Thursday, 1 May 2008

The street polymath

Years and years ago, as mankind still had acne and science had just started to babble the ideas that would torture students for generations to come, it was possible for a single person to know everything (I mean, really EVERYTHING) that was to be known about in the world. Pythagoras, Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī or Leonardo da Vinci bear the qualifier "polymath".

It is said that the last one of such breed was René Descartes, who received an integral education at La Flèche college. From then on, science was too large, too difficult, for a single person to be versed on the whole of it. There seem to be no more polymaths...


But I recently learned that's not true. A different kind of polymath is alive and well. A kind of polymath that never attended college, but can beat any engineer when it comes to designing a hanged support for a projector. A kind of polymath that can produce a reasoned and sound opinion on almost every imaginable topic. A kind of polymath whose greatest treasure lies on his huge experience. He already did everything you could imagine, and he knows all those little tricks that make the difference between failure and success...

His name is Hannes, but everyone calls him by his surname, K. To him goes my profound admiration and this song.

(*) Just in case someone wondered why the photo: Carl Jacobi was a renowned Prussian mathematician who, among other contributions, gave its name to the Jacobian matrix, which I'm sure will relive sweet memories to all of you who had to learn differential equations sometime... It was fun to discover in this old sign that another Carl Jacobi was successful in the soap business :)

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