder (1930-2014), best known for his performances as Baron Samedi in Live and Let Die, and Punjab in Annie, was a stage-and-screen actor, singer, dancer, choreographer, composer, painter, author, voice-over artist, spokesman for 7Up, and won Tonies as a stage director and costume designer.
- Peter Ustinov (1921-2004) was an Oscar, Emmy and Grammy-winning, Tony-nominated actor, writer (for print, screen and stage, garnering Oscar and Tony noms for these), film/theatre/opera director, improv comedian, humorist, newspaper columnist, stage and costume designer, radio broadcaster, television presenter, car enthusiast, intellectual, diplomat, Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, President of the World Federalist Movement, spoke 6 languages fluently (and was proficient in 2 others) and was beloved throughout his entire life in all his respected fields.
- Neil Cicierega: filmmaker, actor, writer, musician, composer, singer, songwriter, animator, cartoonist, inventor of the Animutation, and researcher of all things surreal and obscure. Oh, and he also did some stuff with puppets or something.
- Donald Glover is one of the more recent examples, as he is an actor, writer, director, and musician. You may know him for his show Atlanta (where he plays Earnest), his work with Derrick Comedy back in the old days, his role as Troy on Community, and/or his musical alter-ego, Childish Gambino. Even within music, Donald was able to transition from rap to funk for his latest album Awaken, My Love. He also had a stand-up comedy special, Weirdo, before going more toward TV and music.
- Danny Kaye was a talented comedian, and his most famous roles are in screw-ball comedies. However, he was also a skilled dramatic actor, a a brilliant singer, a master chef, a master swordsman, a writer, director, producer, and the head of his own film studio at one point...pretty much anything he wanted or needed to learn how to do, he did so, and with gusto.
- Lin-Manuel Miranda is another recent example, being an actor, dancer, writer, singer, songwriter, and rapper. His career began with smash Broadway hit In the Heights, which he wrote and songwrote while at college and refined until it opened on Broadway in 2007 with him in the lead role. He followed it up with Hamilton, for which he also wrote, songwrote, and starred in as the eponymous founding father. Since then, he has guest starred in numerous TV shows, written the music for Moana, and is slated to begin his big-screen acting career with Mary Poppins Returns. He is also on track to be one of the first people to win a PEGOT (Pulitzer, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony - he's only missing the Oscar).
- Harry Connick, Jr. Louisiana-born Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, pianist, conductor, composer, big band leader, and actor on the silver screen, on television and on Broadway. He's also dabbled in reality TV, including spending a few seasons judging American Idol and, as of 2016, hosting a talk show. He's best known as a musician, when he isn't busy being known for any of the other skills in his repertoire.